There are approximately 100 million girls between the ages of 10 and 19 years in India. More than half are married by the time they reach the legal age of marriage, 18 years (5). Young age at marriage is associated with a host of adverse individual and public health outcomes, including increased risk of malnutrition, anaemia, maternal and infant mortality, and high fertility (5, 6). For example, according to the 1998-99 National Family Health Survey, 39 per cent of currently married adolescents, ages 15-19 years, had chronic energy deficiency and 56 per cent had anaemia (7). Neonatal and infant mortality rates among infants born to adolescent girls are 60 per cent higher than among infants born to women ages 20-29 years (6). Moreover, young age at marriage goes hand in hand with curtailed education and economic opportunities, contributing to the perpetuation of gender inequities.

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