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Child marriages "secure the future" but traumatises girls

Written by: Staff
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Kedia, Rajasthan, Mar 5 (UNI) A six-month old baby lies crying in his crib as his 15-year-old mother decked in silver stands giggling at strangers, the pallu of her red sari clenched between her teeth.

An elderly village woman nudges her to tell her that the baby is hungry. This is the picture in one of the villages of Rajasthan where a rainy year brings prosperity just minimum for all daughters above eight years to be married off.

"The economic uncertainty and the social pressures are so high that marrying daughters early implies security for the parents and the girl," says Ganga Gupta of Hunger Project, who has worked extensively at the grassroot level on child marriage.

"Police and MLAs responsible for preventing child marriages attend the ceremonies gladly. So when most people of a society break the law, it becomes the norm and it is difficult to prevent it," says Dr Narendra Gupta of Prayas, an NGO working in Chittorgarh.

In India, 50 per cent of girls conceive before they are 17.5 years old. Fifty six out of thousand are live births. Most of this is concentrated in Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. Specifically in Rajasthan where the agrarian population is largely dependent on its agriculture dependent on its scanty rainfall, the picture is the worst.

Yet a ray of light is seen in the achievements of the likes of Dabu Bai Sharma who not only refused to get married till she was 18 but also took up the responsibility of preventing child marriages in her village by convincing the parents and empowering the young girls. It was not an easy task for a woman with little education and no financial independence.

"What is shocking to us is a means of survival for the marginalised village people. It relieves them and secures their destiny," says Dr Gupta.

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