Photo exhibition: Documenting child marriage in Rajasthan and West Bengal | india news | Hindustan Times
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Photo exhibition: Documenting child marriage in Rajasthan and West Bengal

More than 20 images offer a peek into the perceptions of various stakeholders.

india Updated: Dec 02, 2017 11:06 IST
HT Correspondent
Suresh and his new bride had been brought to seek blessings at a temple in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. On noticing that they were being photographed, Suresh’s father quickly herded the couple and relatives out of the temple.
Suresh and his new bride had been brought to seek blessings at a temple in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. On noticing that they were being photographed, Suresh’s father quickly herded the couple and relatives out of the temple.(Rohit Jain.)

Stories about child marriages often leave us sad, depressed and at times, angry. They expose us to the other India in which girls are married off and even become mothers in their teens. But what we often don’t get to know are the opinions of child brides and the people around them – family, friends, village heads, teachers, police and the administration.
A photo exhibition on child marriage organised by the HAQ Centre for Child Rights offers a peep into the mindset of various stakeholders in this practice. “We are not projecting anyone as a hero or a wrongdoer. This is a documentation of multiple perceptions about child marriage,” said Indira Pancholi, consultant, prevention of child marriage programme, HAQ.
“It is very easy to judge everything from the parameter of rights. We don’t realise that marginalised communities are not aware of their rights and those of others. They do things as per their tradition,” said Pancholi.
Around 12 million children were married before the age of 10, according to an India Spend analysis of the 2011 census data. In India, the legal age of marriage for girls is 18, and for boys it’s 21. In October, the Supreme Court ruled that sex with a minor wife would be considered rape.

Sita from Ajmer, Rajasthan, refused to become a child bride when she realised that her would be in-laws were against her studying after marriage. (Rohit Jain.)

The pictures on display at the exhibition were taken over a period of two years in Rajasthan and West Bengal.
“Almost all the parents I met in both these states seemed to be in a constant hurry to get the burden off their heads; the burden of their children,” said photographer Rohit Jain, who documented the stories for the organisation.
Jain said that contrary to popular perception, the woes of a minor do not end if his or her marriage is prevented. “Stopping the marriage is not an end in itself. It is crucial that such families do not face social ostracism,” he said.
One of the factors that influences the child’s future is the stage at which the marriage is prevented, Jain said. “If it is called off at the last minute – when the function is about to begin – there are chances that the family will be harassed. This is because one family is bound to feel humiliated.”

Jagdish and Ratni are from Kekri block in Rajasthan’s Ajmer district. They went against tradition to let their daughter Sonu pursue higher education. Now they are a role model for fellow villagers. (Rohit Jain.)

It also matters whether the administration has intervened to stop the marriage or if the girl is the complainant. “In the latter case, the girl may face some trouble,” said Jain.
At the same time, both Pancholi and Jain were surprised to discover some inspiring stories in the ecosystem that traditionally supported child marriages.
For example, take the story of the couple Jagdish and Ratni, from Rajasthan’s Ajmer district (see picture), who faced criticism for buying their daughter a mobile phone and sending her to a faraway village to study nursing. “All this talk about not educating girls or allowing them to leave the house is nonsense,” Jagdish told Jain. “These villagers spread such regressive and wrong notions.”
Or take the case of Sita, the girl from Ajmer, Rajasthan, whose wedding was called off because the boy’s family would not allow her to continue her studies. “The credit goes to Sita’s mother who listened to her daughter,” said Jain.

WHAT: Photo exhibition on child marriage

WHEN: 10.30am- 7.30pm, till December 4

WHERE: Experimental Art Gallery, India Habitat Centre.

NEAREST METRO: JLN Stadium.