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Kerala best in checking marriage of underage girls, Bengal fares worst

NEW DELHI: Kerala and West Bengal were the best and worst-performing states when it came to preventing child marriages across the country in 2018, according to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India’s data.

Only 0.9% females under the age of 18 from Kerala were married in 2018, the lowest among the 22 states and six UTs of all women surveyed by the Sample Registration System. In contrast, West Bengal fares the worst as underage brides comprise 3.7% of all married women.

Rajasthan is close behind with 3.5% underage minors married in 2018. Delhi, which registered the lowest percentage of child brides in 2017 at 0.4%, slipped in the rankings as the percentage of child brides rose to 1.3%. Overall, there is an improvement in the mean age of females getting married in India. While the mean age of marriage stood at 21.2 years in the 2011 Census and improved to 22.1 years in 2017, the latest data for 2018 shows a further improvement to 22.3 years.

Bengal also has the lowest mean age of females married at 20.9 years. Rajasthan and Bihar are next with the mean age of marriage at 21.7 years. Jammu and Kashmir has the maximum mean age of marriage at 26.7 years. In 2017 too, J&K had the highest mean age in India at 25.6 years.

Other parameters of “effective marriage” in the survey indicate that the age at which females are getting married in India is showing an upward trend. The percentage of minor females married in urban area came down from 1.7% in 2017 to 1.6% in 2018.

Considering the broad sample size of the survey which is 81 lakh, the slight dip of 0.1% means around 81,000 females were prevented from becoming child brides. The actual number may be more given this was a sample survey.  However, the percentage of minors married in rural areas remains unchanged at 2.6%. The overall percentage of minor girls married also remains the same as 2017 at 2.3%.

Jharkhand performs well this time
Some states which were struggling with the social ill have shown some improvement. For example, Jharkhand where child marriage of girls registered a significant decrease in 2018 from 2.5 %  in 2017 to 4.2% of females under 18 years of age were married.

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