Child marriage is one of the factors which deprive the child of its right. Evidence shows that early marriage makes girls more vulnerable for violence, abuse and exploitation. For both girls and boys, marriage has a strong physical, intellectual, psychological and emotional impact, cutting off educational opportunities and chances of personal growth. It is hard to know the exact number of child marriages as many are unregistered and unofficial. It is estimated that 22% of marriages occurs for girls below 18 years and around 8% occurs for boys below 21 years still in Karnataka.
It is proved fact that, early marriage deprives children of access to education and therefore to better opportunities in the future. It also limits the child's freedom of decision and contributes to the generational cycle of poverty. Child marriage is often associated with multiple health risks. This is because young brides have limited access to, and use of, contraception and reproductive health services and information. The majority are exposed to early and frequent sexual relations and to repeated pregnancies and childbirth before they are physically mature and psychologically ready. Obstetric fistula is one of the most devastating consequences, with over two million girls and young women affected by this treatable and reproductive health complication. Domestic violence thrives in an environment where women feel powerless and lack access to vital resources and decision making powers. Evidence suggests that young brides are more likely to be exposed to violence due to the limited power of negotiations.
The negative impact of child marriage is acknowledged worldwide. Policies and programs focus strongly on prevention. It is necessary to protect the child rights of girls who are at risk of being married off. It is equally important to protect the rights of girls who have already entered marriage. Targeting the wellbeing of hundreds of such Princesses in its operational area, SEVAK has been implementing IMAGE K (Initiative for Married Adolescent Girls Empowerment Karnataka project in three blocks of Belagavi district targeting 600+ early married girls. It is an collaborative action supported by TdH Netherlands to protect and promote the rights of young girls who are wives and children at the same time. Their health and wellbeing is at risk because of being married off in early age. Their health rights are not recognized, they are not protected. Yet, their future generation depends on them. Families and communities rely on them. They run households, cook, raise children, engaged in domestic help and support the families by working as agriculture and construction laborers, they also care for the sick and the old in the families. They deserve respect and support.
The project IMAGE K focuses on their health rights. Empowering girls in their marriage will plant the seed for prevention as well. Married girls, aware of their child rights and their human rights, will become aware of the need for alternative strategies for their daughters.
Apart from IMAGE K Project, S E V A K has been engaged in organizing Child Rights Clubs in schools, strengthening them with necessary awareness and trainings, facilitating in organizing Makkala Grama Sabhas in the Gram Panchayats in the operational area. Community awareness on issues concerning to the violation of child rights such as child marriage, child laboueres, prevention and addressing physical, mental, emotional and sexual abuse on children and adressignthe issues of survival, protection, education, development and participatory rights of the children.