Child Marriage Curb on Socio-Economic Development in India



According to UNICEF child marriage refers to the marriage of a girl or boy before the age of 18. It refers to both formal marriages and informal unions in which children under the age of 18 live with a partner as if married and carry out the responsibilities of a household and give rise to the legitimization of procreation that has in return several economic and social impacts on the development of the economy.

Early child marriages are associated with a rise in family burden because of the phenomenon of more children due to a larger time gap of reproductive age that is associated with multiple social curbs particularly on the part of women as they are prone to suffer from health issues, emotional imbalance, more responsibilities etc.

Child Marriage Acting as a Curb

Child Marriage impedes social and economic development, and it is rooted in gender inequality. In South Asian regions specifically India practice of preference for a male child is dominant because of the economic burden associated with raising a female child as it is often considered that females are not going to reap benefits for a family in the longer run as they are married off. The motivation behind picking a prospective groom is not age but social, religious, and financial factors, according to a report on early childhood marriage, which outlines the justification of this practice (Adedokun et al 2012). 

Limited resources and incentives among poor sections of society further add fire to this practice as the social menace of dowry is often considered as a catalyst of early child marriage for females because the younger the brie less dowry parents have to bear.

Child marriage also gives rise to intimate partner violence as females are married at a young age and have not attained proper education making their male counterparts dominant over them in matters of family planning, decision making, etc resulting in the rise of domestic violence, increase in crimes rates among women, etc.

Societal pressure plays an important role in the rise in child marriages as patriarchy is still tightly rooted in Indian society considers women as inferior gender and limits several opportunities for them for their socio-economic development and pout for walls around their God-gifted talent that can prove instrumental in the development of economy as several women in the field of sports, business, entertainment are excelling because of strong backing by their families and good educational background.


  • Considering child marriage as a roadblock for overall development several international organizations such as UNICEF and UNFPA are coming together to fight this global menace as they have joined forces through a Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, where for the first time existing strategies in areas such as health, education, child protection, nutrition, and water and sanitation have been brought together to address child marriage holistically.
  • To achieve Sustainable Development Goal 5, the government of India has introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 (PCMA) in which Child Marriage Prohibition Officers (CMPO)’ have jurisdiction over the area or areas specified in the notification and includes preventing solemnization of child marriages.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) scheme, an initiative of Women and Child Development creates awareness of gender equality and discourages child marriage.
  • The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) also undertakes awareness programs and consultations with stakeholders from time to time in this regard
  • To increase the age of child marriage because of challenges of health and the economic burden concerned with it government issued  The Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was introduced in Lok Sabha to increase the minimum age of marriage of women to 21 years.

Associating Child Marriage acting as rust for overall development, several NGOs, Pressure Groups, Activists, and Lawyers are coming forward to create awareness against this social issue.

Current Developments

Due to several steps being taken by the government and third parties positive shift is being witnessed in cases of child marriage according to data from the National Family Health Survey Report (NFHS 5), earlier in 2015-16 there were 20.3% of men married below the legal age of 21 years that has been reduced to 17.7% in 2019-21, that is a positive indicator of after-effects of creating awareness.

On the other hand percentage of women married below the age of 18 years was 26.8 in 2015-16 higher than males but this percentage has reduced to 23.3 in 2019-21 which shows a declining trend among women only but this is a significantly higher proportion as compared to men. So this is still an issue that needs attention.

Table 1: Data showing Child Marriage 

BasisNFHS-5 (2019-21)NFHS-4 (2015-16)
Men ( below 21 years of age) (%)17.720.3
Women ( below 18 years of age) (%)23.3 26.8

Source: National Family Health Survey Report 2019-21

Early child marriage is accompanied by issues of health, a rise in cases of miscarriage, stillbirth, morbidity issues, etc. This social issue often gives rise to pregnancy-related complications as young brides are unable to carry the child because of fragile bodies at an early age that is unable to cope with several body changes associated with pregnancy, hence pregnancy-related complications are also a major threat to women’s life 

But with an increase in the education rate of women because of Beti  Padhao Beti Bachao and awareness among their parents, etc fertility is decreasing as Women aged 15-19 years who were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey (%) have declined from7.9 to 6.8 in 2019-21 as well as Adolescent fertility rate for women age 15-19 years (%) decreased from 51 to 43 in 2019-21.

Table 2: Data showing the fertility rate among women

BasisNFHS-5 (2019-21)NFHS-4 (2015-16)
Adolescent fertility rate for women aged 15-19 years (%)6.87.9
Adolescent fertility rate for women age 15-19 years (%)4351

Source: National Family Health Survey Report 2019-21


Several challenges associated with child marriage are as follows-

  • Social – Child marriages result in the intergenerational cycle of poverty, as women comprise 50% labour force, and under compulsion of child marriage they are pushed out of the web of employment that increases the economic burden of the family. Early marriage reaps economic benefits to families as young and less educated brides require less dowry which is again a social issue. 
  • Health-  Women are put under the constraints of childbearing and rearing due to which they have to go through a vicious cycle of stillbirths, miscarriages, cervical cancer, emotional trauma, etc. which in turn increases dependence on the country’s health infrastructure and pulls India down in the ladder of social factors while competing with the global economy.
  •  Economic- Early marriage of women results in lower educational qualifications as a result women lack the skills, knowledge, and job prospects that make them financially independent of their counterparts due to lack of financial literacy and they become prone to domestic violence, maltreatment, etc.

Way Forward

To reduce gender inequality and get rid of early marriages increased literacy rate among children and their families can act as an instrument to increase awareness. Proactive government investments are critical game-changers for postponing marriages. Several incentives should be taken to create awareness that can penetrate from top to bottom that will target the poor girls specifically in remote areas as they are less exposed to the negative implications of early child marriages.

Engaging with faith and community leaders as well as faith-based organizations to critically examine the causes and consequences of early marriage can reduce its rate along with strengthening health infrastructure as developing more Ombuds vans that will be a stop solution in case of health complications and will reduce loss of life specifically during complicate pregnancies.


Roy, A., & Chouhan, P. (2022, January 1). Exploring the socioeconomic factors associated with girl child marriage and its impact on pregnancy outcomes: A study from Malda District of West Bengal.

National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), 2019-21 for India

Rajagopalan, S. (2020, October 26). The economics of India’s high prevalence of child brides | Mint. The economics of India’s high prevalence of child brides | Mint

child marriage. (n.d.). child marriage | Economic and Political Weekly

(PDF) Child Marriage Among Girls in India: Prevalence, Trends and Socio-Economic Correlates

Socio-economic Correlates of Early Marriage of the Girl Child. (2023, December 19). Socio-economic Correlates of Early Marriage of the Girl Child: Empirical Evidence from India

Rasmussen, B., Maharaj, N., Karan, A., Symons, J., Selvaraj, S., Kumar, R., . . . Sheehan, P. (2021, May 24). Evaluating interventions to reduce child marriage in India. Evaluating interventions to reduce child marriage in India | Published in Journal of Global Health Reports

Social Determinants of Child Marriage in Rural India – PMC


Prevalence of girl and boy child marriage across states and Union Territories in India, 1993–2021: a repeated cross-sectional study – The Lancet Global Health

Measures to Prevent Child Marriages.


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