By Aditi Saraswat:
What do we do to a child, every time we marry him or her off? Yes, ‘we’ do to a ‘child.’ I use the word ‘we’ because let us stop being hypocritical for once and own up that every time we conveniently turn a blind eye to this practice, we are as much in this as the real perpetrators. Child marriage is not a phenomenon which happens in rural India – a purgatory of all vices according to our ‘civilized’ urban imaginations. It happens en masse on those festivals we hold so dear – Akshaya Tritiya.
So what happens to about 240 million girl children and their male partners when they are married young at the altar of tradition? From grave health hazards which include maternal and infant mortality and diseases to impingement on the freedom of a tender life, the blows we inflict on our children are terrible. Probability of abuse/trafficking and domestic violence shoots up, and another young individual’s growth is stunted.
Here are 10 reasons that illustrate the true horror of this institution.
1. Our goal of universal primary education for children suffers a blow every time even a single child is married off early.
2. Forced into the traditional roles of ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ so early on, child marriages make the fight against gender equality still tougher.
3. The vicious cycle of poverty continues as this untimely bond restricts individuals from gaining their full potential in terms of human resource and employment.
4. Restricts the child’s freedom to take major decisions of their life, like selecting a partner, decision of when and how many children to have, etc.
5. 2 million girls suffer from Obstetric fistula, which is mainly caused when girls give birth to children before their bodies have developed enough to bear child bearing.
6. Domestic violence is a recurring evil as girls lack the freedom and choice to escape this marital burden.
7. Among girls aged between 15 to 19, pregnancy and child birth related deaths are the leading cause for deaths in developing countries.
8. Last in priority, young girls grow up to have health issues as women due to unequal distribution of household resources and nutrition.
9. Practices like ‘atta satta’ where, the individuality of the boy and the girl is ignored and they are seen more as a burden or a resource.
10. Child marriage forces boys to abandon their education and take up work to sustain their ‘families’.
Raise your voice for the children who would wish a different life for themselves. Do not look the other way if you hear about a child marriage in your neighborhood or that ancestral village you cherish so much. Save a girl from dying at 12 because she was expecting a child when she herself was one. Let us allow these children to bloom with at least a shot at the opportunities we had and have. Let us not be blind anymore.