Ending Child Marriage

Almost 50% of India’s girls are married before they turn 18 and 20% are married before 15 years of age. Dasra’s report Marry Me Later probes child marriage as a harmful traditional practice that denies children, especially girls, basic rights to a healthy life, protection from abuse and exploitation, and access to equal opportunities for development. It also offers insight into scalable non-profit models that are trying to address this issue impactfully. 
  • If present trends continue, 28 million girls born between 2005 and 2010 will become child brides by 2030.
  • 22% of Indian girls have already given birth by age 18. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their early 20s. Infants of adolescent mothers are 50% more likely to die during birth or as newborns.
  • For those aged 15-19, the lifetime opportunity cost of adolescent pregnancy will total 12% of India's annual GDP.
  • Child brides are twice as likely to report being beaten and thrice as likely to report being subjected to forced sex. They lack agency due to loss of peer networks and discontinued education.
Dasra has identified four key focus areas to address child marriage in India:
  • Creating alternate life options for girls: Offering girls a holistic alternative to early marriage by providing them with education that is interesting and linked to employability.
  • Identifying and sensitizing gatekeepers: It is critical to engage decision makers who significantly influence a girl's life choices – fathers and brothers, older women in the family, religious and community leaders. Evidence shows that most cases of positive change involve a gatekeeper, whose sheer conviction to stand their ground enables the girl to delay her marriage.
  • Promoting birth and marriage registration: 59% of all births remain unregistered in India. Birth registration is a proof of age and so plays a significant role in preventing child marriage, while ensuring the girl and her family can access numerous welfare schemes.
  • Addressing the needs of adolescent brides: Along with preventing child marriage, it is crucial to address the emotional, health and other needs of child brides so as to mitigate the negative impacts of child marriage on them, and improve their health and well-being.
The focus areas are manifested on the ground through the following interventions undertaken by social organizations:
  • Facilitating access to the education system: To ensure girls enroll and continue in school, as girls with secondary schooling are 70% less likely to marry as children.
  • Providing vocational training, life skills and sexual and reproductive health information: To equip adolescent girls with the skills needed to make independent life choices for themselves and their family.
  • Mobilizing communities to recognize the ill effects of child marriage: Sensitizing key decision-makers at home and in the community to recognize the ill effects of child marriage, as the practice can hardly be curtailed without their buy-in.
  • Cultivating role models as peer leaders: To identify and train young people who resisted early marriage, to help others facing the same threat with adequate information and support services.
  • Training government officials and frontline workers: To build capacity of anti-child marriage officials to execute their responsibilities effectively and sensitively.
  • Building the capacity of non-profit organizations focused on other issues: To equip non-profits working on related issues with know-how on child marriage, so they can leverage existing relations with the community to also influence norms around this practice.
  • Fund any of the 10 high impact organizations that have been profiled in this report, after Dasra assessed over 300 organizations.
  • Contact one of these organizations to explore opportunities to partner.
  • Share this page with people you know to direct more support to this cause