[Editorial Analysis] A knotty problem

Mains Paper 2: National
Prelims level: National Family Health Survey
Mains level: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues

Context:

• The Punjab and Haryana High Court recognising a ‘marriage’ between a 17-year-old girl and 36-year-old man.

• The court held that the girl was of marriageable age under Muslim personal law.

• It has sparked a debate on child/adolescent (10-19 years of age) marriage in the country.

• The high court recognised that the Muslim personal law holds attainment of puberty (held to be at 15 years, in the absence of evidence of puberty) as the age when a Muslim individual can choose to marry.

Implications of early marriage:

• Marriage at such an early stage in life has a strong positive correlation with poor health outcomes for women in their later years, especially if maternity has followed soon after.

• The World Health Organization lists complications during pregnancy and delivery as the leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years around the globe.

• The bulk of the abortions that girls in this age cohort undergo is unsafe, contributing to elevated mortality and morbidity levels.

• Adolescent mothers face higher risks of eclampsia, puerperal endometritis, and systemic infections, including chronic conditions like anaemia, than mothers in the 20-24 years, and their babies are at a higher risk of low birth-weight, preterm delivery and severe neonatal conditions.

• Against the backdrop of the risks associated with early pregnancy—90% of the adolescent mothers in developing countries like India are girls who are already in a marriage.

National Family Health Survey 4 data:

• The National Family Health Survey 4 reporting that 27% of girls under the age of 18 are married is rather shocking, even though there has been a sharp fall since the turn of the millennium.

• The Unicef pegs the number of under-18 girls in India getting married every year at 1.5 million.

• Given pushing up the age at marriage—and thereby, maternity and overall fertility rates—are tied to improving education, the momentum reported by the NFHS-4 needs to be sustained and built upon.

• NFHS-4 data showed that with a sharp increase in education levels among women and even men, total fertility rates declined for communities that record some of the highest fertility rates in the country.

Conclusion:

• When such a marriage is ‘consensual’—as the court has deemed it in the present instance—there is a need for the government to push greater awareness on delaying marriage and pregnancy.

• Where this a more particular problem, leaders of communities will need to drive social reform discouraging child marriage.

• The problem is of greater concern now, since the pandemic and related unemployment and rise in poverty seem to be eroding the gains made over the years; data from Maharashtra, reported by NPR.

• It shows that officials stopped 208 child wedding between April and August 2020, while they had stopped 116 over April 2019-March 2020.

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Prelims Question:

Q.1) With reference to Aero India 2021, consider the following statements:

1. Aero India is a biennial air show and aviation exhibition held in Delhi.

2. It is organised by the Defence Exhibition Organisation, Ministry of Defence.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: B

Mains Question:

Q.1) Highlights the problem of early marriages in India. Child/adolescent marriages still pose a problem for India

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