Mumbai, July 22: India contributes at least 33 per cent of the total number of child brides in the world. Around 103 million Indians married before they were 18. Around 85.2 million of the 103 million were girls, the ActionAid India report ‘Eliminating Child Marriage in India: Progress And Prospects’ mentioned. The reports were released by actor-activist Shabana Azmi. The figure of child marriage in India is more than the total population of Philippines (100 million) and Germany (80.68 million), found the report. The data is analysed from Census 2011.

Every minute, 28 girl child marriages take place in the world in which two takes place in India. If girl child marriages are eliminated, 27,000 neonatal deaths, 55,000 infant deaths, and 1,60,000 child deaths can be avoided, stated the report. “Patriarchy is at the root of child marriage, and patriarchy has to be tackled completely to eliminate child marriage. Spreading education and building confidence amongst girls enables them to resist child marriage and chart their own lives,” Shabana Azmi told PTI. She further added that the numbers are huge and should be taken seriously.

In the report, it is mentioned that 75 per cent of all instances of child marriages are found in rural regions. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh account for 70 per cent child marriages in India. Child marriage cannot be directly linked to socioeconomic factors as six of the 10 states that account for a significant proportion of marriage below 18 years of age are socio-economically better-off states. These states are former Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat. (ALSO READ: Economic case for ending child marriage, early birth)

The actress-activist said that education reinforces gender divides. “Even in textbooks, where is the father? Father is in the office. Where is the mother? She is in the kitchen. Why can’t mother and father both be in the office and be in the kitchen? We need to see with a magnifying glass what is being taught to our children,” Azmi said.

The author of the report, Srinivas Goli, said child marriage needs to be looked at as an economic issue. Srinivas is an Assistant Professor at the Centre for the Study of Regional Development. He told PTI, “India needs to realise that child marriage is not just a human rights or gender issue. It is a huge demographic, health, education and economic issue. If we cannot eliminate child marriages, it will become a huge hindrance to India’s economic prospects in the form of unhealthy and unskilled workforce. The more skilled workforce alone can contribute to a GDP 1.7 per cent.”