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In Rajasthan, A Traditional Evil That Is Robbing Girls Of Their Childhood

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By Shambhavi Saxena:

The same year in which the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006) surfaced, 14-year-old Roshan Bairwa outright refused to be given as a child bride. “If I married, the doors would closeshe said, pointing to a full halt in her education, deterioration of health and lack of any opportunity to realize her full potential as an individual and a human being. “I want to study, which wouldn’t happen if I married young”, she added.

In his address at the Girls Not Brides global initiative launch, Archbishop Desmond Tutu described child marriage as a “practice that robs millions of girls of their childhood, their rights and their dignity” – a statement particularly true of Rajasthan, with child marriage rates exceeding 50%.

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Photo Credit

Even though the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929 came as early as it did, the practice continues well into the 21st century, and conflicting laws at the state and central level aren’t doing anything to make things better. Section 8(1) of the Rajasthan Compulsory Registration of Marriages Bill 2009, appears to recognize child marriage as legal by urging all persons below 21 years of age to register their marriage and is in contradiction of the Centre’s Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. S. S. Kothari suggested it would be “an excellent way to detect child marriages,” but there seems to be no deeper involvement on the state’s part as to why child marriages takes place at all.

The prevalence of this evil in India of 2015 is a reflection of the deep misogyny harboured by our culture and religious practices. In order to control women’s sexuality, production and reproduction, the strategy to claim women’s bodies at very young ages was evolved. Caste endogamy (maintaining the ‘purity’ of one’s line) too is maintained through this practice, as explained by Babasaheb Ambedkar in various anti-caste writings. The BIMARU states (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) in addition to being economically poor and backward, are also the states with the highest rates of child marriages. This suggests a correlation between this social ill and poverty – where brides aren’t allowed to prosper into healthy, economically productive, self-actualized beings.

In Rajsamand district of the state, Class 8 students Shivlal and Ratni were engaged to be married, IANS reported earlier this month. The pair has to endure taunts from fellow classmates and have regrettably resigned themselves to the fates chosen for them by their families. Fortunately, not all young women given as brides have taken this old, not to mention outlawed tradition, sitting down.

Jodhpur’s Laxmi Sargara, bound as an infant to 3-year-old Rakesh, learnt of her marriage in 2012. She immediately took the help of NGO worker Kirti Bharti (Sarthi Trust) to annul it in the month that followed. Her grit and determination, despite various social pressures, has led her story to become part of Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum on human rights and gender studies.

Though married at 17, Nirma Chaudhary of Sikar district too has an encouraging story. Having received the support she needed from her family to complete her education, she has been able to secure a job as one of Rajasthan’s first female fire-fighters. Today she is challenging the traditionally held beliefs about women’s work and capability, and refusing to be one among the numberless young brides confined to the domestic sphere.

Social workers and former child brides alike are now working towards discouraging the practice in their communities. They are advocating for complete education and work opportunities as necessities for women, as they are for men. We hope to see a day where Rajasthan, which ranks second in the world for this social evil, will stop foisting the burdens of motherhood on its young women, and come around to the idea that marriage is not and should not be the sole purpose of a life that is born female.

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  1. Jigsaw

    Good article.

  2. Ra’s al Ghul

    Men are not seen as human beings in society, that is why we never talk about the biases that men face on a daily basis, how women usurp half of men’s properties during divorces, how courts give men stricter sentences for the same crimes that women commit, how juries give verdicts against men in domestic disputes, how men give alimony to women, misandry in the media, sexism against men, domestic violence against men, how men are locked up in false cases of rape, dowry, and domestic abuse, etc.

    Millions of boys face male genital mutilation. Of course that doesn’t matter, because they are boys. Millions of boys are kidnapped for forced labour, drug peddling, sale of organs, illegal adoption, and begging. There is a silent epidemic against the blood, sweat, and tears of boys who work as labourers, cleaners, servants, in lock factories, as mechanics, in restaurants, as street-vendors, at tea stalls, as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, woodcutters, rickshaw pullers, etc. Many boys’ limbs are chopped off and then they are forced to beg for the rest of their lives.

    More than 3 times as many men die due to dowry harassment at the hands of their wives.

    From 2005 to 2008, as many as 22,000 men have ended their lives in reverse dowry harassment after allegedly being tormented by their wives. In contrast, dowry harassment has driven 6,800 women to suicide – Times Of India
    According to NCRB data, there were 2,22,091 arrests related to 498A in 2013 alone, out of which 1,74,620 were men and 47,471 were women – A man is arrested every 3 minutes for dowry. Including both sexes, an arrest is made approximately every 2.3 minutes. 98% allegations are false.

    When 133 boys were killed in a school in Peshawar, the media used the word ‘children’ to hide crimes against boys. When Boko Haram kills, mutilates, burns alive, and slits the throats of boys, no one raises an eyebrow, but when he kidnaps girls, the media and feminists wake up. There are numerous such incidents.

    The biggest perpetrators of violence against women are women themselves i.e. mothers-in-law. And in households where mothers-in-law are kind, it is the daughters-in-law who wreak havoc and break families apart, by poisoning their husband’s minds against their parents and siblings. Sisters-in-law are not far behind, with their mind-boggling family politics.

    Women love to beat their maids and servants black and blue, especially child servants, and take enormous pride in taunting and abusing their husbands, not to mention physical violence. Men do not report domestic violence because it is considered unmanly to do so. If you talk about the violence perpetrated by women, you can also be a victim of death threats from women, as in the case of Erin Pizzey (Google it).

    Since courts and juries worldwide are biased in favour of women, and police are also more likely to believe women, women abuse the judicial system to their advantage.

    According to the Canadian statistics on gender equality:

    Women receive physical custody of 92% of all children of separation, and men only 4%, women are acquitted of spousal murder at a rate 9 times that of men, men are sentenced 2.8 times longer than women for spousal murder. Furthermore, men commit suicide at 4 times the rate of women, live an average of 7 years less than women, account for more than 95% of all workplace fatalities, and are murdered at a rate 5 times that of women.

    The draconian Indian laws have led to an increase in the suicide rate among men, where a woman simply has to accuse a man of abusing her, physically or sexually, with little evidence, if any, and land him behind bars. Compared to women, twice as many men in India commit suicide.

    1. Nina

      Dear Ra’s al Ghul, thanks for your comment. You are right that not only girls are affected by child marriage, that’s why we have devoted a whole article to the child grooms as well: http://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2015/02/young-boys-in-child-marriages/

    2. Ra’s al Ghul

      And you have dedicated 10,000 articles to women.

    3. Nina

      I can see you are angry that there is not enough attention, and I understand that you want to highlight the issue, but I don;t think it should be on expense of other issues that affect girls/women.
      Besides, official statistics (UNICEF) say that 720 million women got married before the age of 18, while the figure for boys is 156 million. http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf
      Maybe that is why there are more articles about women, cause the issue is more prevalent among girls, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen among boys. I don’t see why one would exclude the other.
      And I’ve lived in India, and it was very easy to notice the inequality and the privilege of being a boy/man.
      I am not denying that there are not issues that affect boys/men, but when it comes to child marriage (which is teh topic of this article), girls are worth of attention.

    4. chakri

      Haha article is a bit weird. But, Check even the rate of girl child abortion. This sort of abortions were adapted by our people (lower income groups) and yet continuing at some places decreasing ratio of G:B. Your comment is true about evil women’s gaining advantage of it.
      They are same as us given some chances for not becoming extinct by poor people and you know there is not much our currency flowing inside as accumulated by Royal Buffoons.

  3. ABs

    Am I the only one here who senses an Anti-Hindu Bias? This article just skips the fact that in Muslim communities, Girls are also forced to marry boys under 18, (sometimes even older men), and they are denied access to health care, reproductive care, and birth control. Girls in Islam are forced to marry their cousins, and I wonder why no one has bothered to write an article on that? This is an anti-Hindu website, under the guise of being “Forward-thinking”, which, I am sorry to say, you are not.

    1. Ra’s al Ghul

      Boys are forced to marry girls without their consent, where parents/fathers of boys go and talk to their friend, relative, neighbour, someone they know about their sons marriage without informing or gaining consent from their son, and then come and inform their son abut the “good” news, and seal their fate.

    2. ABs

      Yes, very true. However, Child marriage only has ‘Female” Victims. So utterly disgusting, this gynocentric nonsense

    3. Nan

      Do you really have to bring one issue down in order for another to get noticed? Maybe the author of this article isn’t as well-learned about the Muslim community’s issue that you are talking about. Maybe they have only been exposed to what they have covered here in their article. They are, however, trying to raise awareness of a particular problem in a particular region of the country. It’d be great if you, too, wrote an article concerning the problems that you want solved. We really don’t have to bring one another down, being the “forward-thinking people” that we are. Do we really have to react negatively to someone who’s trying to bring in a change for the good?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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