India has the dubious distinction of being home to nearly 40 per cent of all child brides in the world despite its adverse consequences such as malnutrition, pregnancy-related deaths and child mortality.
This fact was highlighted by Breakthrough, a human rights organisation, as it launched a campaign in the city on Tuesday to curb child marriages by addressing it as a societal malaise. The ‘Nation Against Early Marriage’ campaign was launched at the Ford Foundation here.
Speaking at the event, Sonali Khan, Breakthrough’s vice-president and country director-India, stressed that young people needed a voice to raise the issue of early marriage.
“The young are not provided with the freedom of expression. The biggest challenge is to infuse a sense of confidence in the young, especially girls, to raise their voice against any harassment,” she said.
Rashmi Singh from the National Mission on Empowerment of Women said the government must bring about changes in the behaviour and attitudes of the public. She noted all problems facing the girl child were inter-linked.
“Though advocacy is one aspect of bringing about change, the other is to make people aware of enforcement mechanisms,” she said, stressing that the government also needed to look at the problem of child marriage in a holistic manner. She also emphasised the need for the government to work jointly with NGOs on the issue.
According to the National Family Health Survey-3, Rajasthan, Bihar and Jharkhand have the highest incidence of early marriages.