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Adolescent Girls Have Limited Choice Over Their Marriage, Survey

A survey has shown that adolescent girls continue to have limited choice in who and when they marry and that sex education in schools is failing young people. Although girls who marry in early adolescence are particularly vulnerable, marrying over the age of 18 does not guarantee improved freedoms and choices in marital and fertility decision-making.

While adolescent girls and their spouses enter marital life with limited knowledge about modern contraceptive choices, contraceptive options are not reaching the young married couples who want or need them, according to the latest data released under Young Lives India survey. 

Contraceptive use is very low among young married couples and sterilisation of women in their early twenties is common after they have had children, the survey added. Boys and young men are marginalised from sexual and reproductive health services.

Dr. Renu Singh, Country Director, Young Lives India said: “This report highlights the mutually reinforcing influences of families, service providers, economic circumstances, and gendered cultural and social expectations that shaped and constrained the agency and choices of girls and young women as they moved from being ‘daughters’ to ‘daughters-in-law’, ‘wives’ and first-time ‘mothers’. 

``It is critical for society to not look at talking about sexual reproductive health as taboo and we need to create safe spaces where young adolescent girls and boys are able to access both information and services in the community. Making secondary education a fundamental right is critical to prevent child marriage as well as building skills amongst young adolescents that is needed for carving a better future,” she added. 

Young Lives India is a collaboration between CESS (Hyderabad), SPMVV (Tirupati), Save the Children, and University of Oxford (UK). Young Lives is funded by UK aid from the Department for International Development (DFID). 

Young Lives is an international study of childhood poverty, following the lives of 12,000 children in four countries (Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam) over fifteen years. Young Lives conducts research in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which collectively have almost 85 million inhabitants which is 7% of the Indian population.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana are among the top States reporting high adolescent fertility: 12 and 11 per cent of young women in the age group of 15-19 years in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, respectively, were already mothers or pregnant when a survey was carried out in 2015/16

The objectives of the study were to deepen the understanding of the influencers of fertility decisions among young married couples, ascertain the services and support available to married young women and couples and produce research findings for use by policy makers.

The research was carried out as part of Young Lives, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty that, in India, traced the life trajectories of 3,000 children (in two age groups) and their households located in the two states, over a 15-year period. By age 18, around 28 per cent of girls in the Young Lives study had married, and 23 per cent of these married girls had also become mothers.

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