NEW DELHI: Every fourth woman in the age group of 20-24 was married before turning 18, though in percentage terms underage marriages declined from 26.8% to 23.3% in the last five years. According to the National Family Health Survey-5 (2019-21), the problem is much bigger in rural India where the percentage was 27%, whereas in urban areas underage marriage accounted for 14.7% of marriages.
The data shows that 6.8% females aged between 15-19 years were already mothers or pregnant at the time of the survey. The rural-urban difference was prominent, with 3.8% women falling in this category in urban areas and 7.9% in rural areas. NFHS-5 reflects an overall marginal decline from 7.9% from 2015-16. Men aged between 25-29 years who were married before the legal age of 21 years was 21.1% in rural areas and 11.3% in urban India. Overall, such men accounted for 17.7% in 2019-21 as compared to 20.3% in 2015-16.
NFHS-5 defines gender based violence as spousal violence which includes "physical and/or sexual violence". This remains an area of concern despite a slight decline nationally from 31.2% women in the age group of 18-49 years suffering it in 2015-16 to 29.3% in the latest survey period.
Data for 11 states and three UTs released in the second phase of NFHS on Wednesday shows that the percentage of women who "ever experienced" spousal violence was highest in Tamil Nadu (38.1%), followed by Uttar Pradesh (34.8%), Jharkhand (31.5%), Odisha (30.6%), Puducherry (30.5%) Madhya Pradesh (28.1%), Arunachal Pradesh (24.8%), Rajasthan (24.3%), Delhi (22.6%), Chhattisgarh (20.2%), Haryana (18.2%), Uttarakhand, (15.1%), Punjab (11.6%) and Chandigarh (9.7%). In the data released last year for 17 states and five UTs under NFHS-5, Karnataka topped the list with 44% women surveyed saying that they have faced spousal violence at some point of time.
The survey also cites data on young women aged 18-29 years who experienced sexual violence by age 18. The all-India percentage remains static from NFHS-4 to NFHS-5 at 1.5%.