Child marriage is a practice when young children who have not reached an age where they are mature enough to choose their partners for life are forcibly bound into an relation by their parents.
This practice was widely prevalent in India till a few decades back. Now with new laws and an increased awareness, the practice has reduced considerably and is the norm in only a few areas.
There were several reasons behind the prevalence of child marriage. In India, girls are usually considered a burden due to the social practices followed. It is in the interest of parents to get their girl child married as soon as possible and this encourages the marriage of girls at a very young age.
Another leading cause of child marriage was to ensure that caste and social hierarchies are maintained. By marrying children at a young age, in many cases right after they were born, parents ensured that they did not get a chance to find an unsuitable partner as they matured who may not be of the same caste or hold the same social status. Child marriage was also used as a way to improve relations between families and create alliances.
Child marriage in now illegal in India and the minimum age for marriage is 18 for women and 21 for men.