On March 15, in the Indian state of Rajasthan, a 19-year-old male committed suicide by jumping in front of a train. He left a suicide note saying that his parents married him off as a child and that he could no longer take care of his wife. He wished to further his studies but his parents did not listen. In his letter he pleaded that the government take urgent steps to end child marriage so that others’ lives will not be ruined.
According to The Times of India, the victim was studious and hoped to pursue a career in science. He continued his studies after gauna (a custom and the ceremony associated with the consummation of marriage).
Mass child marriages.
Shiv Singh was married at the age of 12 to a 10-year-old girl. Another boy, 15 was married to a girl a 14-year-old girl. This is not uncommon in Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh India.
According to villagers in the next month at least six girls and two boys between the ages of 14 and 16 would enter married life. Many boys and girls were married in a mass ceremony on April 23 in Sonkachch village.
Organizers of the mass wedding ceremony claimed that the couples were of legal age to be married. However one boy married at the ceremony admitted that he dropped out of school to get married.
Akshay Trithiya is a day considered an auspicious day to start new ventures – like starting a business or getting married (in the case of these children). Mass child marriage ceremonies are common on Akshay Trithiya. This year the auspicious day fell on May 13, and the numbers were huge, even though state government worked out a detailed action plan to prevent child marriage.
In a report by The Times of India, the state Commission for Protection of Child Rights (SCPCR) had set up a telephone and SMS helpline for people to lodge a complaint against child marriage. At the time of filing of this report, the commission had received more than 100 telephone calls and was trying to intervene, says R H Lata, member, SCPCR.
When it comes to child marriage… Ignorance is bliss.
At the mass marriage ceremony in Sonkachch, a senior organizer said he was unaware of the government’s action plan that involves raising awareness (of child marriage) at the village level, meetings of collectors with public representatives, religious and social groups, renowned citizens as well as other interventions. He claimed that birth certificates of prospective brides and grooms had been studied before allowing them to get married.
Megha Kunwar a worker in Badbeli village, said department officials had visited the village recently to inquire about impending marriages. “Efforts are on to counsel families,” she added. She lacked complete knowledge of the plan, although all workers in the vicinity were ordered to monitor child marriage at a meeting in February.
Child Marriage Stats
The annual health survey in India shows that 27.2% girls get married before the legal age in Rajgarh district. In Madhya Pradesh, the figure stands 12.5 % for females and 18.9 % for males. (Source: Times of India)