Nirantar’s engagement with the issue of early marriage probes the surface of commonly articulated reasons for child marriage, such as poverty, dowry and traditional practices, to explore the central role that decisions around marriage play in reinforcing and reproducing structures of gender, class, caste, and religion. Young people’s sexuality, desires, and aspirations are strongly governed according to these structures, by families, communities and the state.
For young people, age acts as an axis of power, and they find themselves disempowered in participating in decision making around their own lives. This also affects their engagement in other spaces they access, such as community, school, university, government services, labour markets, etc. Given the root causes of early and child marriage and the impact they have on the lives of young people, we feel that the need of the hour is to engage on the issue from a feminist, political, youth-centric and empowerment oriented approach. Young people’s agency can be recognised and strengthened through such an approach.