A day after the Supreme Court delivered historic judgment declaring sexual intercourse with a minor wife as rape, shocking statistics of child marriages in India emerge. The survey report considered by the Supreme Court on this crucial case exposes that West Bengal has got the dubious distinction of having the maximum number of married girl children at 40 percent. These shocking figures are from the National Family Health Survey.
The Judgment also observed that there are 23 million child brides in the country, though the marriage of a girl below 18 is illegal. But criminal cases were not registered as many communities, especially in rural areas conduct the marriages of girls before they reach the age of 18.
The Supreme Court of India, which has delivered a historic verdict on October 11 declaring sexual intercourse with a minor wife as rape, quoted the survey in its order, saying that the figure of 40.7 percent of child brides significantly rises to 47 percent in rural areas of the populous eastern state. The report said the lowest percentage of child marriages was recorded in Punjab and Kerala at 7.6 percent.
According to the National Family Health Survey 2015-16, the states with second and third highest percentage of brides under 18 years of age were Bihar and Jharkhand with 39 and 38 percent respectively.
The report was submitted before a Supreme Court bench of Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, which ruled that sex with a wife who is under 18 years of age is an offence under the Indian Penal Code with an imprisonment of up to 10 years.
As per the data which assumes significance in the light of the apex court’s verdict, the national capital of India recorded 13 percent of the child brides in 2015-16, which has come down from 22.7 percent in 2005-06.
The states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, and Gujarat have 35.4, 25 and 24.9 percent of child brides, the report said.