gender bias

A scheme to end child marriage in patriarchal Haryana has backfired

The cash rewards given to parents for not marrying off their young girls are being used as their dowry as soon as she turns 18.

A state-run scheme to end child marriage in the northern Indian state of Haryana is backfiring in the most unexpected way.

The Apni Beti Apna Dhan (My daughter, my wealth) programme promises Rs 25,000 to girls on the condition that they abide by the legal age of marriage in India and stay unmarried till 18 years of age. Within 15 days of the delivery of a girl child, her mother is given a token of Rs 500, with the lump sum arriving 18 years later.

But the conditional cash transfer (pdf) scheme is leading to bigger sums of dowry, the US-based non-profit International Centre for Research on Women has found. The cash – under the scheme – that an unmarried girl receives after turning 18, is actually being offered to the groom at the time of their wedding.

The scheme was implemented in Haryana between 1994 and 1998, with the first batch of girls reaching the legal age for marriage in 2012. The survey polled 13,000 women, including girls who were enrolled for the scheme, those who hadn’t and mothers of both groups. The participants belonged mostly to low-income and lower caste families.

The purpose was two-pronged: ending child marriage and ensuring that girls attended schools longer. After all, India is home to 240 million child brides – or one-third of the world’s child brides – according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.

“Girls married early are vulnerable to intimate partner violence, sexual coercion, and early childbearing,” the report said. “Beyond the immediate physical and mental health risks, girls who marry early are excluded from education and economic opportunities.”

Overall, the survey recorded, fewer girls are marrying before 18 years of age in Haryana, regardless of whether they are supported by the government’s cash scheme. But, among beneficiaries, the scheme “may have actually encouraged marriages at 18, and that parents who desired to have their daughters married early did so immediately upon receiving the cash benefit,” the report said.

The report also noted that beneficiary mothers referred to the programme as a kanyadan scheme and interpreted the cash as the government’s contribution. Kanyadan is a Hindu ritual in which a girl is symbolically passed on by her family to the groom, along with a handsome dowry.


Data: Internation Centre for Research on Women


“Uprooting deep-seated discriminatory norms around girls and marriage requires more than just a simple cash transaction,” lead researcher Priya Nanda of the study, called The Impact on Marriage, said in a statement.

Although girls who participated were more likely to stay in school through the 8th grade than girls who did not participate, “this did not translate into higher rates of girls in secondary and post-secondary education,” the report said.

The cash benefit was largely spent on the wedding or the dowry offered to the groom. About three-fourths of the girls who had got married and encashed their benefits used it to meet their marriage expenses, according to the report. Among those who had not yet cashed out, 53% intended to use the money for their marriage and 32% for education.


Data: Internation Centre for Research on Women


This article was originally published on qz.com.



We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.

Play

During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.