India (Maharashtra): 52% of women consummate their marriage before turning 18
MUMBAI: Fifty-two per cent of married women in Maharashtra admit to consummating their marriages before the age of 18. This simple admission revealed in the government’s District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS-3) report clearly indicates the rampant prevalence of child marriages in a “progressive” state such as Maharashtra.
Yet, the issue of tackling these child brides and grooms is often enveloped in shades of grey. Vandana Krishna, principal secretary (department of women and child development), admitted that the prevalence of underage marriages is certainly a concern. “The ministry of women and child development is holding a consultation in Delhi on Friday along with experts from different fields to recommend how best we could deal with such marriages,” she said.
Officials are reluctant to register such marriages as they are “illegal”. But the survey revealed that 18% of the women and 12.4% men were married before attaining legal adulthood. Krishna has written to the rural development department asking it to request gram panchayats and sevaks to register underage marriages.
Women not averse to girl child: Govt data
There are several misconceptions in society related to the issue of son preference as was played out in the inaugural episode of Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s reality show Satyamev Jayate. When asked who determines a male child, several in the audience had wrongly answered that it was the mother. Women are also often wrongly blamed for ‘wanting’ or ‘preferring’ a male child. But data from the District Level Household and Facility Survey (DLHS-3 ) report shows that left to their own accord, women may not discriminate against girls. More than 40% of the 7,607 married women who were interviewed on their preference of a child, interestingly said the sex of their child wouldn’t matter to them. Another 15% believed the choice of a son or daughter was best left to God. The male bias was, though, true for those who had a specific preference. While one in three married women said they wanted a son, 13% said they’d opt for a daughter.
The implications of boy preference have hit home after the Census 2011 recently revealed that there were only 883 girls (under six years) in Maharashtra for every 1,000 boys; this was even lower than the national child sex ratio of 914 girls. Does the DLHS-3 survey then indicate that women hold liberal attitudes towards the children they bear, if given a choice? Shiv Sena leader and women activist Neelam Gorhe believes equality and plurality would flourish if women of all ages were empowered and allowed to control their own bodies. “Whether it is abortion, sex determination , child birth or hysterectomy, there is too much patriarchal pressure with all major reproductive decisions being controlled by the family. If women were left to make their own choices, we would have more pro eco-equality ,” she said. Shomita Biswas, secretary of the Maharashtra Women’s Commission, welcomed the survey findings which showed up that 40% women were unbiased. However , she said the societal psyche was such that even among the 40% who showed preference for a girl, many were likely to prefer a son, if their first born was a girl. This would generally hold true even if their first born was a son.
“Awareness about gender issues needs to be spread among the adolescent age group itself, if attitudes are to be truly changed,” she suggested. Bobby Sista of voluntary organization Population First, said he was sceptical of such surveys as they may not always represent views of the entire society. “Often women may not be explicit about their views,” he said. “By and large, a mother is a mother. Once she conceives, the natural motherly instinct is not biased towards the sex of a child. But the whole question of sex and abuse and preference for a boy comes in if they have been subjected to societal pressures.”
Reference : Times of India