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October 7, 2009

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Children face tough life in south Asia

MORE than a third of the world's child brides are from India, leaving children at an increased risk of exploitation despite the country's growing modernity and economic wealth, according to UNICEF.

Nearly 25 million women in India were married in the year 2007 by the age of 18, said a UNICEF report released yesterday, which noted that children in India, Nepal and Pakistan may be engaged or even married before they turn 10. Millions of children are also being forced to work in harmful conditions, or face violence and abuse at home and outside.

"A society cannot thrive if its youngest members are forced into early marriage, abused as sex workers or denied their basic rights," said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman.

Despite rising literacy levels and a ban on child marriage, tradition and religious practices are keeping the custom alive in India, as well as in Nepal and Pakistan.

More than half the world's child brides are in south Asia, which also accounts for more than half the unregistered births, leaving children beyond the reach and protection of state services and unable to attend school or access basic health care.

Only 6 percent of all births in Afghanistan and 10 percent in Bangladesh were registered from 2000 to 2008, the report said, compared to 41 percent in India. Also, about 44 million, or 13 percent of all children in south Asia, are engaged in labor, with more than half in India.


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