Child marriages remain an economic curse

THE HANS INDIA |   Jul 17,2017 , 04:35 AM IST
   


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Over the next seven years, India could save Rs 33,500 crore in healthcare and related costs if it eliminates child marriage and early childbirth, according to a new report by World Bank and International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW). For perspective, this is equivalent to the country's 2017-18 higher education budget of Rs 33,329 crore.

Globally, Rs 1.14 lakh crore could be saved across 18 countries by 2030-of which India accounts for 62 percent, due to its large population.
Eliminating early marriage and births reduces population growth, which in turn reduces pressure on government budgets; lower population growth across 106 countries from ending child marriage could save up to $566 billion per year in 2030.

Child brides face violence, abuse and exposure to HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, are more likely to drop out of school and give birth as adolescents. Adolescent pregnancy can lead to several health problems anaemia, malaria, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, postpartum haemorrhage and mental disorders according to the WHO.

The proportion of girls marrying before legal age increased from 1.78 percent in 2001 to 2.45 percent in 2011 in urban India and declined from 2.75 percent to 2.43 percent in rural India over the same period; 70 districts spread across 13 States reported "high incidence" of underage marriages, and account for 21 per cent of the country's child marriages. The World Bank-ICRW study adds an economic dimension to the problem, which could be an incentive for India and other countries to work harder to eliminate child marriage and early childbirth.

As many as 280,000 married girls in the age group of 15 to 19 have already given birth to four children, which is an increase of 65 percent from 170,000 in 2001, IndiaSpend reported in 2016. Ending child marriage "could entail a cost for households and governments assuming that some of the girls who delay marriage are also able to pursue their education further", the study noted.

In developing countries, girls with less access to quality education are more likely to marry early, argued Quentin Wodon, an advisor with the World Bank's education department, in a May 2014 article. However, the study said that while economic costs should not be the sole rationale for investment decisions related to child marriage, they are an important consideration. (In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org)

By Devanik Saha  

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