Published: 23rd April 2018
Shouldn't girls have a greater say in their lives while choosing their life partner?
From forced marriages to marrying off when you are just 10 months old, a girl's freedom is stifled in many ways. When it comes to marriage in India, it is parents who decides their daughter's fate
Marriage and hanging go by destiny; matches are made in heaven
— Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), English writer, among a plethora of professions.
While Burton’s lumping of marriage and hanging may have many agreeing with him, his assertion that matches are made in heaven is questionable. In many cases, matches are made by parents and in some cases, the girls and boys fall in love and marry. That is if the parents don’t come in the way and take their plaint up to the Supreme Court. In some cases, families make the matches even while the girl is in the cradle. But, first the facts.
A report filed by Archana Sharma from Jodhpur titled ‘Married off at 10 months, 19-year-old Jodhpur girl moves court’, widely carried in the media, says it all. Married off when she was 10 months, Urma Bishnoi had to tolerate the tortures of being in a child marriage for 18 years. On April 10, she eventually moved the court to annul the marriage. “I do not accept the marriage. I want to study and make my future,” Urma, now 19, said.
Urma is from the Kaparda village in Jodhpur. In 1999, she was married off to a boy from the same village. As she grew up, she refused to accept the marriage. But her in-laws started pressurising her and her family to accept the relationship and even threatened to cut off her nose and ears.
Meanwhile, Urma learnt about a child marriage annulment campaign being run by Kriti Bharti, managing trustee and rehabilitation psychologist, Saarthi Trust Jodhpur. She contacted Bharti for annulment of her child marriage and filed a plea in the family court-1 of Jodhpur. “With the help of Kriti didi, I have filed the case. I am hopeful of getting justice soon,” she said, adding earlier that she was “frightened by the regular threats by my so-called in-laws. But now I am confident and look forward to the start of a fresh life where I can study and make a future for myself.”
“Efforts are being made for annulment of child marriage and her rehabilitation. On the other hand, her in-laws and caste panchayats are constantly pressurising and terrorising Urma and her family to take back the case,” Kriti said. Despite stringent norms being introduced, child marriage continues to haunt India. The numbers allegedly increase on Akshaya Tritiya — falling on April 18 this year.
Lest one should think that this case comes from a remote tribal belt ruled by panchayats, read this headline and excerpts to dispel such charitable views. Under the headline, ‘Karnataka neta’s daughter shuns forced marriage, moves court.’ The report said, “A Karnataka politician’s daughter who ran away from her Kalburagi home 20 days after she was forcibly married off to a man without her consent, moved the Supreme Court on April 11. The court said that she can’t be forced to go with anyone and asked the Delhi police to ensure her protection. Indira Jaising, her lawyer said, “Her brother threatened to rape her if she tries to marry her lover.”