Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

The Nexus between Child Marriage and Women Empowerment with Physical Violence in Two Culturally Distinct States of India

Academic journal article International Journal of Population Research

The Nexus between Child Marriage and Women Empowerment with Physical Violence in Two Culturally Distinct States of India

Article excerpt

Jayakant Singh 1 and Enu Anand 2

Academic Editor:Sally Guttmacher

1, School of Health Systems Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai 400088, India 2, International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai 400088, India

Received 16 July 2015; Revised 25 October 2015; Accepted 26 October 2015; 7 December 2015

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

1. Introduction

UNICEF defines child marriage as any marriage that occurs before the age of 18 for girls. A recent study by UNICEF [1] reveals alarming facts about child marriage worldwide: an estimated number of more than 720 million girls currently living were married before the age of 18; one in three child marriages occurred before the age of 15; South Asia alone is home to nearly half of all the child marriages in the world (42%); and most shockingly, every third child marriage in the world takes place in India. National Population Policy 2000 [2], National Youth Policy 2003 [3], and the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 [4] are few of the most recent policies and laws formed in India to prevent child marriage but have not been very effective so far in reduction of child marriage.

Evidence suggests that early marriage limits knowledge, skills, resources, mobility, autonomy, and social support of young girls and those who lack this are extremely vulnerable to physical and sexual violence and psychological and economic abuse [5, 6]. Early marriage leads to curtailment of school education [5]. The chance of receiving quality education is a distant reality for the child bride and higher levels of dropout from the school are a very common phenomenon [5]. Girls who are married at an early age are also likely to report an early pregnancy with considerable exposure to the risk of violence [6]. Negative consequences of child marriage on the physical health and mental wellbeing of the child bride are vividly demonstrated [5, 7-10]. The vulnerability of child bride in relation to physical abuse in different cultural contexts has however not received adequate attention. Little work that has focused on India [11-16] however suggested that there is an increased risk of Intimate Partner Violence among child brides. A few studies have acknowledged lack of autonomy in women to be a risk factor associated with higher levels of violence within marriage [5, 17, 18]. While the situation of child bride is somewhat documented in India, evidence on the ways in which child bride may be a risk factor for physical violence in culture specific context is limited [19]. In India, being a large country with diverse culture and tradition, the causes of physical violence may vary from state to state.

How child marriage and women empowerment are related to the risk of physical violence is the main objective of this paper. The pattern and prevalence of physical violence in relation to women empowerment and child marriage from two culturally distinct states with high prevalence of physical violence are the broader scope of the study. Bihar and Tamil Nadu are the two states selected in this study for the following reasons: these two states are socioculturally distinct, located in the two different spectrums of India. Bihar is in the northern part of India whereas Tamil Nadu is in the southern part of India. Kinship system in India is not homogeneous across states. It also varies across different castes and strata within a geographical region. Although such variation is persistent, there is a clear north and south divide in the Indian kinship structure. Dyson and Moore (1983) have pointed out three key differences between the north Indian and south Indian system [20]: in north India, the spouses are unrelated and they are not from the same village indicating marriage rules to be exogamic in nature. …

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