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We've let down our girls again. India refused to sign the first-ever global resolution on early and forced marriage of children led by the UN. The resolution was supported by 107 countries including the likes of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Yemen countries with high rates of child marriage.
The resolution as floated by the UN Human Rights Council and stressed the need to include child, early and forced marriage in post-2015 international development agenda and acknowledged the impact of early marriage on the 'economic, legal, health and social status of women and girls' as well as 'the development of the community as a whole'.
Why India would refuse to sign the resolution is mind-boggling considering we have the highest number of child brides in the world 24 million representing almost 40% of the 60 million of the world's child marriages.
Lakshmi Sundaram, the global coordinator of Girls Not Brides who was at the UN general assembly had told TOI: 'India refusing to sign the resolution is highly disappointing. Though India is putting in place a national plan to combat child marriages, it was strange why it did not stand up against the social ill in the international stage. India would have given out a positive signal that it is willing to find a solution by signing the resolution'. Sundaram added: 'Child marriage is a social ill across south Asian countries. However, Nepal probably is the only country that signed the resolution. Both India and Bangladesh which have high rates of child marriages didn't sign in. It a setback globally to the cause that India didn't speak out'. The Centre for Reproductive Rights says governments in the South Asia region have failed to enact and enforce adequate laws that prohibit child marriage. 'The practice persists with impunity. In South Asia, 46% of women between ages 20-24 report having been married before age 18 in 2010. This translated to 24.4 million women in the region. Estimates project that from 2010 to 2030, 130 million more girls in the region will be married.' (Read: International Day of the Girl Child when will we stop killing her?)
'Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation - rather, every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl's life. Child marriage endangers the survival and well-being of women and girls by exposing them to forced initiation into sex and sexual violence as well as to early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies. Further, women and girls married as children are often denied educational opportunities, are isolated from society and face a lifetime of economic dependence,' the Centre said. Currently the limit child marriage limit is 18 years but it's not followed vehemently.
Child marriage a nation's shame
The culture of child marriage is without a doubt one of the greatest drawbacks of our conservative culture. It's simply wrong to force matrimony upon children who aren't old enough to understand the implications of marriage. But then we aren't a nation which seems very bothered about the daughters of our soil and we often equate women's liberty with immorality. Other than that, child brides often face adolescent pregnancies which has a host of other implications.
It's estimated that four million girls between the ages of 15-19 give birth in India every year and pregnancies in that age are riddled with complications because the female body while capable of it, isn't ready for the rigours of childbirth. (Read: Why India is the worst place for women)
Here are some of the common issues that riddle adolescent mothers-to-be and their unborn babies:
Hypertension: They have a higher risk of suffering from hypertension during pregnancy than women in their 20s and 30s. They're also likelier to suffer from pre-eclampsia (What is preeclampsia?). In pregnant women (including teens), hypertension can lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia where women start passing protein in their urine. This leads to the disease called eclampsia which is characterised by seizures and a coma. This condition also affects other vital organs like the kidneys, liver and brain.
Anaemia: Caused due to lack of red blood cells which is usually due to nutrition deficiency like iron, vitamin B12, folic acid. The most common form is anaemia. Even women who're older experience iron deficiency during pregnancy. (Read: There's more to anaemia than just iron deficiency!)
Postpartum haemorrhage: The term refers to a haemorrhage (bleeding) after delivering and is quite common among adolescent mothers. It's caused due to the four Ts:
Premature birth:This has a host of complications including neonatal mortality (death within the first month) developmental disorders, respiratory complications, vision problems and heart-related issues. They're also likelier to have a low-birth weight which is linked to neurological problems. They also suffer from hypoglycaemia (less glucose in the bloodstream).
STDs:The chances of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV is much higher in adolescent girls because they have less say in who their sexual partner is, particularly in an orthodox country like ours. Many of them are married to men who they've never met before and have no clue about their sexual history.
All in all adolescent pregnancies are a big menace and we need to curb the practice to safeguard the lives of our daughters, so that they too can live a completely fulfilling life. (Read: Sexually Transmitted Diseases you could have one!)
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