A 15-year-old girl forcibly married off by her grandfather to a 55-year-old man has sought the help of a Rajasthan-based NGO to get her out of the illegal union.
The minor and her parents, who were against the marriage, fled their home in Ajmer district after a caste panchayat asked them to accept it or pay Rs. 10 lakh to the groom.
They were forced to go into hiding for 18 months. The matter came to light after the NGO, Saarthi, held a press conference in Jodhpur on Friday.
“My grandfather Lal forcefully married me off to Jaisalmer resident Ram on February 17, 2012,” the girl said at the press meet.
She said her grandfather had taken Rs. 2 lakh from the groom’s family.
The girl said when her father protested, Lal and some other relatives locked him in a room and continued with the marriage rituals.
The girl’s father later approached a local police station. He claimed the police refused to register an FIR.
He left home with his daughter and wife, but received repeated threat calls from a caste panchayat member.
Kriti Bharti, managing trustee of Saarthi, said the NGO had approached Lal and Ram to end the illegal marriage. “If they don’t respond by Saturday, we will file a petition under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act before a court.”
In India, the legal marriageable age for girls and boys is 18 and 21.
The girl's plight again brings to the fore one of toughest social battles India faces.
According to UN statistics, India has the largest number of child brides in the world, with 47% girls married off below the age of 18.
An International Centre for Research on Women study conducted for the Unicef in 2010 revealed that in high-prevalence states such as Bihar and Rajasthan, more than 60% of girls were married off before they turned 18.
*Names and surnames withheld to protect the identity of the minor and her parents