A Statistical Analysis of Child Marriage in India: Based on Census 2011


This report was released on June 1, 2017, by the government of India’s National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, New Delhi, and Young Lives India, a Delhi-based initiative part of an international project studying childhood poverty by a team at the University of Oxford, UK. The report presents an analysis of the prevalence, genesis and geographical spread of child marriages in India.

The publication examines the incidence of child marriage at the national, state and district levels based on 2011 Census data. The ‘incidence of child marriage’ is defined as the number of persons among the total population of a particular age group who were ‘ever-married’ – currently married, widowed, divorced or separated – before the legal age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

The report identifies 70 districts in the country that account for 21 per cent of its child marriages, spread across 13 states: Arunachal Pradesh; Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana which attained statehood in 2014); Assam; Bihar; Gujarat; Haryana; Jharkhand; Karnataka; Madhya Pradesh; Maharashtra; Rajasthan; Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The 141-page report has been divided into seven chapters: Introduction (Chapter 1); Laws and policies pertaining to child marriage (Chapter 2); Census data on child marriage (Chapter 3); Causes of Child Marriage (Chapter 4); Consequences of Child Marriage (Chapter 5); Preventive Actions and Cost-Effective Strategies (Chapter 6); Recommendations: Way Forward (Chapter 7).


  1. Census 2011 notes that 69.5 lakh boys and 51.6 lakh girls have been married before the legal age of 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

  2. National Family Health Survey (NFHS) data states that child marriages have declined at the national level from 47.4 per cent in 2005-06 to 26.8 per cent in 2015-16 for women, and from 32.3 per to 20.3 per cent during the same period for men. (The International Institute for Population Sciences, Mumbai, has conducted the NFHS for the government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare since 1992.)

  3. Census 2011 data states that Rajasthan has the highest incidence of child marriage both among boys and girls. About 8.3 per cent of girls have been ‘ever-married’ between the ages of 10-17, and 8.6 per cent of boys between the ages of 10-20.

  4. Chandigarh reports the lowest incidence of child marriage of girls between the ages group of 10-17 years (2.7 per cent) while Lakshadweep has the lowest incidence among boys of the age group of 10-20 years (1.3 per cent).

  5. The report identifies 70 districts across 13 states for high incidence of child marriages. Out of the 13 states, Maharashtra contributes the maximum number of districts with an increasing trend in cases of child marriage. All 16 of these districts showed a rising trend during 2001-2011.

  6. Among the 13 districts from Rajasthan which feature in the 70 identified for high incidence of child marriage in the report, only Banswara showed an increasing trend in 2001-2011.

  7. Children from disadvantaged groups – girls in particular – are likely to be married early. The report states that girls from rural areas are twice as likely to be married by the age of 19 as compared to those in urban areas.

  8. The report notes a primary reason for child marriage among girls to be the importance attributed to a woman’s virginity and its perceived relationship to family ‘honour’. Girls are married before the legal age of 18 out of fear for their safety, the fear of sexual assault or anxiety about premarital sex.

  9. Some of the dire consequences of child marriages among girls identified in this report are early pregnancy; an increase in the risk of maternal and infant mortality; inability to complete education and dropping out of schools; decreased prospects of securing employment; greater exposure to violence and abuse; undernutrition; and an increased risk of being introduced to human trafficking.

  10. The report states that programmes for improving education access such as Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (launched in 2001) and Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (2009) by the government of India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development, help deter child marriage of girls and help them continue their education. This is also true for schemes that provide annual scholarships and financial support for school uniforms and travel. 

  11. Government schemes which provide financial incentives to girls and their parents through cash transfers are another factor which prevent child marriages. An example of such schemes is the Mukhyamantri Kanya Suraksha Yojana in Bihar, where up to two girls in poor households are granted Rs. 2,000 each on turning 18 years.

  12. In order to prevent child marriages, the report recommends designing strategies based on a ground-level understanding of the processes of child development within different contexts and cultures. Some of the suggested strategies are promoting education among children, proper registration of marriages, providing economic support, appointing full-time Child Marriage Prohibition Officers, and ensuring protection of the victims and prosecution of the offenders through prescribed mechanisms. (The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, stipulates the appointment of Child Marriage Prohibition Officers across states.)

    Focus and factoids by S. Mukundan.

    PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.


Young Lives India, New Delhi, and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of India, New Delhi


Young Lives India, New Delhi, and National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, Government of India, New Delhi


01 Jun, 2017