Giving Compass' Take:
- Indian officials dropped the under-18 age group in its largest survey of domestic violence survivors, potentially hiding rates of child marriage.
- Many young girls face abuse, but it may go unseen and unheard. How can you support data collection that better represents the reality of child marriages?
- Learn how girls' education protects against child marriages.
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Child brides being beaten by their husbands will no longer be included in India's biggest survey of domestic violence — potentially hiding the problem and making it even harder for married girls to get help.
India's national health survey is a mine of statistics on key social indicators — from fertility rates to immunization, marriage age to gender-based violence, and is used to craft government policies and pinpoint charity spending.
But girls married before the legal age of 18 have been omitted from the latest survey due to new child protection laws — even after the previous report found nearly 1 in 6 married girls aged 15 to 19 had faced abuse.
"Studies have shown that many experience violence in the first year of marriage ... now their story won't get highlighted," said K.G Santhya, senior associate with the nonprofit Population Council.
"What gets measured gets acted on ... there's no evidence now to talk about their experience of this violence," Santhya added.
Early marriage heightens the risk of domestic slavery, spousal violence, and poor health, with girls married under the age of 15 almost 50% more likely to have experienced either physical or sexual intimate partner violence, campaigners say.
India accounts for more than 20% of the world's adolescent population and the highest number of child marriages in South Asia, according to the UN children's agency (UNICEF).
India began asking questions about domestic abuse as part of the national health survey in 2005-06, after the country's Domestic Violence Act was passed.
Since then, the research has shined a light on a largely hidden form of violence against women and revealed that few women go to the police to report abusive husbands.
Officials said they dropped the under-18 age group because the survey's confidentiality clause was at odds with India's child protection law of 2012, which demands that all cases of child sex abuse must be reported to the police.
The survey requires researchers to conduct the interviews in private over a few days. Until the last survey, women and girls were asked if they had ever been slapped, punched, kicked, or forced into sex by their husbands.
Read the full article about child brides in India by Roli Srivastava at Global Citizen.