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Spare sham ritual, save child

To keep the administration at bay, people hold legal marriages of adults while secretly marrying off their children.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 02:15 IST
SL Talwar
SL Talwar

As Rajasthan celebrates Akha Teej on April 30, kirtans won't be the only thing on people's minds. A number of them will also hold child marriages, in direct violation of the Child Marriage Restraint Act.

It's a shameful routine that goes on every year. And it's a mass affair. To keep the administration at bay, people hold legal marriages of adults while secretly marrying off their children. Some child marriages are even held one day ahead of or after Akha Teej to avoid any confrontation with the administration.

And it isn't as if the administration has no idea what's going on behind its back. Ministers and legislators are regularly invited to the weddings and they oblige.

HT has some answers on what actually happens at these weddings: The marriage, the dress code is strict and traditional: bridegrooms wear garlands of money and carry swords; the brides are laden with silver ornaments and are herded in by their mothers. The children are blissfully unaware of what they're getting into. They are often seen playing or napping. Often, the mothers take the "saat-phere", with the children in their arms. The children return to their respective homes after that. And after puberty, the girl child is sent off to her husband's place.

Ban? What ban? No one cares for the law. The state government and district administrations usually issue notifications a couple of days ahead of Akha Teej, appealing against child marriages. But it is a formality. The government knows it cannot afford to upset its vote bank.

Who suffers?

Girls suffer the most. The lucky ones who make it to school are pulled out early. In some cases, the boys grow up and move to the cities — and to “better, eligible" partners. Their child brides forced to wait for them to return.

Reality check at schools Last year, the state government introduced "Praveshotsav" in schools — making it compulsory for the parents to give an undertaking that they will not marry away their minor children. But the St Joseph Senior Secondary School, Parbatpura, has more than 100 couples attending classes. The Government Primary School, Makhupura, and schools in Sanderiya and Badgaon too have several such pairs.

First Published: Apr 27, 2006 02:15 IST