Governing Child Marriage in India – Where Global Visions Meet Indian Realities

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:10
Oral Presentation
Elvira GRANER, Heidelberg University and ICAS:MP New Delhi, Germany
with Prof. Samita Sen (Kolkata)

A universal understanding of childhood defines children not only as a demographic group (until 14, 16 or 18, respectively) but also sets in place the core political directives. These, first of all are to safeguard their protection from any possible form of human rights violation, and advance their quality education. Besides placing a strong responsibility on parents this also asks for a comprehensive commitment from state bodies, often supported by international development partners. Yet, local “realities” often portrait quite a different picture, and one matter which can be seen as the epitome of violating human rights of children are child marriages.

While common across the world, in India child marriages are of high political concern, due to the country’s particular demographic profile. Thus, when the UN engaged in assessing and reformulating the MDGs and drafted the SDGs, child marriage was addressed as a crucial obstacle for all other goals. The paper will address five core issues. Besides analysing the demographic profiles of children in India, it will secondly address the alarmingly low annual rates of decline of child marriages. Thirdly, it will portrait the vast regional disparities, and showcase a few case studies from an ongoing project in West Bengal, where child marriage has gained sad prominence. Generally, these states are also characterised by significant gender disparities, in regard to core development indicators (health, education, or gender empowerment). Fourthly, the paper provides a brief overview about currently policies and legal reforms and debates at both the national and global levels (such as the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006). Along with this analysis, it, fifthly, aims at providing a wider analysis about the governance framework that guides child marriage, and the support that needs to be taken up by international development partners.