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Gujarat slipped in fight against child marriage during Narendra Modi's chief ministership: Census data

By Our Representative
The new 2011 Census of India data on child marriage has opened yet another chapter about the failure of the Gujarat government’s save the girl child campaign during the chief ministership of Narendra Modi (2001-14). The data reveal that, compared to other states, Gujarat has one of the lowest percentage of women of all ages who may been forced to tie their nuptial knot before 8, yet, in 2011, at the time of Census data collection, it had one of the highest proportion of married females below 18.
The Census provides two separate pieces of data. One set is about women of all ages who got married before they had reached 18. In this category, nearly 20 per cent women of Gujarat were found to have got married before they were 18. This is significantly better than most states.
In fact, the 20 per cent figure of Gujarat is much better than the all-India average of 30 per cent, and worse than only three other states – Punjab 11 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir 16 per cent, and Kerala 18 per cent. Rest of all the 19 major states were found to have a higher percentage of females who were married away before they reached 18.
The other set of data are about females who were found to be below the age of 18 on the day the Census of India officials carried out their door-to-survey. This set of data show that Gujarat has 4.2 per cent of married females who weren’t at the legal age of marriage, 18, which is higher than 12 other major states out of 19.
While the all-India average on this score is 3.7 per cent, the states which higher percentage of married females below 18 were – Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan (both 4.3 per cent), Assam 5.1 per cent, Bihar 5.8 per cent, Jharkhand 6.1 per cent, and West Bengal 7.8 per cent.
The data go to suggest that, though Gujarat may have of the lowest proportions of females who may have been married before 18, states other than Gujarat achieved a much better success rate in overcoming child marriage. Thus, the gap between women of all ages who were married before reaching 18 and the married females found to be below 18 in 2011 is found to have sharply moved in favour of the latter in a large number of states.
This is true of both rich and poor states of India. Thus, the “rich” and “progressive” Maharashtra has 28 per cent of females of all ages who were married away before reaching 18; but in 2011 only 1.7 per cent females in that state were found to be below 18. On the other hand, the “Bimaru” state of Madhya Pradesh had nearly 40 per cent of females of all ages who were married away before 18; but as of 2011, only 3.1 per cent of married females were found be less than 18 years of age.
If the Census data are any guide, the best performing state in curtailing child marriage are Jammu and Kashmir and Haryana, where only 0.3 per cent of married females hadn’t reached the age of 18. This is followed by Punjab (0.5 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (0.9 per cent), Tamil Nadu (1.3 per cent), Maharashtra (1.7 per cent), Kerala (2.7 per cent), Odisha (2 per cent), Madhya Pradesh (3.1 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (3.7 per cent), Karnataka (3.8 per cent), and Andhra Pradesh (4 per cent).

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