Ceasing Child Marriages in India by a Former Child Bride: Read the Story!!
A former child bride is taking initiatives to cease child marriages in India. The powerful lady behind this challenging endeavor of ceasing child marriages in India is Rohini Pawar. Actually she is preventing the child marriage by addressing the compulsions and traditions that are compelling the children for early marriage. Recently Rohini Pawar stopped a couple of child marriages that was about to take place in a village in Pune, Maharashtra by which she informed the authorities via Child Help Line – 1098 ( Toll Free), after that police arrived and stopped the event.
Around half the girls in India get married before the age of 18. Maharashtra has one of the highest numbers of such marriages. Watch what these young girls have to say about child marriage:
She is not only stopping the child marriages but also ensuring the child’s further safety and education. According to her, ceasing child marriages alone cannot create wonders but the parents of the children must be convinced about the demerits of early child marriage.
“What they really needed was counseling – somebody to help them understand the implications of early marriage – especially on a girl’s health and education,” she says.
She is organizing many awareness camps to enlighten the parents of girl children about the after effects of early marriage. She used to face negative responses from their parents but she encounters the responses with a sympathetic approach. Usually she tries to point out their wrong arguments through her story.
“Even I was married at the age of 15, so I understand where they are coming from. And these girls nowadays are barely 12 or 13 when they are married. Anyway, I knew nothing then. In fact, I was the happiest bride in the world. I thought then that being a wife is my dharma and that’s all. But I came face to face with reality soon. It was so difficult to adjust to a new place where people spoke a different language. I hadn’t even met my husband so it was even more awkward. The difference in language drove me to remain quiet for 2 years, just so that I was not made fun of. My husband didn’t talk much either. Suddenly, a school going girl found herself living away from home, burdened with responsibilities. If I knew more, I would have resisted. If anybody else knew more, they would have resisted. But no one knew. It was our culture. That’s what we were taught. And that’s exactly what happens with other people involved in a child marriage. Information is the key. If they have information, they are bound to think more and understand more. You cannot expect someone to do something that they don’t have any information on. Ye to gaay ke aage been bajaane jaisa he! (It’s like asking a cow to recite alphabets!),” she says.
In February 2016, four children from a village near Rohini’s were married off secretly and she could not stop that marriage.
“If I know of something, I will try my best to stop it. But if I don’t know, how can I stop it? What’s more problematic is that this is the same community I have to come back to, because I live here. So it becomes very risky at times because then people, and at times the whole group, treat me like an outcast. Situations can get very aggressive. You cannot simply use force to stop such acts because then they simply practice in secrecy. You have to change their mindset, their ideology. Today I am here so I can stop these things but what will happen tomorrow when I won’t be here? One has to understand their logic, their problems, their helplessness, and their culture. Then you do counseling to make them understand what the consequences will be on their children. I focus on girls because in our culture the onus for everything falls on the girls – besides bearing children, they are responsible for the whole family, house chores and fieldwork. Their dreams, their aspirations, all are crushed at a tender age.”
As the Block President of the Bhartiya Gyan Vigyan Samiti she started a discussion club replicated by journalists and activists in the nearby Baramati taluka in which presently relevant social topics are being discussed in a peaceful manner.
She says, “It is best to let people get accustomed to the format and then introduce more complex topics that need to be addressed, like child marriage and gender. A discussion club enables conversations and internal change. Learning these things early is good, I think. If I had such information then, I probably wouldn’t have been married at 15. Information is integral and sharing it even more so. I have created a Whatsapp group where people post problems and everybody tries to articulate a solution. Suddenly you have so many ways to deal with a problem. Nobody shares or posts anything else. We all grow together. When I made the video on women not being allowed in a nearby temple, I asked people in the group to send me names of such temples that they knew of. Twenty minutes later, I had 25 names! Such is the power of sharing information within a community. The practice of child marriage, although a criminal offence under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (2006), continues unabated across India. Discrimination on the basis of caste and sex is also practiced freely, even though these are constitutional offences. Change must be brought from within an individual and within the society, only then will the laws be really implemented. Slowly and steadily, everything will change – it is the only constant after all.”
Child marriages can be stopped by reporting it to the local police station, district magistrate, child helpline 1098 (Toll Free) line and to the National Commission of Protection of child rights by mailing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Always remember that a child should call mother, but a child should not be called as mother. So my dear friends please do not promote child marriages.