Two South Indian states- Tamil Nadu and Karnataka – have earned the dubious distinction of being the states with the highest incidence of child marriage in the country in 2014. This has been revealed in recent statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
While Tamil Nadu reported 47 incidents during the year, Karnataka reported 44 instances under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. Together, the five states from South India- Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala-saw 139 cases of child marriage during the previous year. These account for nearly half of the total number of cases reported in the country (280 instances). The NCRB statistics are available here.
West Bengal, with 37 cases, also reported a large incidence of child marriage, the statistics reveal.
While citing the data, the Deccan Herald reported that the Women and Child Ministry had recently acknowledged that recent data shows that 43% of women aged between 20 to 24 years were married before the age of 18 years. The newspaper also reported that National Strategy Document on Prevention of Child Marriage had found that child marriage denies a child the basic right to good health, nutrition and education.
According to a UNICEF report from 2014, India accounted for as many as 33% of female children who were married before the age of 18 years in the world. It has the sixth highest rate of child marriage with 58% women married before the legally permissible age. Niger in Western Africa had the highest rate of child marriage at 77%.
The report observes that child marriage leads to “lifelong and sometimes intergenerational consequences”. The negative effects include social isolation, lower level of education and a greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the report says. The UNICEF report is available here.