Child marriage continues to remain a big problem in the country, with half the women getting married before attaining the minimum legal marriageable age of 18 years, according to a study released by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad here Saturday.
"Marriage happens very early for most of the women in most states - one fifth were married below the age of 15 years and 49 per cent were married before turning 18," said the study.
The study was conducted in six states - Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu - between 2006 and 2008, involving over 58,000 youths in the age group of 15-29 years.
Findings show that the situation was worst in Bihar -- 77 per cent of women were married before the age of 18. "Not only did marriage occur at young age but it was also often arranged without the participation of young people themselves, particularly young women. Majority of them said that their parents did not seek their approval while selecting their spouse," the study added.
The study found that early marriage is followed by early pregnancy and almost 47 per cent of young women had their first pregnancy before they turned 18. "Married adolescent girls have unique healthcare needs and many of these become mothers before they are physically and mentally ready for this role. We need to set up exclusive forums for adolescent girls in villages to ensure their multi-dimensional development needs are addressed," said Azad. The study was carried out by the Population Council , Delhi and International Institute of Population Sciences , Mumbai.