‘Kaustuki is getting married today.’
I can’t believe she will be leaving me alone.
This time, last year, we had attended a wedding in the village nearby. We both danced the whole night and enjoyed it to the fullest.
Who knew that the next wedding that I would be attending will be her’s.
She won’t be sitting next to me in the 5th grade.
Papa said, her ‘to be husband’ is a businessman and earns well and will take good care of her.
I don’t know how she could agree to marry.
She is wearing a red sari with some of her mother’s old jewellery, perhaps.
She is smiling but I don’t know why I am missing my stubborn Kaustuki.
The groom and his family have arrived. I hear people gossiping that this is the groom’s second marriage.
The man she is getting married to is probably 5 times or more than her in age.
6 Months Later…
I find complete chaos around Kaustuki’s house.
Many people have gathered.
I find her wrapped in a white piece of cloth and her mother crying sitting beside her.
Before I could go to see her, my mother grabbed me and took me home.
I don’t know what happened to her.
I could listen later that day, Mama was telling Papa that she suffered a vaginal tear and she succumbed to excess bleeding.’
Child marriage is a formal or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18.
While boys can be affected, the practice predominantly has an impact on girls.
Many Kaustukis fall victim to child marriage in many parts of the world.
Unaware of what red vermilion on the forehead signifies, the veil that slides down the face not only conceals the child bride’s face but also conceals their childhood by replacing toys in their hands with marital responsibilities.
How can a child below the age of 18 make an informed decision about their partner?
The consent of the child sounds so illogical as to put them into a marriage where they are not in a position to visualize the impacts and enjoy the ritual as a game.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t end as they expect it to end like.
‘No girl should be robbed of her childhood, her education and health and her aspirations. Yet today millions of girls are denied their rights each year when they are married as child brides,’ says Michelle Bachelet, M.D, Executive Director of UN Women.
Technically child marriage is illegal in India under child marriage Restraint Act, 1929, which was again updated in 2006 in which both women and men under 18 and 21 respectively cannot legally marry.
Almost all are aware of the law against child marriage but they are still breaking rules because of many reasons.
Poverty And Dowry –
Child marriage is more common among poor families.
They marry off their daughters to reduce their economic burden as lesser is the age, lesser is the dowry they have to give.
Some girls are promised to tie the knot before they are born in order to ‘secure’ their future.
Once they reach puberty, they are sent to their in-law’s house to start her married life.
Poor families sell their girls not just into marriage but into prostitution as the deal enables huge sums of money to benefit the girls’ family which in turn harms the girl both mentally and physically.
Pre-Marital Sex –
Marriage is used to preserve the purity of girls as soon as they reach puberty so that they do not get “corrupted” by men of other castes.
Child marriage not only affects the fundamental rights of the child but also segregates them from family, friends, limits the child’s interaction with community and peer creates lack of opportunities for education and are exposed to serious health risks like early pregnancy and various sexually transmitted diseases including HIV infection.
Premature pregnancy leads to a variety of health problems for mothers including vaginal tear, deterioration in general health.
Many a time men who have lost their wives or separated or divorced or old men take less dowry and a minor is forced to live with a matured and experienced man.
Child brides are likely to experience domestic abuse as they believe that a man is justified in beating his wife.
Despite legislation forbidding child marriage and many initiatives to prevent child marriage, marrying children off at a very tender age continues to be accepted by large sections of our society.
More attention needs to be paid to the situation of children continuing to face the practice of early and forced marriages.
Under this scheme, a government-paid bond is payable to the daughter’s parents of Rupees 25,000 after the child’s 18th birthday, if she is unmarried.
Hence, more such approaches need to be adopted to reduce the problem of child marriage and raise the status of girls.
Ankita Behera is an undergraduate in a bachelor of technology. An amateur writer and a keen nature lover who loves traveling. When asked about life, she says that she is trying to manipulate the truths & realities of her life and weave meaningful stories out of them.