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Colleges shut during lockdown leave many girls in Pune rural areas with no option but to get married

Pune: For 23-year-old Jyotsana (name changed), it was a tough call when her parents and family members put pressure on her to get married after she returned to her village following the nationwide lockdown announced in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic
By Dheeraj Bengrut
PUBLISHED ON JAN 22, 2021 08:21 PM IST

Pune: For 23-year-old Jyotsana (name changed), it was a tough call when her parents and family members put pressure on her to get married after she returned to her village following the nationwide lockdown announced in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

“With no regular study and continuous postponement of exams, I headed back to my village in Buldhana district. During this long stay at home and uncertainty over future studies, my family members started to pressurise me to get married. As I have a younger sister who will also have to be married in the future, I gave in. The family hurriedly married me in June,” said Jyotsana.

Many girls who are pursuing higher studies and preparing for competitive exams in Maharashtra’s rural parts are being forced to get married by family members since the lockdown started in March 2020.

“I have completed my postgraduation from Savitribai Phule Pune University and was preparing for competitive exams, but the exam dates were not announced. Though my husband’s family will support me to prepare for competitive exams, things change and responsibilities get added after marriage.” added Jyotsana.

Prajakta (name changed), 25, who got married in July, is among the toppers in university exams. “I was preparing for competitive exams and had filled up the preliminary form for year 2020 when Covid struck, lockdown began and I returned in my village. The two years I spent on preparations to crack competitive exams ended in my parents getting me married in July. I had decided not to get married till I achieve my career goal, but now it is all a dream.”

Talking about the sad reality of rural girls been forced to get married because of uncertainty over further studies, Ruksanan Patil Shaikh, secretary of the National Student’s Union of India (NSUI) Maharashtra and a student from rural area, said, “The Covid pandemic has affected all fields, including education. For students, especially girls, coming from rural parts there are high expectations from family. Girls who do not score high marks are threatened by family to be married off. Covid, lockdown and subsequently delay in reopening of colleges gave families a chance to get their daughters married. Parents also fall to social pressure as villagers constantly say that girls should be married at the earliest. It is only because of the support from my family that I could return to Pune and resume my studies.”

Sandhya Sonawane, second year Law student and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) student wing president (Pune region), said, “The rural mentality that girls should not be allowed to study beyond a point is still prevalent. As girls returned to their villages post lockdown, they faced constant pressure from family and relatives to get married. The lockdown has left many girls across the state to get married in the last six to seven months.”

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