37pc girls marry before 18 in Orissa: UNICEF

Bhubaneswar: Over 37 per cent girls marry before 18 years and 13 per cent young men also tie the knot before 21 in Orissa.

This was stated by Shairose Mawji, the chief of Unicef in the state while addressing a function marking release of State of the World`s Children report.

"This has serious repercussions particularly on the health of young women when we consider child birth," she said adding over 14 per cent women aged 15-19 years were already mothers or pregnant at the time of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-III) in 2005-06.

A leading reason for all this is lack of education especially among young women, she pointed out adding in rural parts of the state, girls are less likely to attend school than boys and this gap increases by age.

"Between the age of 6-10 years, 86 per cent boys and 82 per cent girls attend school. But by the age of 15-17, only 32 per cent boys and 13 per cent girls continue their education," the state Unicef chief said quoting the report.

Without education, adolescents cannot develop knowledge and skills they need to navigate the risks of exploitation, abuse and violence that are at height during the second decade of their life, she said.?

In terms of information among Orissa`s adolescents and youths of 15-24 years of age, as per the report, only about 73 per cent had heard about AIDS while only 25 per cent males and 11 per cent females had correct and comprehensive knowledge of HIV & AIDS.

The Unicef state chief, however, said that the state government had successfully reduced infant mortality rate by more than 25 points since 2001, one of the highest drops by any state in the country.

"We have also seen good progress in securing primary education for both boys and girls in Orissa," she said.

Addressing the gathering, governor M C Bhandare said there had been change in the mindset of the people in the state as more and more girls are taking education. "Girls are shining everywhere," she said.