The world is moving in a progressive direction leaving behind the traditions that held people captive to continue to practice irrespective of its ill-effect. However, the villages in Kerala’s Southern District of Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, and Alappuzha have seen a revival of the ancient custom of child marriage.
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has found that there are places where this custom was virtually unheard of two decades ago. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of ever-married (EM) girls in Kollam, Pathanamthitta, Kottayam, and Alappuzha had shown a shocking growth of 78.3%, 64.1%, 65.3%, and 55.6%, respectively.
However, in Malappuram, which still records the highest percentage of child marriages (0.30%), the growth is near zero, making it the least in the state. According to the United Nations Population Division, ever-married women or men are persons who have been married at least once in their lives although their current marital status may not be married.
The NHRC study found that in a decade, child marriages have shot up 43.3% among Christians, and 40.3% among Hindus. As for Muslims, the growth is 6%.
“Religion played a very important role when it came to child marriages. According to her, parents irrespective of their religion have this nightmare that their children, especially the girl, will end up choosing undesirable partners once they become 18,” said Former chairperson of the Kerala State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights Sobha Koshy.
Dr. Anil Chandran S, assistant professor at the department of demography, University of Kerala, who had conducted a demographic study into the child marriages in Kerala, said that three factors goad parents into marrying off their child before the legal age.
“One is the growth of the marriage industry, with event management companies turning weddings into exorbitantly costly gala affairs. With every passing year, the rates shoot up and, and naturally, the parents tend to marry off their daughters at a younger age. The other is the parental fear that their girls might marry a boy from another community. Then comes the issue of love marriages, where the girl and boy tie the knot without the knowledge of their families,” said Anil Chandran.