Bengal, not Bihar, now tops India in child marriage prevalence
If you thought the Bimaru states topped in child marriages, think again. West Bengal now has the highest incidence of girls aged between 15 and 19 years being married off, far ahead of states such as Rajasthan that one traditionally associated with child brides.
Better education and higher incomes have ensured that incidence of child marriage has come down in India. Some states, like Bihar, Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, have done remarkably well — in UP only 6.4% girls between 15 and 19 are now married. But states like Bengal have shown tardy progress.
The findings of the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), conducted in 2015-16, show a steady decline across states, barring a marginal rise in two states – Himachal Pradesh and Manipur. The national average for child marriages now is 11.9% of all girls aged 15-19.When NFHS-3 was conducted in 2005-06, Bihar topped in child marriages, with a prevalence of 47.8%; Jharkhand was second with 44.7% and Rajasthan third (40.4%). Bengal was fourth with 34%.
But in the 10 years since then, some Bimaru states — Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — managed to reduce the incidence of child marriage by over 20 percentage points. In the same period, Bengal managed only an 8.4 percentage point reduction.
District-level analysis using NFHS-4 reveals that Murshidabad (39.9%) in Bengal shows the highest prevalence of child marriage, followed by Gandhinagar (39.3%) in Gujarat and Bhilwara (36.4%) in Rajasthan. Bihar has the most number of districts with high prevalence (20), followed by Bengal (14) and Jharkhand (11).
Here’s a look at what else the NFHS-4 reveals about child marriages in the country.
The highest prevalence of child marriage is reported amongst Scheduled Tribe girls (15%) followed by Scheduled Castes (13%). However, amongst the top 10 states with highest prevalence of child marriage, it cuts across caste groups. For instance, in Maharashtra, 38% of child brides — the highest percentage — belonged to forward castes.
Source:Times of India