United Nations: A UN body has said that there has been a decline in the rate of child marriages among young girls in India but the progress is not sufficient to guarantee their right to education and self-determination.

The UN on Thursday marked the first 'International Day of the Girl Child', focusing on the theme of calling for an end to child marriage and stressing that education is one of the best strategies for protecting girls against this "harmful practice."

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has announced that it will invest an additional USD 20 million over the next five years to reach the most marginalised adolescent girls in 12 countries with high rates of child marriage. The countries to be focused on include Guatemala, India, Niger and Zambia.

According to UNFPA's report 'Marrying Too Young: End Child Marriage', which was released yesterday, in India 47 percent of women between 20 to 24 years of age had married or entered into union by 18 during 2000-2011.

Of these 47 percent women, 56 percent lived in the rural areas and almost 30 percent in urban households. Nearly 76 percent of the girls had no education. Further, 75 percent of the young girls hailed from the poorest of the poor households and 16 percent from the rich households.

Data from three consecutive household surveys in India showed that the rate of child marriage among girls under age 15 is declining at more than twice the rate than among girls under 18 years of age.

The decline for girls under 15 years of age is 30 percent as compared to 13 per cent reduction for girls under the age of 18.

"While this can be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is still not sufficient to guarantee children their full rights in terms of education, sexual and reproductive health and the right to self-determination," the report said.

It said wide variations in the prevalence of child marriage were found within India.

Citing data from a 2006 National Family Health Survey (NFHS), it said that Indian states such as Goa, Manipur and Kerala have prevalence rates of 15 percent or less (11 percent, 13 percent and 15 percent, respectively).

At the opposite extreme, in a number of states, at least half of girls are married or in union before age of 18, such as in states like Uttar Pradesh (53 percent), Andhra Pradesh (55 percent) and Bihar (60 percent).

Globally, despite efforts to decrease the practice of child marriage, the frequency of child marriage has remained level over the last decade, the report said.

The report pointed out that if current trends continue, the number of girl child marriages will increase dramatically over the next 10 years.

(Agencies)

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