In states like Jharkhand (India), close to 40% of young girls are married before the age of 18.

Even though India has seen a dip in child/early marriage from 47% to 27% it still contributes to one-third of the world’s child brides. These reductions are primarily in the age group of 0-10 years, but adolescent girls still remain at high risk of early marriage.

The social conditioning impacts adolescent girls like Reena Kumari who have dreams. There is a high likelihood that she will be forced to marry when she reaches puberty. There is a 41.3% chance that she will face domestic violence and being too young will be unable to stand up against it. She will be given 96% of the household chores in her new home, and her mobility will be restricted further. Her young age doubles her chances of dying at childbirth. Moreover, there is a 96% chance that her brother will inherit all her father’s property.

Breakthrough’s work show that many of these situations can be overcome when a girl marries after the age of 18. She has better access to education and economic opportunities, increased sexual and reproductive rights, and improved decision-making abilities. She is also able to negotiate a gender-equitable position within her own family and potentially within her marital home.

Child/early marriage has many aspects and also requires a multi-faceted approach to address the issue. The need for convergence is high to achieve real and long-term changes in the social norms that sanction and/ or promote early marriages of girls.

‘Nation against Early Marriage’ is Breakthrough’s campaign on changing norms around early marriage, with mass media, intensive community development and leadership training initiatives in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand in October, 2011.

Read the full article about early marriage by Urvashi Gandhi at Global WA.