Child marriage is still a widespread practice in India, even though it was prohibited in 2006 with The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. One of the main reasons why child marriage still occurs is that it is a social costume and therefore it is difficult to eradicate with a law. Another important reason is that other alternatives such as education are not easily accessible for children from marginal groups. A study has been carried out in New Delhi in 2008 regarding dropout cases in slum schools. It has been found that 57,6% of the children who dropped out school (in most cases in Grade IX) were girls. The reasons of the drop-out are often related mainly to the financial constraint of the family. Families from marginal groups find difficult to pay school fees and other costs. In addition, the distance and not-so-safe road to reach the school has been addressed as one of the main reasons that leads girls to drop out. In fact, secondary schools are usually far away and girls claimed that they do not feel safe on the way to school and even that they fear to be assaulted. That is why many parents in India decide to marry their daughters when they are still children because they believe there is no other good option for a girl rather than marriage.
The government is trying to subsidize parents to keep their daughter in schools, as they are still children with a development scheme called Sukanya Samriddhi launched in January 2015. Parents can open an account for their daughter until she is no more than 10 years old. The minimum amount that has to be deposited every year is of Rs. 1000 and can be maximum Rs. 1,500,000 and the interest rate is 9.2 per cent. Money must be deposited for 14 years and the maturity duration is reached when the girl turns 21. It follows that after 14 years it is no more necessary to deposit any money but the interest will keep increasing for 7 more years.
Parents should be more likely to postpone the marriage after the girl has reached the age for the maturity of the account because they can use that amount of money to pay the marriage. Indeed, it is for economic reasons that lot of weddings take place when the girl is still a child; since weddings are expensive ceremonies and the dowry amount is low if the bride is still young, families tend to marry their younger children together with other older siblings’ weddings. Therefore, Sukanya Samriddhi scheme should deter parents from marry their daughters when they are still children. In this way, girls will remain in school longer and have a better education, which will give them the opportunity to find a better job.
Moreover, the scheme allows a partial amount (50 per cent) for withdrawal if the girl has turned 18, only if she intends to marry or for paying further education. This can help families to pay the tuition for their daughters’ higher education if they cannot afford it.
However, we found out that few people seem to be aware of this government scheme at the moment and that is why Heeals is going to explain it during the workshop about WASH, MHM and Child Marriage that will take place this month in some slum schools. Our aim is to help girl children remain in school, and to increase awareness of government programmes that they can take advantage of.
Marriage should not take place when a girl is still a child and should not be a solution to keep her safe.
HEEALS Picture .
Rego, Anil. “Is Sukanya Samriddhi Scheme the best investment for your girl child?”. Rediff, 13 March 2015. Web. 09 Feb. 2017. <http://www.rediff.com/getahead/report/money-is-sukanya-samriddhi-scheme-the-best-investment-for-your-girl-child/20150313.htm>