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Child/Early marriage refers to any marriage of a child younger than 18 years old, in accordance to Article 1 of the Convention on the Right of the Child. While child marriage affects both sexes, girls are disproportionately affected as they are the majority of the victims. Their overall development is compromised, leaving them socially isolated with little education, skills and opportunities for employment and self-realisation. This leaves child brides more vulnerable to poverty, a consequence of child marriage as well as a cause. Child marriage is now widely recognised as a violation of children's rights, a direct form of discrimination against the girl child who as a result of the practice is often deprived of her basic rights to health, education, development and equality. Tradition, religion and poverty continue to fuel the practice of child marriage, despite its strong association with adverse reproductive health outcomes and the lack of education of girls.
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The legal age for marriage in India is 18 years for girls and 21 for boys. Any marriage of a person younger than this is banned under the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 1929.It is an incontrovertible fact that a large number of child marriages are performed in violation of the existing provisions of the law, particularly on ‘Akha Teej’ or ‘Akshaya Tritiya’. When child marriage takes place, the children are too young to understand what marriage means. It is true that there is a large body of social opinion and customary practice that sanctions early marriage. It is a religious tradition in many places in India and therefore difficult to change.The dire consequences that follow child marriage, particularly for girls are – the child’s education is sacrificed, girls become more vulnerable to domestic violence and due to early pregnancies their health gets much worse.
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