The United Nations has announced an initiative to end child marriages worldwide, but India, the country with the most child brides, isn’t getting behind it.
The UN Human Rights Council resolution seeks to put an end to all child, early and forced marriages throughout the world, and already, 107 countries have co-sponsored it. However, India has not given its support because, according to officials in the country, the resolution provides a vague definition of an early marriage.
“We have laws against child marriage and forced marriage,” claimed an Indian official. “But since early marriage has not been defined anywhere, there was no clarity on the legal implication of co-sponsoring the resolution against early marriage.”
Reports show that India has about 24 million child brides, making it the country with the largest number of them worldwide. Many countries in South Asia have loose laws on early and child marriages, with India’s seemingly being the most lax.
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of the Human Rights Watch, says that early and child marriages ruin the lives of the ones involved.
“Early marriage cuts short [girls’] education, places them at risk of domestic abuse and marital rape, and makes them economically dependent,” says Meenakshi Gangul, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, to TIME Magazine. “It has a profoundly detrimental impact on their physical and mental well-being.”
The Centre for Reproductive Rights agrees, saying that these types of marriages violate a number of human rights issues. In a statement, the Centre wrote:
Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation — rather, every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life. Child marriage endangers the survival and well-being of women and girls by exposing them to forced initiation into sex and sexual violence as well as to early, unplanned and frequent pregnancies. Further, women and girls married as children are often denied educational opportunities, are isolated from society and face a lifetime of economic dependence.
It is unclear what needs to be done in order for India to back the resolution, but based on the statistics of child brides in that country, India is in desperate need for a change.