What it Means to Be a Child Bride – Loss of Childhood & its Damaging Impact – Railway Children India

What it Means to Be a Child Bride – Loss of Childhood & its Damaging Impact

Illustration – Unknown

Ghar Ghar
A game played in innocence
A life lived in naivety
With a husband now, and her dreams snatched away,
The child bride looks back in shock
“How did the game become my reality”

As per UNICEF, India is home to one in three of the world’s child brides. More than half of India’s 223 million child brides were married even before turning 15. Child marriage is a grave violation of human rights. This may seem like common knowledge; however, given the stirring statistics around India’s child brides, it is a fair deduction that this understanding is yet to reach every citizen of our country.

This basic right is required to cut through the deeply patriarchal mindset of the population and reach the furthest and remotest region of India. While policies, laws and outreach efforts drive this understanding home, it is worth noting the impact that this violation leaves in the minds, bodies and lives of the young girls, who are at the center of this tragic violation. Illustrated below are five burning effects that wreak havoc in the lives of child brides.

1. Early pregnancy

Early childbearing is the foremost consequence of an early marriage. This devastating effect is at the pinnacle of the cascade of harm and abuse that follows. It is commonly observed that young girls are forced to wed significantly older men, either in exchange of money or some other societal lending. A teenage girl’s body is not physically mature enough to deliver without complications. These complications during childbirth are the top-most cause of death among girls aged 15-19. Additionally, babies born to adolescent mothers face a substantially higher risk of stillbirth, infant mortality, high likelihood of low-birth weight, malnutrition and underdevelopment.

2. Risk of physical and sexual violence

Although it remains a hush hush subject, sexual violence leaves a largely negative impact on the emotional, mental and physical well-being of young girls. The violence experienced comes veiled in forced sexual relations, physical abuse, and confinement. Often isolated from their families and support networks, young girls have no resources to help them step out of abusive situations.

3. Abrupt pause on education and personal development

A girl child is brimming with promise and potential. When her right to education and a bright future is abruptly snatched away due to child marriage, however, her mental and emotional development come to a screeching halt. Girls who are married early in their teens are less likely to complete their education. These obstacles to their education have far-reaching outcomes that extend even beyond their personal lives.

4. Forced dependency

Early marriages force young girls into a life submitted to domestic chores. Due to the pause to their education and development, girls are stripped of their right and ability to make informed decisions about their lives and the lives of their families. A devastating cycle of poverty is set rolling all due to the entrapment of girls in an early marriage and barring their access to quality education.

5. Rendered unequipped for the job market

The collective and compounded effect of an early marriage for a young girl is the unfortunate drop in her skills. The battered mental and emotional state, followed by the break in education render a girl child unskilled and under confident. A young mother’s adverse economic and health outcomes are inevitably passed to down to her children. This cascade eventually strains a country’s capacity to provide quality healthcare and education services to its citizens and children. Furthermore, the act of child marriage only plunges the future generations in to deeper poverty and vulnerable economic status, owing to the unwavering patriarchal mindset.

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