'Childhood is not for motherhood': New study reveals 8 in 10 minor brides experienced pregnancy in AP

The state has the highest child pregnancy than Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  17 Dec 2022 6:00 AM GMT
Childhood is not for motherhood: New study reveals 8 in 10 minor brides experienced pregnancy in AP

Hyderabad: A new study has revealed that 8 in 10 child brides experienced teenage pregnancy in Andhra Pradesh. A child marriage study conducted by CRY (Child Rights and You) has revealed child marriage has a detrimental impact on girls' sexual and reproductive health (SRH).

Nearly 78 percent of child brides stated to have experienced teenage pregnancy in AP. Nearly eight out of 10 child brides experienced teenage pregnancy in the state. The state has the highest child pregnancy than Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, and Maharashtra.

The study has revealed that 52 percent of parents and parents-in-law in Andhra Pradesh regard child marriage as an important custom.

Only 22 percent of parents and parents-in-law and over half of the respondents (54 percent of child brides/grooms) in the state are aware of the negative consequences of child marriage.

CRY's study gathered an exhaustive range of quantitative data and insights from a survey conducted in 10 villages of two blocks from Annamayya and Tirupathi districts (formerly undivided Chittoor District) of Andhra Pradesh. Also, a mixed-method approach was adopted with both quantitative and qualitative data collection techniques.

Adolescent mothers

As per NFHS-4 (2015-16), 11.8 percent of women within the 15-19 age group were already mothers whereas when it came to NFHS-5 (2019-21), the percentage rose to 12.6 percent. It is important to note that this is double the national average of 6.8 percent, noted in the NFHS-5 report.

Going further, a sizable proportion of adolescent mothers reported having given birth to babies with low birth weights. According to the study, 13 percent and 5 percent of child brides reported having babies with low birth weights for their first and second child, respectively in Andhra Pradesh.

Child brides

According to NFHS 2019-21, 29.3% of the women aged 20-24 cases in Andhra Pradesh married before the age of 18. This is higher than the national average of 23.3% and also the highest among the five southern states.

The study revealed that of the sampled child brides and grooms in the state, 97% of child brides were married between 15-17 years while 3% were married at 10-14 years of age while no child grooms got married before 14 years and 19% got married between 15-17 years of age.

Why child marriage persists in AP?

Fear of girls eloping or having `love affair' leading to premarital sex and pregnancy emerged as dominant reasons why parents prefer to marry off their daughters as soon as they reach puberty. Lower dowry, the patriarchal construct of 'women's honor', finding grooms, and adaptation by girls being easier in new households too are reasons behind the high prevalence of child marriage –the study suggests.

The study found that COVID-19 had a substantial impact on child marriage. According to duty bearers and community members in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Odisha, more cases of child marriage have been observed since the pandemic.

"While the study highlights social norms and practices majorly influencing the perception of underage marriage in society, other factors contributing to child marriage are extreme poverty, forced migration, and gender inequity. Education plays a substantial role and is key in resolving the multi-dimensional issues that children face as lack of educational opportunities due to issues of accessibility, availability, and affordability pushes girls to drop out of school, leaving them far more vulnerable to child marriage, in comparison to boys," said John Roberts, Regional Director– South, CRY.

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