Underage marriages down overall: NFHS-5

While the national average of underage marriages has come down, the rate has increased in Punjab, West Bengal, Manipur, Tripura and Assam, according to the fifth round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS), conducted between 2019 and 2021.

The latest data — NFHS-5 — were released by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya in Vadodara, Gujarat, on Thursday.

Tripura has seen the largest jump in marriages under the legal age of 18 years for women from 33.1% (NHFS-4, conducted 2015-1) to 40.1%, and from 16.2% to 20.4% among men.

According to NFHS-5, 23.3% women surveyed got married before attaining the legal age of 18 years, down from 26.8% reported in NFHS-4. The figure for underage marriage among men is 17.7% (NFHS-5) and 20.3% (NFHS-4).

Some of the biggest gains in improving legal marriage have been seen in Chhattisgarh, where underage marriages have come down from 21.3% to 12.1% among women and from 26.9% to 16.2% among men; Haryana (19.4% to 12.5% for women, and 23.9% to 16% for men); Madhya Pradesh (32.4% to 23.1% for women), Rajasthan (35.5% to 25.5% among women, 35.7% to 28.2% for men).

Underage marriages are lowest in J&K, Lakshadweep, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Nagaland, Kerala, Puducherry and Tamil Nadu, according to NHFS-5.

Teenage pregnancies, the Survey reports, is down from 7.9% to 6.8%. According to NFHS-5, women who are employed are more likely to use modern contraception. The data says 66.3% women who are employed use a modern contraceptive method, compared with 53.4% women who are not employed.

The findings show that contraceptive use increases in communities and regions that have seen more socioeconomic progress.

The Survey reports that knowledge of contraceptive methods is almost universal in India — more than 99% married women and men aged between 15 and 49 know at least one modern method. But the use of modern contraceptives for family planning is only 56.4%, NFHS-5 reveals.

Domestic violence is down from 31.2% in 2015-16 to 29.3% in 2019-21, data show.

INPUTS from Anuradha Mascarenhas in Pune

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