Sumon’s marriage ceremony took place when she was barely a 10 months old. Her brother Pawan too became a groom at the age of three.
The siblings, now 13 and 17 years respectively, however, boldly refused to accept the same fate as hundreds of other children in a state where child marriage is rampant.
On Saturday, a family court in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur struck down their marriages in a landmark verdict, only the second instance of annulment of child marriage in the country.
The brother and sister had approached the court through a non-government organisation Sarthi Trust, which has been waging a battle against child marriage in the state where it is a socially accepted custom in many parts.
In India, under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act a girl can’t marry before the age of 18 and a boy before 21. An earlier survey by United Nations had showed that Rajasthan accounts for the second highest number of child marriages in the world.
Saturday’s judgment was handed down by justice Bhalaram Parmar who said the marriage of the siblings was in violation of the act. The case was heard in three days.
In their pleas, Suman said she was married to one Ajay of Luni town near Jodhpur in 2003 when she was barely 10 months old. Pawan told the court that he was a three-year-old when he was married to two-year-old Gulabo, also of Luni.
Sarthi managing director Kriti Bharti said her team successfully convinced the siblings’ parents first and then the in-laws.
Justice Parmar, while delivering the verdict, said there was need to spread awareness against child marriage and praised the trust’s efforts.
Sarthi Trust had earlier successfully fought the case of Laxmi, also of Rajasthan, whose marriage was annulled in 2012.
The case had hit the headlines and figured in the Limca Book of World Records.
It was later introduced as a chapter in Class 11 by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to create awareness against child marriages.
(The boy and girl's names have been changed to protect their identities)