Chhattisgarh is home to 1.02 crore children below the age of 18 years and shocking factor is that one in every four girls in the state is a child bride. Along with rural areas, this malpractice is common in urban parts of the state too and many poor families as well as well to do families with traditional outlook tie the nuptial knot of their daughters before celebrating her 18th birthday. This is despite there is a law preventing child marriage. In fact, 5 districts of Chhattisgarh are among the top 50 high risk districts in terms of child marriage prevalence in the country. According to National Family Health Report of union ministry of health and family welfare, the worst affected districts in high prevalence of child marriage are Jashpur (51.3%), Surajpur (39.2%), Bijapur (38.1%), Narayanpur (36.5%) and Koriya (35.2%). Along with these districts, other districts such as Kondagaon, Kanker, Rajnandgaon, Balrampur, Surguja and Mungeli districts also has high rate of child marriages. The figures showed that around 18.56 lakh girls below the age of 18 years were married in the state in last fiscal year. In 2017-18 and 2016-17 years too, 20.3 lakh and 21.2 girls respectively below the age of 18 years tied the nuptial knot in various districts.
Because of child marriage, these women have to suffer so many physical and mental health problems in their entire life. Many of them could not fight with it and succumb to different ailments. “The results of all boards were declared and many intellectual groups applaud girls for their excellent performance in examinations. But another bitter reality is that for lakhs of girls in state, career as well as studies is not a choice and they are forced into marriage, an unwelcome end to their childhood and future,” said Dr Vineeta Dhruve, gynaecologist and member of UNICEF health programme. The solution to overcome from this social and health problem is a complete ban on child invest in education and empower young people, families and communities to bring about positive change. Only then, there is little chance to end this practice in rural areas by 2022 or 2025 and protect lakhs of girls from this malpractice.
It may be mentioned here that UNICEF has started global programme Chhattisgarh to step up action to end child marriage, where in existing strategies in areas such as health, education, child protection, nutrition, water and sanitation have been brought together to address child marriage in a holistic manner. When a girl is forced to marry as a child, she faces immediate and lifelong consequences. Her odds of finishing school decrease while her odds of experiencing domestic violence increase. She also has to enter motherhood in early years that would take her life too. In rural and tribal areas, this is more common. Meanwhile with the efforts of some NGOs and also of administration, there is decline in it but it is limited to handful districts such as Raipur, Durg, Bilaspur and Dhamtari. In remote districts of Bastar, Bilaspur and Surguja division, it is still common and every year so many innocent minor girls are forced into marriage. When contacted Anila Bhediya, Cabinet Minister for Woman and Child Development in state, asserted child marriage is really a major social problem and with the help of international organisations, department has made a strategy to make aware people about this malpractice and reduce it in coming years and gradually eliminate it, she added.