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Conflict between Tribes and the Legal provisions of Marriage in India

  • Published
    8th Nov, 2022
Context

As a concern addressed by an activist regarding early marriages in most of the Tribal communities including the Tribes in Nilgiri Forests has become a trouble for them as the provisions of marriage or a sexual relationship before the age of 18 years is illegal under the POSCO, Prevention of Child Marriage Act.

About

The scenario of Marriage Age among Tribes:

  • Education and income level have an important bearing on age at marriage irrespective of gender, community, and region.
  • In a program being carried out by the ICRW in Jharkhand, in the two Tribal dominated districts of Godda and Jamtara, it has been found that 11 percent of girls between the ages of 15 to 18 years have been married off, and the marriages of another 12 percent girls in this age group had already been fixed.
  • The NFHS data shows that urban women marry later than rural women. The median age at first marriage for urban women aged 25-49 years is 1.7 years more than for rural women (19.8 versus 18.1 years) in 2015-16.

Why it is a cause of concern?

  • This is one of the major factors contributing to increasing in cases of maternal mortality in the Tribal dominated States or regions.
  • Even early pregnancies could lead to child stunting and make the community more vulnerable to
  • As, due to a lack of education and awareness regarding legal provisions of Marriage or age criteria, is not known to tribes. This leads to legal action against minors who are even not aware of the laws.

What does the Law say regarding the Age of Marriage?

Supreme Court stand:

  • The court said that the arguments both under the IPC and the POCSO Act do not recognize a sexual relationship with a girl below 18 years of age, even if it were to consent to one, which is to be reviewed.
  • The Bombay High Court asked the Maharashtra government to undertake innovative measures to sensitize citizens from tribal areas on the minimum age of marriage for girls.

How does early marriage impact ‘Women’?

  • Mortality: These vulnerabilities also result in higher risks of mortality among the children of younger mothers. Many of this pregnancy- and childbirth-related morbidities carry a risk of death.
  • Nutritional Status: In India, at first glance, studies find an inconsistent association between maternal marriage age with childhood stunting and being underweight.
  • Impact on overall childhood: Under-age marriage constrains overall well-being by denying girls their childhood.
  • Lower empowerment: Together, lack of education and under-age marriage contribute to lower empowerment for women at the individual level throughout their life-
  • Exploitation: Age at marriage is likely to shape women’s empowerment and agency within households and their status in the broader community.

How it can be tackled?

  • Focus on proper education: Lack of educational opportunities is often what drives parents into marrying their daughters at a young age. Keeping girls in school, especially secondary school, is a key strategy in reducing child marriage.
  • Family education and awareness: Educating families, friends, and the community about why early marriage is harmful is essential.
  • More focus on women’s empowerment rather than marriage.
  • Community awareness programs in Tribal dominated regions/states.
  • Involvement of local Anganwadi workers and civil societies.
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