• A distressed young girl is seen crying as she is forced to marry in India (AAP)
UNICEF estimates that 47 per cent of young women in India are married before the age of 18.
By
Bianca Soldani

21 Apr 2016 - 2:02 PM  UPDATED 21 Apr 2016 - 2:02 PM

Agonising footage has emerged of child brides being married off in Hindu ceremonies in northern India.

A video aired on India Today shows a clearly distressed girl who is believed to be just six-years-old, taking part in traditional ceremonial practices.

Dressed in red wedding clothes, she is heard crying as a pair of older men lead her and her husband, who is also a minor, around a fire.

It is common for the bride and groom in Hindu weddings to circle seven times around a fire together. The mangal phera, as it is called, symbolises the indivisibility of the couple’s union as the number seven is the only digit between one and nine that can’t be divided evenly by the 360 degrees of a circle.

In the case of this young girl, she was being pulled and pushed by adults to complete the ritual.

In a similar video published by the Daily Mail, a girl around 10-years-old is seen wailing as she is also married off.

The weddings took place in the state of Rajasthan, in India’s north, reportedly as part of the Hindu festival of Akshaya Tritiya.

The holiday this year falls on May 9 and is considered the “most auspicious” day to get married.

Despite the minimum age for marriage in India being 18 for women and 21 for men, 2013 UNICEF statistics found that that an incredible 47 per cent of women aged between 20 and 24 had been married as children.

The unions are a breach of international human rights and it is estimated that 700 million women alive today were victims of child marriage.

India alone accounts for one-third of child marriages worldwide and in some regions, including Rajasthan, as many as 60 per cent of girls are wed as minors, according to UNICEF data.

The practice is damaging in many ways for the children involved. At large, it perpetuates gender inequality and discrimination and has been shown to continue the cycle of poverty.

Girls married as children generally have a lower level of education and literacy, face increased rates of physical and sexual violence, and have higher infant mortality rates resulting from adolescent pregnancies.