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Preventing Child Marriage through Strengthening of Governance Systems
Ratnarashi, who was married off at 14 years by her parents. She suffered years of abuse before divorcing her husband. Studying hard, she qualified for the Madhya Pradesh State Civil Services but found the service rules blocking her from gaining entry into government employment.
On 8 of March 2013, when the world was celebrating Women’s Day, 19 year Gorakhram, studying in Class XII in Barmer, who had been married as a child, committed suicide by jumping before a train. In his suicide note, the boy said, "My family members got me married one year ago and I wanted to study further but my family members did not listen. Therefore, disturbed by the child marriage, I am committing suicide,"
Ratnarashi and Gorakhram are only two examples of victims of child marriage. Child marriage is a reality in India even in this day and age. It affects both girls and boys, although more girls than boys are victims. Nearly half (43%) of women aged 20 to 24 are married before the age of 18. The states with the highest incidence of child marriage in the country are Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
Early marriage has a strong physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impact, cutting off educational opportunities and chances of personal growth. It makes children, particularly the girls vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. With falling sex ratios in a number of states, young girls are trafficked into marriage. Clearly it is a violation of all rights of children, most importantly their right to protection.
According to the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 the child is "child" means a person who, if a male, has not completed twenty-one years of age, and if a female, has not completed eighteen years of age.
Recognising the seriousness of the implications of child marriage in the country, HAQ: Centre for Child Rights is currently implementing a project on prevention of child marriage through the strengthening of existing governance systems in two states – West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh. This project is jointly supported by the Mac Arthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. The project is being implemented with partner organizations in the states- Jabala in West Bengal and MV Foundation (MVF) is Andhra Pradesh (AP).