A Statistical Analysis of Child Marriage in India based on 2011 Census

Renu Singh
Marriage and parenthood
Early marriage and FGM
Country report

Early and child marriage has been a prevalent practice at different points in the history of almost all societies around the globe. In India, the practice has origins going back to ancient times and it continues to persist today.

Child marriage is most common in the world’s poorest countries. The highest prevalence rates of women in the age group 20-49 years reporting entering marriage before 18 years are in South Asia (56%), followed by West and Central Africa (46%), Eastern and Southern Africa (38%), Latin America and the Caribbean (30%).

According to a UNICEF report (2014), one in three of all child marriages globally take place in India and rates are highest among the poorest and most socially disadvantaged. Child marriage has been declining slowly over the years, but numbers of girls and boys getting married before their respective legal ages remain large.  In the 2011 Census 33.8 million child marriages were reported for girls aged less than 18 and boys below 21 years. High variance has been noted across regions, states and between urban and rural areas in the prevalence child marriage within India. 

This Executive Summary explores the findings reported in the 2011 Census.