Sunday, April 25, 2010
"Kid"dle Me This-Child Brides of India
Our maid recently got sick with chicken pox. Her replacement, a shy 20 year old with a thick layer of vermillion on her head and a bright orange sari started work today. After a few minutes, in an effort to make her comfortable my mom tried getting chatty with her. Naturally, seeing her attire my mother's first question was if she had married recently. Among the lower classes, it wasn't surprising for a woman her age to be married. What WAS surprising was her shy shake of head. The story that followed was what left us stunned. She had been married to for 12 years. No you did not hear wrong. 12 YEARS. Not just this. She also has children. Two sons(for which I am sure she must be hailed as some sort of golden wombed Goddess) aged 8 and 6. Now, of course we read about child marriages all the time. But hearing a woman exactly my age, give or take a few months, talking excitedly about her family kind of hits you in the gut!
A few days back, there was an article about a twelve year old girl in Yemen, who died along with her baby at childbirth.Some days later about an eight year old who bled to death on her "wedding night". In news today was the story of a fourteen year old who committed suicide because her parents were forcing her into a marriage with a much older man.These instances occur almost everyday in the rural parts of India.According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India's women aged 20–24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas.
What could be the possible reason for this appalling practice? Poverty perhaps?The inability of parents to invest in a child who they believe will yield no returns? Or maybe fear of social stigma? Could they possibly feel it better to get their child married off before she had loose moral thoughts of premarital sex? Or probably just the fear of the social stigma attached to having an unmarried daughter in the house? The reasons may be many and twisted but none seem to justify the horrific tradition.
Gloria Steinem said "The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn, but to unlearn. " Perhaps its time we cleanse ourselves from within. Learn to let go of past practices. Its funny that in a country that puts so much by "morality" such happenings should occur in the name of "family honour". And we all have a part to play in it. So next time you hear of a child marriage waiting to happen, put your foot down. There's more to be done than just be disgusted. On the bright side, the National Plan of Action for Children 2005, has set its goal to eradicate child marriage completely by 2010, and so far, its proving quite successful(statistically at least). So come on India.