Till now, it was thought that child marriage and underage pregnancy is a prevalent issue only in the rural part of the country. However, the vital statistics report that is released by the Economic and Statistics Department, Government of Kerala has a whole new story to tell.
According to the latest vital statistics report which was released in February 2019, Kerala had 22,552 teenage mothers (aged below 19 years) in the year of 2017. This data is more shocking bearing in mind the fact that the state of Kerala is known for its high literacy rate.
The report also had an analysis of the educational qualification of such mothers. It showed that 17,202 were either matriculate or below graduate level. 3,420 did not indicate their education, while 86 were illiterate and remaining 91 with below primary level education.
The report also accounted that 4.48 percent of live births in Kerala were from the mothers within the age bracket of 15 to 19 years. Of this, the number of births in urban areas by mothers of this age group was 16,639; while that is rural areas were 5,913.
137 rural mothers had their second baby before the age of 19. While 48 mothers and 37 mothers had their third and fourth child respectively, before they crossed the teenage mark, stated the statistics of the report.
Statistics of the report also states that out of 22,552 live births of teenage mothers, 702 to Christians, 4,734 to Hindus and 17,082 belonged to the Muslim community. There was also a small segment of mothers who refused to reveal their religion.
It should also be noted that the delivery of girls who are under the age of 15 mostly goes unreported. This is the reason that the reported only 11 mothers who had delivered a baby before they reached 15 years of age.
The state has reached to such grave situation majorly because most of the cases of child marriage are not reported. “If someone alerts us about child marriage, it is not because they want to protect the interests of the girl. The tip-offs often happen out of the local rivalry. Most people do not want to disclose child marriage” stated Fazal Pullath, Child Protection Officer (Malappuram).
Some of such cases also stem from the love affairs. Once caught by the parents, they get them married in a rush. If the bride and groom are underage, parents make every possible effort to cover this fact up. Also, in the case of most Muslim marriages, nikah can take place before the bride turns 18. And once the nikah is done, there is no law that can stop a bride and groom from staying together. To bypass the existing law, registration of marriage takes place only after the bride turns 18.
Most parents of the state are of the perception that their daughter would not get a groom if they are above 20 years old. But what they fail to understand is the fact that the institution they are terming as a marriage is not a marriage. It is a heinous crime that is equivalent to selling their girl child. In an age where they should be studying, they are becoming mothers. Is this how India is going to become a superpower? It’s high time for both parents as well as the system to wake up and stop this trade of childhood in the name of marriage.