Child Marriage in Bihar

At 22 million, Bihar has the second highest number of child brides, i.e. girls and women who were first married or in union before age 18, in the country as per a 2019 UNICEF report[1]

One-fifth of the 100 districts in the country with highest prevalence of child marriage are in Bihar[2]

Currently, one in every five girls aged 15-19 years is a child bride in Bihar, as compared to one in 10 girls across the country[3]

As per the latest NHFSW data[4], 42% of the women aged 18-29 years report that their families married them before the legal marriageable age, 1.5 times of the national average of 27.9%

These rates of incidence[5] of child marriage for women (41.9%) are much higher than those of men in the state as only 27.2% men aged 21-29 years report to have been married before 21

With a primarily rural population, more than 90% of child brides of Bihar live in rural areas[6]. Additionally, women (18-29 years) report[7] a higher incidence of child marriage in rural areas (43.6%) as compared to urban areas (31%)

A higher prevalence of child marriage is reported amongst Scheduled Castes[8],[9]

5 districts with highest percentage of child brides at present (married girls of 15-19 age) are – Khagaria (34.4%), Jamui (31.5%), Gaya (31.4%), Madhepura (29.7%),  Purba Champaran (29.6%)[10]

In Bihar, only half of the girls who married before age 18 complete secondary education, lowest amongst child brides for all states[11]; and a drop-out rate much higher than that of the overall population (33.7% across married and unmarried adolescent girls)[12]

12.2% adolescent girls, i.e. females aged 15-19 years in Bihar begin childbearing, a rate 50% higher than the national average of 7.9%[13]


Since the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, there has been a steep decline in the proportion of adolescent being married before 18, with the rate dropping from 47.8% in 2005-06 to 19.7% in 2015-16[14]

Reports of child marriages amidst the covid-19 lockdown and economic slump are on the rise, especially amongst poorer and rural demographics[15],[16]

In order to meet the SDG target of eliminating child marriage by 2030, an annual reduction rate of 25% will be required[17]

[1] Feb 2019, UNICEF, Ending Child Marriage: A profile of progress in India (mentioned as UNICEF 2019 later), pp 7 https://www.unicef.org/india/media/1176/file/Ending-Child-Marriage.pdf

[2] 2018, Young Lives, India Child Marriage and Teenage Pregnancy (mentioned as Young Lives 2018 later), https://www.younglives.org.uk/sites/www.younglives.org.uk/files/India%20Report.pdf

[3] Young Lives (2018)

[4] 2015-16, International Institute for Population Sciences(IIPS), National Health and Family Welfare Survey (mentioned as NHFSW-4 later), Pp. 168, Table 6.2 http://rchiips.org/nfhs/NFHS-4Reports/India.pdf

[5] NHFSW-4, Pp. 168, Table 6.2

[6] Young Lives (2018)

[7] NHFSW-4, Pp. 168, Table 6.2

[8] Young Lives (2018)

[9] Census of India 2011

[10] Young Lives (2018)

[11] Young Lives (2018)

[12] Feb 2020, Indian Express, Telling Numbers: In primary and secondary schools, dropout rates highest in Assam https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/telling-numbers-in-primary-and-secondary-schools-dropout-rates-highest-in-assam-6253181/

[13] NHSFW-4, Pp. 100, Table 4.12

[14] Young Lives (2018)

[15] https://www.vice.com/en_in/article/dyzday/covid-19-lockdown-child-brides-india

[16] https://scroll.in/article/972629/in-indias-villages-some-desperate-parents-see-child-marriage-as-a-means-to-survive-the-pandemic

[17] UNICEF (2019), Pp. 21