Celebrating the bond: This brother defied his kin to save sister from child marriage
Eight years ago, Banshi Lal defied his family to save his 16-year-old sister from child marriage, giving her a chance to study further and complete her education. Since then, every Rakshabandhan, the 34-year-old resident of Mahua village in Balrampur district feels proud of the fact that he was truly able to protect his sister from the social evil.
“I have two sisters, Anita and Archana, five years and eight years younger to me. We belong to Kurmi caste where child marriage is a common practice. Anita had dropped out of school after class 8 because she was not interested in studies. In 2008, when she was 16 years of age, my father got her married,” recalls Banshi.
“When she was married, I was around 21 and very immature. Little did I realise the repercussions of my father’s decision and all I could do was remain a silent observer,” adds Banshi who lost his father two years ago.
But in 2011, when Archana turned 16 and their father started looking for a match for her Banshi decided to intervene. She had just completed high school. “By now I had understood what Anita had gone through as a young girl post her marriage. Her husband was not so educated, he wasn’t earning either. Anita went through a very tough time and also suffered from several health problems. I decided that I would not allow Archana to face similar circumstances.”
The brother knew that Archana was a bright girl who wanted to study. Mustering up the courage, Banshi called his grandfather and paternal uncle and opposed their decision to get her married. “Who will take responsibility for the young girl? It is in the interest of the family that she gets married,” they told Banshi.
Banshi explained the benefits of completing education, especially for a girl and the evil effects of child marriage and convinced his father on the ground that none of the family members wanted to see Archana at risk, anxious, sick or unhappy.
“I told my father that I would not allow Archana’s marriage before she turns 18 and I would take her responsibility till then,” he said.
Talking about Banshi’s gesture, Push Antony, social policy specialist UNICEF says, “A brother speaking up for his sister and preventing her child marriage is a welcome sign of the changing gender norms. Moving away from the cliche of a protective brother, he has actually taken steps to ensure gender justice within his family. We want more young brothers to practice gender justice so that their sisters are not married below the age of 18.”