NEW DELHI: West Bengal tops the list of states for women getting married before the legal age for marriage in the country, a government survey of marriages and sexual behaviour has found.
Twenty-eight per cent of women in the 18-29 years age group and 17 per cent of men in the 21-29 years age group marry before reaching the legal age of marriage, which is 18 years for women and 21 for men, the latest report of the National Family Health Survey says.
About 5.78 lakh women were covered across the country for the survey, which revealed some interesting trends in sexual behaviour.
It said 10 per cent of women in the 25-49 age group had sex before they were 15, and 38 per cent before they were 18. By age 20, 58 per cent of women had had sexual intercourse. Urban women begin having sex almost two years later than rural women.
Among the states, West Bengal tops the list for women getting married before the legal age, followed by Bihar, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh.
It said about two-fifths of women marry before reaching the legal minimum age in West Bengal (44 per cent), Bihar (42 per cent), Jharkhand (39 per cent), and Andhra Pradesh (36 per cent).
About one-third of women in Rajasthan, Assam, Madhya Pradesh, and Tripura (33 per cent each), as well as Dadra and Nagar Haveli (32 per cent) and Telangana (31 per cent) marry before the legal age of marriage. The percentage of women marrying before 18 is lowest in Lakshadweep (5 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala (9 per cent each), and Himachal Pradesh and Punjab (10 per cent each).
The survey report pointed out that early marriage had been declining over time in the country.
The median age at first marriage for women (20-49 age group) increased from 17.2 years in 2005-06 to 19 years in 2015-16.
For men (age group 25-49), the median age at first marriage increased by almost two years, from 22.6 years in 2005-06 to 24.5 years in 2015-16.
As for men, about one-fourth of men aged 21-29 in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (28 per cent each), Bihar and Jharkhand (27 per cent each), Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Gujarat (26 per cent each), and Arunachal Pradesh (24 per cent) marry before the minimum legal age.