Kerala, the God's own country, the state with high literacy, is suddenly witnessing a spurt in child marriages, reports UNICEF.
The state has a literacy rate of over 90 per cent and the state's social indicators are higher than average. Also has better gender balance had so far ensured that the child marriage rate is low, as believed, but the fact is reverse.
Dora Giusti, UNICEF's Child Protection Specialist in India said, "Recent studies have shown a rising rate in Kerala, It was not the case even a few years back."
Ms Giusti attributes the phenomenon to migration from the northern part of the country.
She said, "Child marriage is more common among certain groups and among disadvantaged communities. But of late there has been a rise in it due to migration from the northern part of India"
Recently, Kerala has been a favored destination for young men from Haryana who are looking for brides, because of the skewed gender ratio in the northern state has resulted in a shortage of marriageable girls. However, these north-south marriages have been one of the key reasons of integration.
"The District Level Household and Facility Survey's latest survey (2007-08) study shows child marriage is widespread but more prevalent in rural areas -- 48% versus 29%. Further, child marriage tends to be more commonly practiced in low caste and scheduled tribes," she said.
As per the UNICEF report, there were more child marriages in rural areas than urban -- 52.5% of married women in the 20-24 year age group in rural areas and 28.2% in urban areas had got married before they were 18 years old in India.
The report says that, this gap between urban and rural areas has almost halved -- from 30.2% in 1992-1993 to 18.6% in 2007-2008 -- women in rural areas are twice more likely to be child brides than their urban counterparts, the report said.
Among the other states, Bihar has the highest incidence rate of child marriage at 68% wheather Himachal Pradesh with around nine per cent has the lowest incidence, the report said.
Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal are the other six states have the highest incidence of child marriage. The figure ranges between 51.9% and 68.2%, the report revealed.
Report says that in these states, at least one in two married women in the 20-24 year age group happen to be a child bride.
Among five of the six states with the highest incidence, Uttar Pradesh being the sole exception, more than half the districts have a higher incidence of child marriage than the state average, the report said.