Child marriage and #selfiewithdaughter: The irony that is India

It hurt! Looking at her hurt!

The sacred fire burnt bright golden-yellow and the flames danced merrily. She sat there quietly, beautifully coloured in various hues; of yellow, green and red. The priest monotonously chanted the marriage ‘mantras’ and the various flowers flew into the bride and her groom.

The colors were all bright yet they appeared dull to my eyes. The scents of the flowers seemed to hide inside the flower trying to disguise themselves as if they did not want to be any part of the proceedings.

lay a little girl beside the fire, her feet buckled under the weight of the beautiful, elaborate bridal wear. She shook and trembled, everytime she tried to utter a word and her ‘yes’ to the many questions she was asked died in the deafening silence of her own refusal.

Her platonic eye, nervous and terrified, mechanically took a full visual tour of everything from under her scarlet bridal veil. The blinding starts off her nervously curious eyes spoke thousand stories about her, those her lips had ceased to speak.

In her eyes, the questions of her future, and horror were screaming their proclamation. In her eyes, her dreams were mere shattered visages, in chaos and wild confrontation.child marriage

Child marriage is an age-old practice that is still prevalent in India, especially in the states of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana.

The development and modernization of India and with it the implementation of the strict rules (under the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 1929) of marriageable age to be 18 for girls and 21 for boys has resulted in a much reduction in the number of child marriages. Still there is a lack of awareness in small villages where the illegal practice of child marriage is prevalent.

Child Marriage Has Fatal Consequences:child-marriage-banner

  1. The girl who gets married as a child is confined to the four walls of the household even before she enters puberty. In almost all the cases, the married girl child gains no further education.
  2. Some child marriages are conducted between a girl child and a much older man. Though astonishing this is true. As a result, these girls get widowed by the time they attain adulthood and society does not allow widows to remarry. A girl child has to live the life of a widow for no fault of hers.
  3. As a result of child marriage, the girl child is considered merely an object of pleasure by husband.

Apart from this a girl child who is married by her parents does not and cannot possess a will of her own. She is just like any other electronic object of the house that can be controlled as and when necessary.

WHY DOES CHILD MARRIAGE HAPPEN?

TRADITION:

Child marriage is a traditional practice that in many places happens simply because it has happened for generations – and straying from tradition could mean exclusion from the community. But as Graça Machel, widow of Nelson Mandela, says, traditions are made by people – we can change them.

GENDER ROLES:

In many communities where child marriage is practised, girls are not valued as much as boys – they are seen as a burden. The challenge will be to change parents’ attitudes and emphasise that girls who avoid early marriage and stay in school will likely be able to make a greater contribution to their family and their community in the long term.

POVERTY:

Where poverty is acute, giving a daughter in marriage allows parents to reduce family expenses by ensuring they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate. In communities where a dowry or ‘bride price’ is paid, it is often welcome income for poor families; in those where the bride’s family pay the groom a dowry, they often have to pay less money if the bride is young and uneducated.UNFPA-report-motherhood-childhood1-743x418

SECURITY:

Many parents marry off their daughters young because they feel it is in her best interest, often to ensure her safety in areas where girls are at high risk of physical or sexual assault.

CHILD MARRIAGE FACTS

More than 30% of today’s women were married before their 18th birthday.

If there is no reduction in child marriage, an additional 1.2 billion girls will be married by 2050.

Some child brides are as young as eight or nine.

Most adolescent pregnancies (90%) take place within marriage.

Pregnancy and childbirth complications are among the leading causes of death in girls aged 15 to 19 in low- and middle-income countries.ChildMarriageIndiabySDRC

IT VIOLATES HUMAN RIGHTS AND IS ILLEGAL. THE LONGER WE WAIT, THE BIGGER THE PROBLEM WILL BE.

Millions of girls and women already suffer the consequences of child marriage. If we do nothing, population growth means that, by 2050, the total number of women married as children will grow to 1.2 billion, with devastating consequences for girls, their families and their countries. Boys are also affected – 33 million men today were married before the age of 15 and 156 million before the age of 18.

How can a country prosper when a section of young women are confined into the walls of a household and the only thing expected from them is pleasing her family and rearing and tearing of children? Even bonded slaves are in a better position than the women who have to face this fatal accident known as child marriage.

What is required on the part of the citizens and the government in general is to join hands and raise a movement so wide that every parent could only visualize themselves locked up in jails even if they think of committing such a crime.

It is essential on the part of the citizens to remain active. People who witness child marriages should be determined enough to launch a police complaint against the parents of both the bride and groom.

It is essential on the part of the government to award the people who inform about the conduction of child marriages and also to enforce harder laws to discourage this practice. Thus by helping two children from entering into such a horrendous affair, you are assuring a brighter future not only for these children but for India as a whole.

PROGRESS IS POSSIBLE

The complex mix of cultural and economic factors mean there is not a single, simple solution. But, through partnership, long-term programming and a willingness to learn from our successes and failures, we can end child marriage in a generation.