The life of human beings on Earth has undergone a revolutionary change in the last couple of centuries. Nevertheless, if there is one thing that has not changed, it is patriarchy. Patriarchal values have become too deeply ingrained in our society to die out anytime soon. Even the most advanced societies and modern families today cannot claim that they are completely free from patriarchy, not to speak of the backward regions and families. And, countries like India have a long way to go to get rid of suffocating patriarchal practices and customs. One such custom is child-marriage that had been fought tooth and nail by the great social reformers of the 19th century like Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Raja Rammohan Roy, and Jyotiba Phule. But sadly, the evil practice still survives in various corners of India. The good news is the young generation is showing signs of revolt against it.
The story is sad indeed and is still being repeated by various towns and villages of India. Four years ago, in a remote region of Rajasthan (a state known for child marriages in India) an 11-year-old teenager, who was too young to understand her rights and wishes, was married off by her brothers to a man who is 10 years older than her. She had never seen or known him. Her fate was decided in her childhood as she continued to live with her parents and study in an informal school for 4 years.
Finally, the day arrived for her to say farewell to her parents and she was forced by her relatives to leave school quite unceremoniously and was sent to live with her husband. The wishes of the now 16-year-old girl stood no chance; her family had sealed her fate – the sole purpose of her life henceforth would be to serve him and his family. This is an old story, a story which has been repeated too many times to count, and there is nothing new about it, but for the heroic role played by the schoolmates of the young bride, who decide to alter the story and end it on a different note. What happened after she was sent to her husband is worth mentioning and admirable.
After the sudden disappearance of the girl, the classmates of the child-bride were worried and they decided to find out her whereabouts and to meet her. They somehow managed to track down her in-laws’ house and walked barefoot all the way to the nearby village to meet her. The girl, on meeting them said she was unhappy and that she had been sent to her in-laws against her wishes. She also told them that she wanted to continue her studies. The children then went to the police station; but as usual, the police refused to listen to them. The children, however, were not disheartened. They noted the phone number of the topmost administrative official of the district that they had found scribbled on the walls of the police station. They sought his help and the help came – the girl was soon rescued. She rejoined school the next day.
To the utter dismay of the powerful and conservative village council, the girl was bold enough to ask the local family court to annul her marriage.
The younger generation of the small village in Rajasthan has blazed a new track and given a strong message. It is, no doubt, the younger generation that can put a stop to child marriages in India.