Child Marriages and Indian states

Kerala has one of the lowest percentages of married people who tied their knots when they were minors while Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan are on the top, according to Census.

A close reading of the Census 2011 figures on marriages released recently also showed that south Indian states barring Andhra Pradesh have a better record on child marriage in the past years compared to their north Indian counterparts.

The percentage of people who married below the legal age (18 years for women and 21 for men) is 10.59 per cent, the lowest among the big states in the country.

Kerala has 20.09 lakh people who were married in their childhood but the interesting case, like in other states is the huge gap between the number of men and women who entered the nupital knot. There were only 86,478 men compared to 20.03 lakh women in this gap.

Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal have higher percentage showing that child marriage was more prevalent in these states compared to others.


State Total Married People (All age) Child (Male) Married Child (Female) Married
Madhya Pradesh 3.75 crore 20.59 lakh 99.13 lakh
Rajasthan 3.57 crore 26.78 lakh 79.92 lakh
Andhra Pradesh 4.90 crore 13.92 lakh 1.09 crore
West Bengal 5.13 crore


98.52 lakh 1.10 crore
Uttar Pradesh 9.43 crore 43.14 lakh 1.50 crore
Karnataka 3.40 crore 4.31 lakh 45.81 lakh
Tamil Nadu 4.24 crore 4.24 lakh 49.71 lakh


1.97 crore 86,478 20.03 lakh


Officials said the figures showed that south Indian states were early birds in tackling the problem. Also, the reform movements in these states might have contributed to arresting the spread of child marriages in 20th century.

According to Census, Madhya Pradesh has 31.86 per cent of married people falling under this group followed by Rajasthan at 29.88 per cent, Andhra Pradesh (25.23 per cent) and West Bengal (23.45 per cent).

Among south Indian states, Karnataka has 14.72 per cent people who married before legal age while Karnataka has 12.69 per cent. Gujarat could also boast of an impressive 13.02 per cent while Delhi has 16.02 per cent, Maharashtra 17.21 per cent and Bihar 19.66 per cent. The biggest state of Uttar Pradesh has 20.49 per cent such marriages.

Though south Indian states fare better as per Census 2011, the Crime in India 2014 report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that these states together account for almost half of the 280 cases of child marriage in 2014.

Activists, however, said this could be because reporting in these states may be better. The figure of 280 cases may be higher as a Ministry of Women and Child Development acknowledge that the most recent data available shows that 43 per cent of women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18.

(June 5, 2016)


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