I Was Almost Married Off To A 14-Year-Old Girl

Priyank, a Delhi University student, blindly trusted his dad when he asked him to come back home urgently. Turns out, they wanted him to ‘see’ a girl for marriage. The moment Seema entered the room with cups of tea, Priyank felt something was not right.

My ‘Secret’ Journey

I come from a wealthy family in Bihar and my parents sent me to Delhi for my post-graduate studies. I had been in Delhi for about a year when one day my father asked me to take a week’s leave from college and return home as soon as possible. No one dared to disobey my father’s orders in our family, so I booked the next ticket and was headed home.

I reached at seven in the morning and my dad and elder brother asked me to be ready by nine. I was told to dress smartly and that we had to go somewhere. But there was little else in terms of details. I tried to ask my brother but he too remained tight-lipped. And since I didn’t have much courage to question our father, I just did what I was told.

What’s Going On?

I had no idea where we were headed. My brother drove the car, Papa sat next to him and I was in the backseat. There was an eerie silence en route. After about an hour’s drive, our car stopped outside the house of a middle-class family.

As we entered the house, I noticed that the family was not surprised to see us, rather they seemed well prepared and quite excited. Everyone was going out of their way to welcome us. I found all the people from the family staring at me with speculating eyes. Did I look funny or odd? They all also constantly kept whispering into each other’s ears.

And then they got food – sweets, samosas and cold drinks. I was hungry after the long car journey and decided to let go of the apprehension and just eat. Soon the man, who looked like the head of the family, questioned me about my education and work. I answered all queries politely but looked at my brother and asked him – what was going on!

The Big Revelation

“We have come to see a girl for your marriage,” whispered my brother. I had a rush of feelings – anger, fear, frustration, surprise, shock and immediately looked at my dad, who was busy munching samosas and telling the family about his business.

“How could you take such a big decision without telling me?” I asked my father in an angry muffled voice. He gestured me to remain silent. There was an ocean of anger inside me. But I had no other choice but to keep mum.

As I was busy with my own thoughts and wondering how to get out of this situation, a very young and timid girl entered the room. She was accompanied by her mother. She was holding a tray full of tea cups and placed them silently on the centre table.

The Big Interrogation

Something wasn’t quite right. However, my thoughts were disturbed by my father’s interrogation of her culinary skills and expertise in other household chores.

My father then asked her to walk around to ascertain if she had any kind of deformity. I wanted to die of embarrassment! The girl walked hesitatingly and then sat down. Papa then asked the girl’s father if they had taken care of our ‘demands’. He folded his hands in obligation and nodded.

Everything was becoming too unbearable for me. I could sense that the girl was very young and definitely not ready for marriage. I jumped into the conversation and asked her, “What’s your name?” The sudden burst of words from me surprised everyone. However, Papa took it positively and told me to ask anything I wanted to.

The girl’s mother then told me that her daughter’s name is Seema. I asked her what she did. The question surprised Seema’s dad. “She handles all the household work, what else will she do?”, he said. I then asked about her age. Everyone in the room fell quiet, including my talkative dad. They started looking at each other for answers. Her mother then answered, “Ladkiyon se unki umar nahi poochte beta (Girls should not be asked their age)” and everyone started laughing nervously!

It’s Our Destiny

I was almost sure that Seema was not yet of marriageable age but I wanted to hear it from her. So I told my father and brother that I wanted to talk to Seema in private. After a long pause, I was allowed to speak to Seema in the presence of her sister.

I did not want to scare her off. So I began the conversation by first telling her about myself. I then asked her to tell me her correct age. “I will turn 14 next month,” she said. I was shocked and asked if she understood what marriage was and if she was ready for it? To my surprise, she said yes and became emotional.

“Why do you not oppose it?” I asked. “What should I oppose? I have to get married at some point. It’s our destiny”, was her reply. Her mother entered the room at that moment and asked me if I ‘liked’ the girl!

The Anti-Climax

When I came out of the room, everyone was looking at my face, expecting a ‘yes’ from me. I gathered courage and said, “Neither Seema nor I am ready for marriage. She is only 13 and marrying her is illegal! If you marry us, then all of you will be a part of this crime.”

Seema’s father was flabbergasted. He quizzed my dad and told him clearly that he ought to get us married if he wants huge dowry. At that point, my father pulled me by my hand and asked me to sit down. I refused to sit down and tried to explain one more time to Seema’s father that he too will end up in jail if he marries her off before she turns 18.

My brother and dad left the house angrily at this point. Seema’s dad too banged the door in my face after asking me to stop preaching the ‘bade sheher ki batein’ to them.

Hit Hard

On the return journey, my dad did not utter a word. When I came back to the house, he asked me to go back to Seema’s house in the morning to seek forgiveness. No one was on my side. They all had only one thing on their minds – my marriage to Seema.

When things got out to control, I told them that I will report them to the police. At this point, my father slapped me hard. No one ate food that sleepless night. I packed my bags the next morning and left for Delhi. I knew if I had stayed there then I would be forced to be a part of this crime.

The Business Of Marriage

It’s been over a year now. I haven’t been back home since. I got busy with my studies and volunteer work. But I now live with an uncomfortable niggle that while I had the freedom to walk away from it all, Seema had no choice. She was most likely married by her father to the next highest bidder. Is marriage just that in our country – just another business?

*Names have been changed 

Have you come across an underage marriage in your vicinity? Share the story on our Facebook page. If you have a specific question, please visit our discussion forum.  

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

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.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below