Ramesh and Shanti are waiting to have children until they can save some money, which is atypical. Most newly married girls face strong pressure to start bearing children right away.
Suneeta Kori, at age 20, already has three daughters and a son. When she brought her youngest to a clinic for immunization, she told a health worker she was not ready to start using family planning, since her mother-in-law wants her to have one more boy.
About half of the girls worldwide who are affected by child marriage live in South Asia. This harmful practice persists for various sociocultural and economic reasons. But the common thread that runs across all ethnic groups and religions is the low status of women and girls.
The parents of both Bijay Laxmi and Shanti were both motivated by a traditional belief that they would go to heaven if their daughters were married before reaching puberty.
Child marriage often denies girls an education, and often subjects them to discrimination, domestic violence and abuse. Many start bearing children before their bodies are ready, putting them and their babies at deadly risk during childbirth.