Thursday 13 March 2008

Which explains?

From the article A child and divorced by Rohit Parihar in India Today (March 7, 2008): “Around 1.6 crore child marriages continue to take place in parts of India... By far the largest numbers are from a caste-ridden Rajasthan where children as young as four, five or even less are married off or traded like so many cattle.

According to the 2001 census, of the 1.6 crore children in India who got married before they reach official marriageable age, 18.3 lakh came from Rajasthan alone.

Which also explains why of the estimated 1.7 lakh divorces that take place before the children reach marriageable age, the largest number, around 6,200, are from Rajasthan. (my emphasis)”

Does the preceding data explain why 6,200 of the divorces came from Rajasthan? I'm afraid it doesn't quite. The state's share of child marriages (11.44%) is more than three times its share of child divorces (3.65%).

And the writer does not give any reason why we should expect a similarity in ranks, that is, why Rajasthan's being No 1 in marriages should lead it being No 1 in divorces.

As a matter of fact, the difference in shares (of marriages and divorces) points to an even worse story lurking elsewhere.

More follows a few paragraphs later: “A survey undertaken for India Today by NGO Prayas ... one of the 3.7 lakh children in her state and 20 lakh across the country who got married before the age of 14 — too young to even remember the ceremony, if there was one.

And like 50,000 others in the country and 1,200 in the state under the age of 15, she got separated from her so-called husband as swiftly as she had entered into wedlock with him.”
The first figure pertains to children below 14; the second to children below 15. In that stage of life, one year may make a great difference. Shouldn't both figures have had the same age cutoff?

Assuming we ignore the one year difference, what do we get? This time, Rajasthan's share of (below 15) marriages (18.50%) is more than 7½ times its share of (below 14) divorces (2.40%)! To be fair, the author doesn't claim any causal link between the marriage and divorce figures here. Yet the numbers neighbour each other, so one can't be blamed for suspecting a connection was hinted at.

I am guessing, without reason, that the later set of figures (marriages below 15 & divorces below 14) came from the survey. If so, one cannot but notice the differences between them and the census figures. For example, the share of marriages goes up (from census to survey) by about 7% (perhaps indicating that Rajasthan's child couples are, on an average, younger than other states' – please see below).

The census figures have no age-cutoffs, which should partially explain the differences. Besides, the census came out in 2001, while the survey was, presumably, more recent. Nonetheless, one wishes the magazine had published the survey, or, at least, excerpts from it on the Web.

My main problem with the article though is that it describes a problem without mentioning any efforts at its solution. For the children's sake, I hope that is the author's worst oversight.

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