By Ishita Pandey, posted on September 2, 2017
It is the perfect weather outside. Neither sunny nor raining, but flawlessly cloudy. Soft winds dance across the farm, tickling the hair against her face, inviting her to come out and join them. Soon, she sees a group of children, who have run out, taking the invitation of the breeze. They laugh, chase, even fall; yet, they are having the time of their life. She wishes to join, her heart begs to once again be a part of that innocence, that childhood, that… But no, she is a young lady of ten years, no longer a careless little girl who could run with the wind and dance in the rain. She now has the responsibility of marriage, which has shut down all the other elements of her life. She hears her mother-in-law calling her in the kitchen, but for a ghost of a second she wants to rebel, say no, run into the wild to join those kids. But just in that second, she remembers to listen to her mind instead of her heart. Her face automatically turns away from the window, a fake smile plasters itself on her face, and she walks down to the kitchen, just the way a well-mannered lady of ten years should.
To many of us, this situation may seem bizarre, but for 47% of the girls in India, this is reality. Child marriage is the cruel truth faced by many of these children as they reach the tender age of 10 or less. As defined by United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF.org.org), child marriage is a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18. However, by digging deeper into its horrendous implications, the true definition would be a heinous crime in which two immature children are victims of an impractical bondage, which destroys their lives forever. The loss faced, especially by the girls, is too deep, and it snatches away any chance they had at a meaningful life. The mental and moral impact of this convention is another aspect which needs to be acted upon. All of India, especially the ignored rural parts of our country, need to be made socially aware of this hazardous way of life, and helped in ending this abominable custom.
Getting married at such a young age isn’t just morally wrong, but it also has many health consequences. Severely overwhelmed with so many responsibilities at such a young age, the girls face many mental traumas as their married life continues. Too young to handle the responsibilities of their new home, many a times these girls become victims of domestic violence. Early pregnancy causes them and their babies to be very weak, at times ending in the death of the mother or the child. All these effects isolate the once chirpy and cheerful girl into a dark cave of desolation and depression.
The Father of our Nation, Gandhiji, married his wife Kasturba when she was only 14 years old. In his autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, in the third chapter of the book he writes, “I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage… In doing so there was no thought of our welfare, much less our wishes. It was purely a question of their own convenience and economy.” Gandhiji recollects the factors which joined Kasturba and Gandhiji in this relationship, hurling them into the ocean of life with no knowledge or experience. After becoming more mature, he realized that his wife was illiterate, and tried to help her grow as a person. Taking inspiration from the life of such an accomplished man, we should spread the knowledge of the drawbacks of such a tradition in our society.
The major reason for the need to end child marriages immediately is the tormenting loss experienced by such young kids. Girls usually give up their education, which leaves them illiterate for the rest of their lives, vanishing their dreams and goals forever. Once gone into their husband’s house, the reigns of the girl’s life lie in the hands of her in-laws and husband, becoming much more of a puppet than a human. This ends any chance of independence the girl had towards making her own decisions and accomplishing her aspirations in life. But the worst of all is that these girls lose all these rights without even knowing they deserve them.
There are many steps that can be taken to end this ritual: people can be made socially aware and convinced about the detrimental effects of this custom, and the parents who are unwilling to take part can be made into the catalytic element, helping the whole society let go of this practice. Many times, parents know the harmful effects of child marriage; however, the fear of being ostracized from the rest of society compels them to follow the tradition. These people need to be identified and supported to make the correct choice of allowing their children to get fully educated and mature, before getting married. Using their success stories as examples, the rest of the society can then also be persuaded to leave behind this disastrous custom.
So, let us take a stance against this violation of a young child’s human rights. Let us remember the 10 year old girl yearning to step out into the cool breeze, and be free of the unrighteous heavy chains of values, responsibility and honor. Why should these young girls sacrifice their freedom, their chance to learn, to reach their dreams, for a tradition which only benefits the families in terms of status and money? Unlike the parents of these children, we are not uneducated and ignorant. So, let us use our knowledge, experience, and ability for the greater good of these children, making sure that no other child is pillaged of their freedom, childhood and education to be bound in chains of responsibility for the rest of their life. Let us stop it, once and for all.