Child Marriage

What Is the History of Child Marriage in South Asia?

The history of child marriage in South Asia started long before the British colonized the country in 1757. It started as a means for the upper castes to protect their bloodlines by finding a match within their caste and religion that met society’s strict guidelines. They were often married at 10 years old or younger and, if the right match was found, even at birth. The couple were married legally and then consummated the marriage as soon as the girl reached puberty.1 From there, the practice grew and morphed over hundreds of years.

During colonization by Western countries, the issue was brought to the forefront. In 1891, the first of many reforms was made to the law concerning underage marriage. However, the damage had been done, and the practice continues to this day despite being entirely illegal now. That is because the law was never the source of the practice. The girls were and are used as a means to an end, whether it’s for a pure bloodline, having one less mouth to feed or due to pressure from the groom’s family. At the heart of all violations of human rights for women, including forced, underage marriage, is the persistent idea that women are not of value.

Especially in South Asia, girls are seen as a financial liability. Men are the ones who take care of the parents in old age, while for their daughters, the family will often have to pay a dowry to the groom’s family upon marriage.

But there is hope on many fronts and a way for many vulnerable girls to avoid this fate. Through GFA, a child can be sponsored and they and their family cared for on many levels. Through the program’s community-wide solutions, families receive key basics according to the community’s needs such as nutritious food, clean water, tutoring assistance, and free medical care. Lifting the burden on their families and encouraging girls to stay in school are two powerful ways to put girls on a path of hope.

For just $35 a month, you can be the hope for a girl whose circumstances point to early marriage, likely abuse, teen pregnancy and permanent illiteracy. Your gift to GFA through child sponsorship makes it more likely that she will be able to remain in school, stay home with her family. She is given more than just a few daily needs; she is given a future.

Learn more about child marriage

1 Nirantar Trust. “Early and child marriage in India: A landscape analysis.” May 2015.