This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Veda Nadendla. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How We Stopped A 13-Year-Old Girl’s Marriage To A 44-Year-Old Man

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By Veda Nadendla:

She is 13 and her parents have decided that it is time for her to be married. Her intended is a man in his 40s, addicted to drugs and alcohol. What’s most comforting for her parents in this situation is the fact that the groom’s family has not demanded any money. It is clear – they are looking for a caretaker for the man, and she has no say in the matter.

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Photo Credit

The little girl in question is the daughter of a house maid who works at my friend Aman’s place in South Delhi. It was the 9th of December, 2014. He called me up and informed that the wedding was to take place in three days time; we had to stop it. We had three days to save her life from being ruined.

Before this phone call, Aman and his parents had repeatedly requested the maid to reconsider the engagement, but to no avail. They had spoken to the police in Vasant Vihar, only to be told that if the police were to intervene, the girl’s father and in-laws would have to be arrested, because of which her community would disown her and she would be forced to fend for herself. In such a dire situation, she would very likely end up in a red light area, as a victim of trafficking, said a senior police inspector. As the last resort, Aman’s parents offered the maid and her family an amount of Rs. 5000 to educate and raise the young girl till she turned 18, only to be rejected by the maid. She reasoned that her daughter had come of age and should be married before she became a liability. “How much can I protect her now? This is the best safety net for her”, she said.

The moment I received that call, I was so sure that we would be able to rescue the girl within hours; that it was all a matter of a few phone calls to the right people. Twenty four hours and nearly 150 phone calls and conversations later, I was losing all faith in the possibility of finding someone who would save the life of an innocent little girl.

I had hit a dead end, and was very close to giving up. But the turning point was when the Centre for Social Research came to our rescue, literally. A friend connected me with them on the evening of 10th December and within hours of my email and phone conversation, they had one of their most experienced case handlers dispatched to the local police station to find a pragmatic solution to the situation.

On the night of 11th December 2014, the police and the case handler together rescued the girl. They helped her parents and the community understand the detrimental effect their actions might have on their daughter. The girl was taken in for counselling along with her parents, while the community too underwent counselling over the following week. All was settled before the dawn of 2015; the girl was safe and sound with her family by her side.

Today, this little girl is in school and has endless possibilities awaiting her as she steps away from the grave peril of being a 13-year-old bride.

But does it end here?

There are a large number of girls out there with no voice of their own, and definitely no choice. Maybe they are in our own backyards and we don’t even know it. I wouldn’t have known about her was it not for Aman and his family. Her life was set for being a wife and caretaker, had it not been for the timely intervention from the Centre For Social Research – the people who tried to forge change, the people because of whom she has a chance at a new life. They chose to be the action for a change that I almost believed was impossible in our country.

In these three days, I almost lost faith in my whole life’s purpose and reality hit me like a tight slap in the face. It is not enough to be tweeting, talking, texting, discussing and blogging about the problems that our country faces; especially the growing violence against women and children. Reach out and raise a voice, push for solutions, look for support; don’t think that no one will help you, because as a country we are encountering a revolution of action against injustice unlike ever before. Be a part of the revolution and rise out of your ignorance and inhibitions. Just say something, ask for help and change will follow.

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You must be to comment.
  1. Laal

    Great work! It was like reading a crime novel. Good luck with your future crime fighting endeavours. Scary situation we live in where on one hand these things are the norm while on the other, feminism is dealt with ridicule. Don’t let the haters demotivate you!

  2. Vaibhav

    good work if possible can we work together ?

  3. Muhammad

    This is absolutely fantastic work! I didn’t know there were organizations that worked on such issues at such an involved level. Hopefully they have an office in Hyderabad.

  4. Saptaswaraalu

    Splendid job… was eager to know as what happened to the man who was ready to marry the girl. Was he given a piece of your brain ?
    Hope he was also counseled else he would be ready to marry another girl anytime soon.

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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.

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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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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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Find out more about her campaign here.

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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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