Child brides are on the rise in India’s towns and cities

(AFP)
Updated 02 June 2017
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Child brides are on the rise in India’s towns and cities

NNEW DELHI:An increasing number of underage girls in India’s towns and cities are being married off, a study has revealed, challenging long-held assumptions that child marriage in the country is largely a rural phenomenon.
Child marriage is illegal in India, but it is deeply rooted and accepted in society, and remains widespread in parts of the country. Data from the 2011 census shows more than 5 million girls were married before the legal age of 18 — a marginal decrease from 2001.
Yet while the number of underage brides has declined by 0.3 percent in rural areas since 2001, they have increased by 0.7 percent in urban parts, said a report by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and the charity Young Lives.
Experts said these percentage figures appear insignificant, but considering India has a population of 1.3 billion, this means tens of thousands more underage girls were married in towns and cities in the decade to 2011.
“What is interesting is that one didn’t expect a lot of the urban areas to figure in the high incidence districts, especially around the big metros,” Renu Singh, Young Lives’ country director, told a news conference late on Thursday.
“Also it is surprising that in the 10 to 14 age group, there are still large numbers of girls being married in urban areas. One was hoping and thinking that would not exist at all.”
The study — the first to break down India’s census data on child marriage — found nearly one out of four girls in rural areas and one out of five in urban areas was married below 18.
Some urban districts in states such as Uttar Pradesh in the north and Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka in the south showed a rise in the number of underage brides from 2001 to 2011, the report said.
Singh said it was too early to know why incidence rates in certain towns and cities had inched higher, adding that more research was needed to understand the causes.
Along with Niger, Guinea, South Sudan, Chad and Burkina Faso, India is among the top 10 countries with the highest prevalence rates of child marriage, despite moves to empower girls and women and toughen penalties against the crime.
Poverty, weak enforcement of laws, patriarchal social norms and concerns about family honor are factors contributing to early marriage.
But the practice violates child rights — cutting across every part of women’s development and creating a vicious cycle of malnutrition, poor health and ignorance, experts say.
A child bride is more likely to drop out of school and have serious complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Her children are more likely to be underweight and will be lucky to survive beyond the age of five.


Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

Updated 11 min ago
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Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

  • Reporting of child abuse rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases
  • Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, an official said

SEOUL: A law allowing South Korean parents to physically discipline their children is to be scrapped, authorities said, prompting controversy in a country where hierarchical family values still predominate.
Reporting of child abuse — including neglect and emotional abuse as well as physical or sexual assaults — rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases, with 77 percent of the perpetrators known to be the victims’ parents.
“More in our society agree that child abuse is a serious social problem,” Seoul’s Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters.
“But many are still lenient about corporal punishment. The ministry is to change this perception.”
Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, he said, where they have been stated since 1960. Physical punishment was also allowed in schools until 2010.
A recent government survey showed that 76.8 percent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary, and Thursday’s announcement prompted controversy.
Lee Kyung-ja, head of a conservative group of parents, was adamantly opposed to any change.
“I’m going to continue beating my kids even if it requires writing a contract with them,” she told AFP.
“I’ll refuse to give them food and pay for their tuition if they don’t listen to their parents — this is how I’ll re-establish my rights as a parent.”
South Korean children have been repeatedly cited as the least happy in the OECD group of developed countries, facing a high-pressure education system and deeply rooted traditional values which emphasize obedience and respect toward parents and authority figures.
That makes young victims of domestic violence especially vulnerable, as filing a complaint or publicly criticizing a parent can be considered a disgrace — or even a “sin against heaven.”
With few facilities for abuse victims, many parents facing prosecution have their charges dropped as there is no-one else to care for their children, said youth rights activist Kang Min-jin.
Earlier this year a 12-year-old girl who had reported abuse by both her biological father and her stepfather to police was murdered by the stepparent.
“Many Koreans still view as their children as their properties, rather than separate human beings who have their own set of opinions and judgment,” said activist Kang.
But Lee Hee-bum, who leads the conservative Freedom Union group, said the government decision amounted to state interference in personal and family lives.
“One should be able to decide how to parent his or her kids independently,” he said.