New Straits Times

India leads world decline in child marriages


NEW DELHI: A significan­t drop in Indian girls being forced into marriage has led a global decline in the number of child brides, the United Nations said yesterday.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), 25 million child marriages have been prevented around the world in the last decade, with the sharpest drop in India and the rest of South Asia, where girls as young as 8 have reportedly been forced to wed.

“South Asia has witnessed the largest decline in child marriage worldwide in the last 10 years... in large part due to progress in India,” it said.

“In the current trend, 27 per cent of girls — nearly 1.5 million girls — get married before they turn 18 in India. This is a sharp decline from 47 per cent a decade ago.”

The risk of a girl being forced to marry before age 18 in South Asia had decreased from nearly 50 per cent to 30 per cent, said Unicef.

The agency attributed the change to better education for girls, government initiative­s and strong awareness programmes.

Unicef said there had also been reductions in African countries such as Ethiopia. About a third of the world’s child brides are in sub-Saharan Africa.

The legal marriage age in India is 18, but millions of children are forced to tie the knot, particular­ly in poor rural areas. Many parents marry off their children in the hope of improving their financial security.

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