"Giving Teens a new Lease of Life" - Daily Current Affair Article

Why in news?

Recently, a new study titled 'Returns on Investment in Adolescents Sexual and Reproductive Health in Rajasthan' has been released which is conducted by the Population Foundation of India. As there has been high prevalence of child marriages, reducing teenage programmes continues to be the biggest challenge in addressing issues related to the reproductive health of adolescents.

Introduction:

  • Teenage pregnancy is a major problem and is more likely to occur in marginalized communities, commonly driven by poverty, lack of education and employment opportunities.
  • It remains a major contributor to maternal and child mortality and leads to vicious cycle of ill-health and poverty.
  • Teenage pregnancy has a direct or indirect effect on a number of social development indicators – education, gender, health and nutrition indicators.
  • Child marriage has prevailed in India from a very long time where an infant girl who hardly has taken few breaths after her birth get her marriage fixed mere at that time when she was just a child.
  • Raja Ram Mohan Ray was one of the social reformers of India who raise his voice against the evil system of child marriage, sati, and widow remarriage.
  • But ground reality at present time is that there is prevalence of child marriage which ultimately leads to teenage pregnancies.
  • During 1860s, many reform associations like Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj took up the cause of child marriage. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar took the first step against child marriages and due to his effort the Indian Penal Code prohibited the consummation of marriage if the girl was loss than 10 years of age. But, still this age was low.
  • The marriageable age fixed under the Brahmo Act 1872, as it later came to known as the Native Marriage Act was 14 years for girls and 18 years for boys.

Child marriage and Teen Pregnancy – Current Statistics in India:

  • According to the findings of the study recently conducted, more than one third of the girls get married before they cross 18 and 6.3% of girls in the age group of 15 to 19 years are already mothers or are pregnant.
  • The prevalence is higher in rural areas (9.2%) compared to urban areas (5%).
  • In 2017, an estimate of 11.8 million teenage pregnancies occurred in India.
  • Pregnancy during teenage and child birth complications are the leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year old girls, with low–income and middle-income countries accounting for 99% of global, maternal deaths of women aged 15 to 49 years.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey 4, the burden of teenage pregnancy was highest in Tripura (18.3%), West Bengal (18%) and Assam (14%).
  • As per the latest NFHS-5, teenage pregnancies has increased from 18.8% to 21.9% in Tripura and reduced by just 2% in West Bengal and Assam.

Observation of societal ills under the garb of legislation:

  • The government of India introduced the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in 2007 and also did various awareness campaigns to enhance awareness regarding the ill-effects of child marriage and teenage pregnancy through mass-media campaigns.
  • Although the efforts lead to decline in teenage pregnancy by almost 50% for the country but reduced only by 2% for states like Assam.
  • A higher proportion of women belonging to SC and OBC experienced teenage pregnancy compared to women belonging to ST or general category.
  • Lacks of education, lack of health and nutrition, severe anaemia in pregnancy, low birth weight, childhood malnutrition are the major effects of teenage pregnancy.
  • Although awareness about contraceptives and their availability has increased but it continue to be discouraged in society. Women admitted to their husband's reluctance and social pressure to not use contraceptive measures.
  • A woman in many forms of a girl, a daughter, a wife, a mother have been denied of their basic rights of decision-making and choosing on her own. Society has always imposed restrictions on women by taking the autonomy of a woman.

Child marriage in Pre-Independent India:

  • Many social reforms and activists worked in the field of enhancing the status of a woman and fought against the evil system of child marriage.
  • Some of them are – Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Dayanand Saraswati, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • Many efforts were made to make legislation on child marriage.
  • The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 popularly known as Sharda Act, after its sponsor Harbilas Sharda, fixed the age of marriage for girls at 14 years and boys at 18 years.
  • In 1949, this act was amended and age of girls for marriage was made 15 years and in the year 1978, age of girls for marriage was made 18 years, subsequently.
  • The All India's women conference, National Council of women in India articulated the argument in favor of raising the age for marriage and consent.

Teen Pregnancy – driver to poor health status of women:

  • Teen pregnancy has led to severe problems like malnutrition, child wasting/stunting, increased maternal mortality rate and many health disorders.
  • India's child malnutrition rates are still one of the most alarming in the world. The drawback of child and maternal malnutrition is responsible for 15% of India's total disease burden.
  • The prevalence of underweight, stunted, wasted children under 5 was at 35.7, 38.4 and 21.0 per cent, as per NFHS-4.
  • According to NFHS-5, out 22 states surveyed, only 9 showed a decline in the number of stunted children.
  • India loses up to 4% of its GDP and 8% of its productivity due to child malnutrition.
  • Prevalence of teenage pregnancies is highest in Tripura (21.9%) as per NFHS-5.
  • Material Mortality Rate is 113 per 100,000 live births in sample registration system report 2016-18.
  • Assam has highest maternal mortality at 2015.

State wise disparity:

  • There has been prevalence of state wise disparity. States like Assam, Tripura, West Bengal are in much deteriorated state in the category of maternal mortality, prevalence of child marriage, teenage pregnancy as compare to other states.
  • This is mainly due to lack of employment opportunities, illiteracy, vulnerable population, meagre income, lack of institutional deliveries for mothers, absence of antenatal care services, food shortages, lack of affordability to proper medical care.
  • Current state is already worrisome so to achieve Sustainable Development Goals like – SDG 1 for no poverty, SDG 2 of zero hunger, SDG 3 for good health and well being, SDG 4 of quality education, SDG 5 of gender equality, the need is to focus on women's reproductive health.

Some government initiatives and solutions to be adopted:

  • Government of India launched the Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Strategy (2005-2013) and Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram in 2014 to address the problems of adolescent health.
  • POSHAN Abhiyan was launched to reduce malnutrition among children by facilitating convergence and providing health and nutrition services for the first 1000 days.
  • Integrated Child Development Services facilitates a supplementary nutrition programme, growth monitoring, health education, immunisation, health-checkups to beneficiaries.
  • Government launched PM Matru Vandana Yojana which provides financial support to lactating and pregnant mothers.
  • Massive awareness needs to be done to make people realize the disadvantages of early marriage and pregnancy and Anganwadi workers should be trained accordingly to address the issues of teenage pregnancy among the marginalized sections of society.

Way forward:

The need of the hour is to address gaps in the present set up through public awareness, community engagement and empowerment not only economically but socially and politically also.

Budgetary allocation should be increased on health, education alongwith stricter legislative and administrative norms.

A proper inter-departmental convergence and resource allocation paves the way for eradication of severe malnutrition and food shortage.

Improving infrastructure, reach of Aganwadis and ICDS centres, revamping the data-monitoring system is need to bridge what has been achieved and what was envisaged.

General Studies Paper 1
  • Society