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Decision-makers

Debates on euthanasia and child marriage apart, one has to wonder about the power of choice that can make a 13-year-old child unhook her stars from the fragility of an embattled life, writes Preeti Singh.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2008 22:12 IST
Preeti Singh

Two stories, from different ends of the world seem inextricably linked by an elusive little thing: the audacity of choice.

Nujood Ali of Yemen was voted by a British lifestyle magazine as ‘Woman of the Year’ for her courageous journey from enduring marital rape and beatings to a baffled courtroom where no one had any idea about how to deal with her request for divorce.

Far, far away, Briton Hannah Jones won the right to choose a dignified death over a life that has mostly been spent in hospitals. What makes their stories even more remarkable is that Nujood is 10 years old while Hannah is 13.

Debates on euthanasia and child marriage apart, one has to wonder about the power of choice that can make a 13-year-old child unhook her stars from the fragility of an embattled life, even as the lack of it can give another the strength to win the right to end an ordeal that has shattered the spirit (and claimed lives) of older, stronger women.

It’s easy to link the girls’ decisions to circumstances that either made it possible or forced their hand. We can, alternately, be horrified by Yemen’s tribal brutality or by a British system that has empowered children to an extent where they are quick to dial a child abuse helpline to report a good ol’ thwack on the bottom.

After all, we live somewhere between the two realities. Even as some of us feel inspired by Nujood’s bravery in battling the odds, and feel oddly torn over Hannah’s choice, we are rudely reminded of the absence of choice that marks the lives of others. While ‘honour killings’ claim the lives of teenage girls for ‘meeting boys’ — and 13-year-old girls get beaten black and blue by their employers — we are rudely reminded that Yemen is not the only country that has child brides. Not at all.