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.



6 comments:

Amber said...

Powerful post.....

Anto said...

A very serious issue, that brings in shame to India. These practices are well in force in the villages of Haryana and Rajasthan, many other parts of India are also infected with this. Unless the Govt. comes with serious punishments for the offenders this can't be curbed. The above stated incidents are shocking and exhibits the cannibalistic behaviour...are we really in 2010?

Mrinal Choudhary said...

My grandmom had this servant who was like 12 years old (well I know child labour is illegal but my grandmother didnt give a damn)...and the next time I visited my grandmom, I found her missing..I asked where she was and she said that she had got married to a 55 year old man..and I was like WTF??...well, In rural India, It is common for parents to sell their daughters for marriage for a small sum of money..and the only solution to this is removing poverty and illiteracy from this area..How do we do this??..I HAVE NO CLUE...

http://mrinalc.blogspot.com/

Kat Weaver said...

What you write is so relevant and important. Thank you for posting this!

Lucy Fur said...

@Amber and Kat-Thank you so much.:)

@Anto-I wish the Govt was less concerned about reserving seats for women in the parliament and more concerned with REAL problems that women face.you are right.these incidents are a huge blot on a country that epitomises awesomeness.

@Mrinal-Certain children are better off working in civil homes than living in their deplorable conditions.My nanna had a 15 year old working for her and her mother was all for getting her married.eventually my grandmother threatened to put them all out of jobs if she were to be married.She is now twenty and working at a tailor shop.:). I am glad you are ready to take an initiative.:)look around you. you don't have to be in a village to help.cities are as badly stricken as the rural areas.If your maid has a daughter, take out half an hour of your time everyday and tutor her!good luck:)

g2 said...

Let me share a similar incident. I was in a bus going from hyderabad to my hometown in Andhra Pradesh. I was sitting next to a woman who cannot be more than 40. I was generally making some usual small talk when she mentioned that she has a son-in-law!

I asked how old her daughter is and she nonchalantly said 6th class and I was like WFT? So I asked her why they do it and her argument was something like, "these days you cant trust the children and so it is better to marry them soon after puberty."

The whole conversation saddened me so much that I kind of had an argument on how bad the practice is and how it is illegal. She was defending her stance (obviously) saying she got married at 14 and she turned up just fine and that her daughter will be sent to her in-laws only after her 18th birthday.

I mean if middle class, well educated people are thinking on those lines, I wont be surprised at all that even worse things are happening in communities belonging to the lower class.