Analysis of Child Marriage and the Role of Education

When the Assam government launched a massive crackdown on child marriage, social activists pointed out that the root of the problem, namely, women’s limited access to education, was not being addressed adequately. According to data from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), higher education levels may be more important than wealth in delaying a woman’s marriage. The data also show significant differences in the marital age of rural and urban women, as well as Dalit and upper-caste women.

Is education or wealth more important in determining when a woman marries?

  • Education is important: Education has a long history of being important in postponing a woman’s marriage.
  • For example, according to National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data, education has had a consistent influence over time, whereas poverty has had an increasing influence.
  • Poverty is the most important determinant of early marriage because the poor do not want to wait due to the rising demand for dowry. Wealthier people are no longer marrying off their daughters at a young age.

What is the significance of marriage in India?

  • Marriage plays a significant role in India as it serves multiple purposes.
  • Most important institution: It is regarded as the most important institution for daughters because it fulfils the family’s responsibility to them. The responsibility for sons is to find them a job that will hopefully lead to marriage.
  • Marriage is essential for social identity, and a woman who remains single is an outlier because almost everyone marries.
  • Marriage is necessary for sexual respectability because those who wish to have social respect have sexual relationships within marriage.
  • Legitimate children: Marriage allows for the possibility of having children, and having a child without a husband is completely unacceptable in India.

What benefits do families see in marrying women earlier rather than educating them further?

  • Dowry: Because dowry can be a significant financial burden for families, having their daughters marry young may be viewed as a way to reduce this expense. The more educated a girl, the more educated the boy must be, and the higher the dowry.
  • Transfer of responsibility: Families believe it is their duty to protect her sexually before marriage. That responsibility is then passed on to the boy’s family. Why spend money on education when the girl will be living with her husband’s family after marriage?
  • Preservation of caste and community lines: Marriage within one’s own caste and community is required in some cultures to maintain social status and cultural traditions. Early marriage may be viewed as a means of ensuring that women marry within their caste and community while also preserving cultural practises.

Women are gaining more access to education. Does this lead to increased empowerment?

The Benefits of Women’s Education:

  • Education empowers women by providing them with knowledge and skills that allow them to make more informed decisions about their lives.
  • Women who are educated are more likely to work, earn higher wages, and have better health outcomes.
  • Education can help to challenge traditional gender norms and stereotypes, opening up new opportunities for women and girls.
  • Education can increase women’s bargaining power within their families and communities, allowing them to negotiate for better living conditions, higher earnings, and greater autonomy.

Women’s Employment Challenges

  • Female labour force participation is low at 25%, and job losses have disproportionately harmed women.
  • Despite increased educational access, there is a large proportion of educated but unemployed women.
  • Women entering the corporate sector frequently face hostility or are unable to balance domestic responsibilities with work demands.
  • The conjugal contract between men and women has largely remained unchanged, with women shouldering the majority of domestic responsibilities and men frequently wielding power over family decisions.

The Influence of Marriage Age

  • Raising the marriage age may not automatically result in greater empowerment, autonomy, or freedom for women.
  • While postponing marriage may provide more opportunities for women to pursue education and careers, there is still a significant gender gap in employment and earnings.
  • Low and declining employment rates may also put a greater strain on marriage as a source of financial security.

Why do women in SC/ST/OBC communities marry at a younger age than women in rural India?

  • Factors of socioeconomic status: Due to a combination of social and economic factors, women in SC/ST/OBC communities marry at a younger age than even those in rural areas.
  • Caste and poverty: There is a strong link between caste and poverty in these communities, with many people lacking decent work and vulnerable to violence from those higher up the social hierarchy.
  • Vulnerability: Girls from these communities are especially vulnerable to such issues, with Dalit girls being especially vulnerable to sexual predators because young upper-caste men believe they have a right to access.
  • Marriage as a form of protection: Although marriage can be viewed as a form of protection for girls from these communities, the issue of early marriage is complex and influenced by a variety of factors.

@the end

Child marriage is a complex issue in India, with roots in societal norms, poverty, and caste systems. Despite advancements in education and women’s empowerment, there are still obstacles. Child marriage necessitates a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying societal and economic factors that support the practise.

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