Reducing child marriages and delaying the marriage of younger women in India may have significant results in improving child health and educational outcomes, a study has found.
The research revealed that the children of women who got married later were more likely to complete their required vaccinations, have a higher weight-for-height.
Their children were also more likely to enrol at school, as well as attain better grades in reading and maths.
Getting married earlier, the women have different preferences.
That was because she has less knowledge regarding health, possibly lower bargaining power and gives birth to many children, affecting their well-being, said Annemie Maertens from the University of Sussex in Britain.
For the study, published in the Journal of Development Economics, the team looked at more than 32,000 women, aged 15-40, living in both rural and urban households across India.
Although the legal marriageable age in India is 18 years for women and 21 years for men, over 50 per cent of women in the study reported being married at a younger age.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, Tamil Nadu has been ranked the highest in terms of the number of cases registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006 during the last three years.
In 2015, 77 cases were reported from the state, followed by 40 and 35 from West Bengal and Karnataka, respectively.
As per an analysis of the 2011 census data by NGO Child Rights and You (CRY), nearly 35 million women and 10 million men in north India were married as children.
“In the absence of social norms, which have not been changed, and in the absence of the ability to enforce laws, one might want to consider other incentives,” Maertens said.
Incentive schemes such as the “our daughters, our wealth” program in Haryana and those that give a financial reward to parents of unmarried 18-year-old girls, could offer a solution, Maertens said.