The Sad Truth about Child Marriages around the World

Read this post authored by Ava Smith for some shocking statistics and the real picture behind child marriage, a social menace that needs to be addressed all around the world at the earliest. 

The Gloomy Picture: Shocking Stats about Child Marriage the World Over

The United Nations states that by 2030, the count of girls being married off as children (before they reach the marriageable age in their respective countries) will cross 1.2 billion. That is more than one-seventh of the world’s population right now. Are we ready to carry that kind of burden in our souls for the rest of our lives?

Shocking statistics from all around the world reveal the sad picture for the girls of this generation. While the developed nations rest comfortably ensconced in the privileges brought to them by education, awareness, and stringent law enforcement practices, the ones from the not-so-developed areas of the globe bear the brunt of age-old traditions and lack of alternative modes of living.

Featured image used for representative purposes only. Courtesy: Talk of the Town


Child marriage is legal in some countries

What’s more, six countries in the world do not have a specific minimum age for marriage for boys and girls in their country. That makes it even more dangerous for the kids growing up in those countries. The ones that do not have a minimum age limit for getting married are:

1.       Yemen
2.      South Sudan
3.      Somalia
4.      Saudi Arabia
5.      Gambia
6.      Equatorial Guinea

Not having a specific minimum age for marriage makes child marriage somewhat of a legal occurrence in the countries mentioned above. That itself is atrocious enough to sit up and take notice of what’s going wrong with the rest of the countries that still cannot keep such a social evil in check despite having the laws for it.

Looking into the matter of child marriage across the world

Girls in countries like Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia and Bangladesh suffer a cruel twist of fate when they have to get married way before the ideal time. Here are some of the shocking statistics about child marriages that take place around the world, every day.

®    7% of girls in the Middle East and North Africa, 9% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa, and 14% of girls in South Asia are married off between the age of 15 to 19.

®    12 million girls are married off each year before they reach 18 years of age. That estimate comes to around 23 underage girls getting married against their wills or wishes per minute. Yes, you read that right. It is that grave a matter.

®    The highest percentage of child marriages take place in Niger (76%) followed by Central African Republic (68%), Chad (67%) and Bangladesh (59%).

Causes and consequences of child marriage

Child marriage shows no signs of stopping. Children married off at tender ages not only fall prey to disease and violence, but their childhoods are also marred by the complications that life and society forces on them to tackle at such ages.

    Causes of child marriage

The reasons that child marriage is still prevalent all around the world are as follows –

(i)          Poverty: Poverty is one of the leading causes of child marriage being such a rampant practice in most Third World countries. The inability to sustain the female members of the family becomes one of the leading causes to marry off daughters at tender ages so that they can work in the fields and at home as manual labour without charging additional wages.

(ii)          Lack of education: The lack of education and awareness about the consequences of early marriage (especially on the body and minds of the children) also leads to child marriage. Most of the people living in areas where child marriage is a common practice are not literate. They are not aware of the dire consequences that their children face when married off before they come of marriageable age.

(iii)     Age-old traditions and norms: Societal norms and traditions sometimes force the parents to indulge in child marriage because that is how it has been for generations of girls before them.

(iv)        Weak law enforcement: Child marriage continues to be a growing menace in countries where the law enforcement agencies are lax. Poor law enforcement ensures that the parents go scot-free even after committing a ‘crime' in the eyes of the law.

(v)         Gender discrimination: Cultures that do not value females or their worth in society, such as the sub-Saharan countries, tend to have high rates of child marriage as well. Disrespecting their very right to live a life of their choice, girls in such societies fall prey to the social evil that is child marriage.

Sampurna Behrua Versus Union of India & Ors

This petition was called on for hearing today (24/07/2015 ).

.., we pass the following directions:

(1) It is mandated that every State should have a Juvenile Justice Board in place in every District on or before 31st December, 2015.
Arunachal Pradesh is very vast and perhaps does not have much juvenile crime. If that is so, the State of Arunachal Pradesh need not have a Juvenile Justice Board in every District, but the other States and Union Territories must have a Juvenile Justice Board in every District, as mentioned above on or before 31st December, 2015.

It is made clear that there is no prohibition in law in having more than one Juvenile Justice Board in a District depending upon the number of pending inquiries and the distance involved in moving children from the Observation Home to the venue of the Juvenile Justice Board.
Therefore, it is made clear that a District can have more than one Juvenile Justice Board.
For example, in the District of Pune, there are 1935 inquiries pending (as on 31.3.2015) as reported by NALSA, and there seems to be no reason why there should be only one Juvenile Justice Board in that District.                    
Under the circumstances, wherever necessary, more than one Juvenile Justice Board should be set up in districts, wherever necessary.

We, therefore, direct the Registrar General of all the High Courts to take up the matter with Hon'ble the Chief Justice of the High Court and the Juvenile Justice Committee of the High Court and look into this matter in conjunction with the Executive Chairman of the State Legal Services Authority and the Member Secretary of the State Legal Services Authority and set up an appropriate number of Juvenile Justice Boards, wherever necessary.

Street Children of Bodh Gaya

Bodh Gaya is a place in the state of Bihar in Gaya district and known for Maha Bodhi Temple. It is a place where Siddhartha became enlightened and thus called Buddha. Bodh Gaya is international heritage and pilgrimage of Buddhist religion come from around the world apart from tourist and people from other religions. The Hindu people, who are the largest in number in India, also come in large number to visit Bodh Gaya. Many Hindu ideologies consider Buddha as one of incarnation in Hindu mythology. This historic, cultural and religious place, so it attracts the tourists from around the world.  In 2002, Mahabodhi Temple, located in Bodh Gaya, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bodh Gaya and other places like Kushenagar, Lumbini, Sarnath and other places have significance importance, but Bodh Gaya is more important because it is the place where Siddhartha became Buddha or enlightened (about 528 BC). It is believed that 250 years after the Enlightenment of the Buddha, Emperor Ashoka build the original Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya.

Street children selling puffed rice and offerings to temples
Bodh Gaya is not only a place of historical and pilgrimage importance, but also a place which provides many people the source of livelihood and employment.  The street vendors, tour operators, guides, hotels, restaurants, auto rickshaw, charity organizations etc. all have the source of financial gain to exist and survive. One section of society which does not have much money like tour operators or hotels, but they also have source of livelihood from this world heritage. Flower sellers, sellers of many kind of offering (puffed rice) to Buddhist temples, beggars and destitute from around the villages also survive through this site.

Family and caste
In the village area of Bodh Gaya, second marriage is common in schedule castes family. In Manjhi, Ravidas and Paswan, male and females do remarriage even without divorce, but mostly in Manjhi. After marriage the children from first marriage abandoned. Number of single parents is high in this region which is also a reason for street children. People mostly belong to schedule case and high low income, high illiteracy, very less lands for agriculture. Mahto is one of caste which comes under other backward caste and have agriculture land and their main source of income is agriculture, so children from this community are very few in number on street or as beggars.

Education of street children
Street children on the gate of Tibetan Temple 
There are basically 3 kinds of street children in Bodh Gaya. One who comes part time to earn some money in the morning and evening, rest time go to school and stay with family in nearby village. The Second kind of children is with their family on street, begging with parents. Street is their life. The number of such children although less in off seasons. Some children whose parents are street vendors, who stayed with family and income is comparatively better to survive, few goes to schools many of them are also dropouts.

As talked with NGOs personals, there is not any non-formal school near main temple area which runs for street children as part time.

The number of street children varies as tourists and pilgrimage, in winter during Kalchakra period, Bodh Gaya is full of beggars, street children and street vendors due to high income opportunity.

NGOs for destitute children
There is a home ‘Lord Buddha Home for Children’ some NGOs run by Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra, an NGO with good infrastructure. It also provides vocational training to both boys and girls, like mobile repairing, computer, sewing, beautician etc. and shelter for such destitute children. It is situated at other side of Niranjana River in Silaunja village. There are 68 children in this residential school. It also has pathlabs, doctors twice a week and other facilities.

Importance of Girls' Education

Girls’ education is one of the most effective ways for ending poverty in developing nations. The benefits of their education are seen by individuals, their families, and throughout society. These benefits include:
  • Reducing the number of babies women have
  •  Lowering infant and child mortality rates
  •  Lower maternal mortality rates
  •  Protecting against HIV/AIDS infection
  •  Increased number of women with jobs and higher earnings and
  •  Benefits that last many generations
“Education liberates a woman” – Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
Education for girls can have the benefit of delaying marriage and pregnancy for young girls. Instead of a girl getting married before age 20 and often suffering abuse by her husband, girls who attend primary and secondary school are more likely to have a say in who they marry. Girls who attend school also are able to use more effective methods of family planning and therefore have fewer and healthier babies. An educated girl and woman will have learned about HIV/AIDS and know many different ways to protect herself from getting the disease. Every year of schooling helps a girl make better decisions for her and her family.

Women who attended school often have healthier families. These women are more likely to seek medical help from clinics or doctors. Because they can read, literate women can understand a doctor’s detailed instructions and follow up for help if needed. These women also can read nutritional labels and provide their family healthy meals that promote growth and lower cholesterol. Education also teaches young ones the importance of keeping herself and her house clean and safe.

'Operation Smile' brings smile for missing kids of every state

'Operation Smile' a brain child of SSP Ghaziabad, Mr. Dharmendra Singh proved to be a success model for tracing and recovering missing children. He launched Operation Smile in September to track and rescue missing children. Out of the total 228 children rescued during the operation, 80 children were from Ghaziabad. 

This unique model is being appreciated all over the country. The unique month-long campaign launched by Ghaziabad senior superintendent of police (SSP) Dharmendra Singh to track and rescue children who have gone missing, is being appreciated all over the country. 

Encouraged by Ghaziabad police’s ‘Operation Smile’ initiative, in which 228 children missing from the area were rescued from different parts of the country in a month (September-October), Union Home Ministry has written to all states and union territories to take up a similar drive in January 2015.

“Since the SC has been emphasising upon early recovery of all missing children, it is desirable that based on the experience gained in Operation Smile, all state governments and UTs may take up the initiative. While screening, cases of those children considered to be of missing children category should be documented,” the letter reads.

Before January 1, 2015, police personnel from each state need to be trained in various provisions of POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Act, Protection of Child Rights Act and advisories issued by MHA.

The home secretary has also written that the police personnel should take photographs and video recordings of the children. Particulars of these children should be uploaded in 'track the missing child web portal' of the Ministry of Women and Child Development by respective state police bodies, the secretary advised.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Jharkhnd also launched Operation Muskan and sent 7 teams on 30th April, 2015 to conduct search operations in 28 cities of 9 states – Delhi NCR, Panjab, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. During the operation rescue operation will be conducted for victims of child labour and human trafficking in these majour cities.

Data reveals: Govt. is not serious to stop child marriage

Ranchi: A Social Activist Praveer Peter disclosed the fact that Jharkhand Government is not serious to stop child marriage in the state. He said, “more than 50 percent children got married in Jharkhand as DLHS survey says, but government even not framed rules to implement the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.”
Govt. is not serious to stop child marriage
He also added, “Jharkhand rank third in terms of child marriage in India after Rajasthan and Bihar, why government not serious to frame rule and implement the legislation I don’t understand.”
The data sought through RTI from DGP Office, Jharkhand about the details of cases registered under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 in police stations of Jharkhand. Period of this information was from November, 2007 to August, 2013. The details provided from various police stations from districts, but there was not any such cases registered except Dugdha Police Station in Bokaro districts.
There are many awareness programme held in the capital on child marriage issue, but reeal efforts seem not to be taken. In this scenario Baidyanath Kumar of Jago Foundation filled a Public Interest Litigation in Jharkhand High Court referring the survey conducted in Giridih and Deoghar.
S. No.
Police Station
Case No.
Pending @ Court
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Pending @ Court

Success Story of Missing Children Helpline

“On an average, over 40, 000 children in India are reported missing every year, of which approximately 11,000 remain untraced. Where do they go?”  (Haq: Report on Child Rights, New Delhi 2005).
Missing Children Jharkhand
A countless number of children go missing every year. The category of missing children include a number of problems including abduction or kidnapping of children by family members and by non-family members, run-away children or those forced to run away by family and surrounding circumstances, children who are in a difficult or aggressive environment, trafficked children, and lost children.

 Because of this wide array of problems it is hard to survey the number of missing children. Often cases are not reported to the police. In 2005, Also National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) informed that on an average 44000 children are reported missing every year. Of these, as many as 11,000 remain untraced.

Children who go missing may be exploited and abused for various purposes .There are also a large number of children who run away from homes after dropping out of school or facing difficulties at home. They usually run away to the glamorous big cities through different placement agencies where they fall prey to exploiters and are employed in Homes, tea stalls, brothels, beggary, etc. Most of the children come from poorer families who do not have access to police services or whose reports are not taken seriously. 

Human Trafficking: Criminal Law Amendment

The provisions under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which can be read in relation to the crime of trafficking are scarcely used and have so far lacked teeth. While trafficking in itself is often not seen as a crime, the efforts of the law enforcement agencies have also remained half hearted.  It can therefore be seen that the menace of trafficking still manifests the society with full vigour. The much talked about and credible Justice Verma Committee Report deals with trafficking in detail and gave some comprehensive solutions. The expert debate, demands of the common man and the executive will, led to the passing of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2013.

The ordinance deals with the issue of trafficking among other things and substitutes section 370 of the IPC, also inserts a new section 370A. The new sections are as below:

‘370. (1) Whoever, for the purpose of exploitation, (a) recruits, (b) transports, (c) harbours, (d) transfers, or (e) receives, a person or  persons, by––

First.–– using threats, or
Secondly.–– using force, or any other form of coercion, or
Thirdly.–– by abduction, or
Fourthly.–– by practising fraud, or deception, or
Fifthly.–– by abuse of power, or
Sixthly.–– by inducement, including the giving or receiving of payments or benefits, in order to achieve the consent of any person having control over the person recruited, transported, harboured, transferred or received, commits the offence of trafficking.

Jharkhand: Anti Human Trafficking Status

In recent years, the state of Jharkhand has emerged as a vulnerable state for trafficking of women and children for forced labour and slavery. Thousands of children from Jharkhand are traded and trafficked by placement agencies to domestic homes in Delhi. The children and women remain in slavery and bonded labour like conditions. Several cases of sexual  slavery have also been reported from rescued victims from Jharkhand in Delhi. The placement agencies operate without fear of law and have mushroomed across Jharkhand. Most of these placement agencies are organised crime syndicates and they regularly indulge in trafficking of women and children. The business of placement agencies has been fuelled by huge demand of maids from eastern tribal states in the National Capital Region of Delhi. In the last three years, NGOs working in Delhi have reported rampant trafficking of women and children from Jharkhand.
Report: Human Trafficking
Red Light areas exist in the districts of Dhanbad, Bokaro and Hazaribag. The trafficking affected districts include Garwah, Sahibganj, Dumka, Pakur, West Singhbhum (Chaibasa), Ranchi, Palamu, Hazaribag, Dhanbad, Bokara, Girdih, Kodarma and Lohardagga. Most of the women trafficked from Jharkhand belong to Oran, Munda, Santhal (including endangered Pahariya ) and Gond tribes, out of which, maximum are from Oran and Munda.

Traffickers from Jharkhand operate from New Delhi in the guise of placement agencies which is a high earning business. The traffickers bring the victims to Delhi from where they are supplied to different places depending on the price the trafficker can get. Mostly these victims are being sent to domestic homes to work as slaves in Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida and Delhi. Children as young as 11- 14 years are placed in homes and are made to work as domestic help for 14-16 hours a day. Some of the victims are sent to Haryana where there is a demand of brides for marriage. Jharkhand women and children have been also in high demand to work as bonded labour in Haryana and Punjab.

Abject poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, difficult access areas, shrinking land holding by the local populace, network of placement agencies were cited as the main reasons for large-scale migration from Jharkhand to other cities. The land is degraded to a great extent due to deforestation, mining activities and rampant industrialization. Though vast area of land is available, no technological inputs have been brought out to improvise the production in the region. Thus in majority of the regions, there is one crop pattern and mainly rain fed cultivation takes place. Lack of agricultural operations in a full-fledged manner is also leaving the landless labor high and dry. The only option available to them is migration. Thus during the non-agricultural seasons one can witness exodus from the villages in search of work in the neighboring states.

Jharkhand faces a huge problem of child labour. The state has been running the National Child Labour Project in Garwah, Sahibganj, Dumka, Pakur, West Singhbhum (Chaibasa), Gumla, Palamu, and Hazaribagh. As per the 2001 census, the number of child labour working stood at 4,07,200. As per the 2006 NSSO data, Jharkhand has 2,06,000 children working as child labour. The number of child labour who have been mainstreamed by the NCLP programmes till 2011 was 18,241.

The gaps between the "haves" and "have nots" are quite large in Jharkhand. Though in the books of law, the Zamindari system143  is abolished, they have now taken the new avatar of middlemen and contractors in the region. In the extreme torn regions of Palamu, Garhwa, Lohardaga, Chaibasa, Koderma and Hazaribag, the common people are subjected to ills of administration on the one hand, the contractors on the other hand and above them are extremists who virtually rule the region with their own Jan Lok Adalats144, extortion and the levy of taxes which is known in the local language as percentage system. The Gair Majaru lands are in the absolute possession of the landlords. The landlords own even trees of common property. Their control over the resources is absolute. With the abolition of the Zamindari system, the feudal landlords have taken to extortion of the people by becoming the contractors for all the development programs in the regions. The poor landless labourer is forced to work for their lifetime in the landlords' land and the only other option is migration in search of greener pastures.
As per the ATSEC Jharkhand Report in 2010, approximately 42,000 girls have been trafficked from Jharkhand to metropolitan cities. The victims who are working as domestic help in various urban households across the country are often made to work in pathetic conditions. In some cases they are even sexually exploited. About 70 percent of the total migrant women and girls are forced to join the flesh trade. A Rapid  Assessment of Domestic Workers in 8 districts (the most affected with problem of migration) was done by ATSEC Jharkhand and Research Plus Group, Ranchi. The findings of the study indicated that most of the trafficked victims are below 20 years and many of them are children. Many of them are in slavery like conditions and earn below minimum wages. The main destination for migration is Delhi145.