Daily VideoOctober 4, 2013
Bride Shortage in India Sends Girls Far from Home to Marry
In some parts of India, there are more men than women and the lopsided gender ratio has led to a “marriage squeeze”, in which many underage women are forced to leave their homes to marry older men in faraway regions.
The official age for legal marriage is 18, but many women from impoverished areas get married before that in order to survive and unburden their families.
“I know my husband is much older, but then we were so poor,” said Gudia, one such bride. “There was not enough food, not enough for simple clothing. Here, we eat. We have everything.”
Daughters in India are often considered financial burdens to their parents because of the now illegal, but still widespread, practice of giving dowries. These costs are often many times a family’s annual income, and are transferred from the bride’s family to the groom’s when they get married.
This high cost led some expectant parents to terminate pregnancies if the fetus was a girl, meaning the many fewer girls are born than boys – 650 female births for every 1,000 male births in some regions. This has led to the current shortage of brides.
Some young women become the victims of kidnapping and trafficking in the marriage market.
“They are stolen. They are sold and resold and resold at different prices,” said Kailash Satyarti, a sociologist and one of India’s best-know anti-trafficking activists. “And eventually they end up as child prostitute, child slave. They are found being married to old man in Punjab and Haryana and sometimes in Delhi. A 14-year-old girl could have been married to a 40-year-old man.”
The solutions to the problem are complicated, and include reducing poverty and raising the status of women.
Investigate this interactive infographic to learn more about child marriage in the developing world.
Warm up questions and resources
- At what age do they think is a good age to get married?”
- “Why don’t people often get married in elementary school or high school?” Fact- In the U.S. the average age to get married is 28.9 for men and 26.9 for women. What important life events usually happen before this age? (for example, school, college, etc.) (Source: The Washington Post)
- Explain to students that in different countries and cultures people get married at different ages and some are far younger than in the U.S. In some situations this means girls don’t get an opportunity to complete school or have a chance to be independent before having children. On your board bring up the interactive infographic “10 Million Girls are Married Each Year” (above) and explore it with your class.
- Why are so many young women in India becoming “child brides”? Explain the situation.
- What are the dangers of this system for young women?
- How could this practice be stopped? Who would need to get involved?