New Delhi: While gender equality remains a distant dream in India, 37 percent of lower income groups (LIGs) in five major cities of India believe the ideal age for a girl to marry is between 16 to 18 years, a study released here Wednesday said.
According to knowledge, aptitude and practice (KAP) report on lower income groups by voluntary organisation CRY (Child Rights and You), 48 percent of people in Delhi believe girls should be married before they are 18.
In Mumbai, the financial capital of India, the percentage of LIGs favouring marriage for under 18 girls is a shocking 86.2 percent.
This is despite the fact that legal age for marriage for girls is 18 years.
The study was done in one slum each in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore with a sample size of 500.
The study, which was done to find the mental set up for education of girl child in lower income groups, also reveals that this is despite awareness about legal age of marriage and in general agreement that education is more important and 85.4 percent felt girls should be sent to school till they are 18.
"The commonest problem for girls dropping out of school is non-availability of separate toilets in schools. Besides, there were issues like eve teasing (molestation) on way to school, no transport, and of course child marriage," informs Yogita Verma Saighal, director-mobilisation and volunteer action, CRY.
"Where child marriages are involved, girls are not sent to school after marriage on the pretext that they will get spoiled," Saighal said.
As per the study, half of the respondents said they knew school girls in their locality getting married and 48 percent said the girls were not allowed to go to school after marriage.
Chennai was at the worst position, with 70 percent respondents claiming knowing school girls who were married and discontinued studies.
"If this is how urban India thinks, we cannot imagine what the situation will be in rural areas," Saighal added.
Neeti Vaid, assistant professor in Delhi University's department of communication, who volunteered for the study, said they found child marriage to be common in Delhi slums during their study.
"There are 12-14 years old girls getting married and getting pregnant in the slums of Delhi," said Vaid.
Saighal added that awareness of government schemes like Right to Education was very low.