She threatened parents to escape child marriage
Shailvee Sharda, TNT, Feb 25, 2018
LUCKNOW: Almost a month after she refused to get married according to the wishes of her family, teenager Ruchi from Madhisa Ratan village in Maal has become the poster girl against child marriages in her village.
The 17-year-old threatened her parents with lodging a police complaint against them if they forced her to get married against her wishes.
“Only the girl is on the receiving end of all problems that follow an under-age marriage. While others would just sympathise, I would be the one to bear the complications all my life. So I stood up in rebellion,” said the student of class XI.
Ruchi said that when her parents did not pay heed to her demands, she threatened them.
“I told them they would have to pay a penalty of Rs 1 lakh; this was beyond their capacity. So I was saved,” she said. Another power puff girl is Yamini Gupta of Gehdo village. She also used her knowledge of the law to save herself from an under-age marriage.
“The fear of a police case deterred my family,” she said. The two girls, among others, shared their experiences at a programme to felicitate 11 crusaders against child marriage. Organised jointly by the district administration in association with NGOs Vatsalya and Plan, the programme also aimed at sensitising key stakeholders about child marriages.
“The girls are surely role models as around 10% girls in UP get married before their legal age of 18, pushing them in a vicious cycle of poor health because of subsequent child bearing,” said Dr Neelam Singh, chief functionary of Vatsalya, which has raised a battalion of anti-child marriage soldiers.
Socially important people at the village-level including priests, maulvis, teachers and pradhans have been sensitised about the ills of child marriage. The cases explain the heartening decline in the number of girls in UP who get married before the legal age.
In the recently released fourth National Family Health Survey, about 21% of girls in the 19 to 24 years age group admitted that they were married before turning 18. At the time of NFHS-3, 58% females in the age group said they got married before turning 18.
The decline has been noted in case of males too. The percentage of men in the 19-24 years age group who got married before the legal age of 21 has gone down from 51% in NFHS-3 to 28% in NFHS-4. Experts at the occasion said sustained efforts against child marriage have started paying off.
The presence of 63-year old anganwadi worker Shivrami Devi as a crusader against child marriage exemplifies the transition.
“I was married at 15. Despite all my efforts, I could not save my daughter from an under-age marriage. But now, counseling and fear of legal hassles work,” she said. Temple priest Rajesh Kumar Dwivedi, who is also a crusader, has started demanding age proof of the bride and groom now at the ceremony. “This little step deters a number of parents. For many, the fear of penalty and police case works. The remaining can be handled with the help of real action wherein we call the police,” he said.