She fought all odds to stop teenage daughter’s marriage
Geeta Devi wears a proud smile on her face as she mentions her daughter who is studying in Class 12 . But, things would have been entirely different a year back , had she succumbed to her husband’s decision.
When her husband Amarnath , a native of a Mirzapur village, came up with a proposal for the marriage of their 15-year-old daughter Suman, Geeta devi she did what Amarnath could never imagine. She flatly refused.
Always following the decisions taken by her husband, Geeta Devi was firm this time and decided to not allow her husband to marry off their daughter before she turned 18.
She took this bold decision as she herself was married at a very early age and was aware of the perils of early pregnancy and related health issues. But taking a stand against the husband’s decision was also not easy.
“I knew I would have to face social pressure. I was also well aware that people would talk about ‘family honour’ and try to discourage me while citing the difficulties of finding a match for the girl at a later age . But I had decided that I would not let my daughter undergo the pains of early marriage which I did,” said 36-year-old Geeta Devi.
This mother wanted her daughter to complete her education and move forward in life. “My parents married me off at an early age because they feared that they would have to give more dowry when I grew up. My husband also tried to put up the same argument when he came up with a proposal for Suman’s wedding. But I did not want to push my daughter into a tough life only because of such reasons,” she said.
Geeta’s stand instilled confidence in Suman too. “I had never seen her talking with such conviction with anyone about anything. But she stood up for me with all her might. This gave me courage to speak up against my father and refue an early marriage,” said Suman.
Bhai Shally, communication for development specialist at UNICEF said, “This mother and daughter aren’t the only ones who gathered courage to raise their voice against child marriage. An initiative ‘Garima’, rolled out in Sonbhadra, Mirzapur and Jaunpur, mobilised many mothers and daughters to protest child marriage.”
The courageous mother ignored the wagging tongues and vicious taunts of relatives and neighbours. Eventually Amarnath was also convinced. Today, Suman is pursuing her studies and has dreams of a bright future.
“Mothers are often glorified but bound in a role. We need more mothers who care and fight, we need more fathers, brothers and friends who care and fight with them for human rights,” said professor Rakesh Chandra, former head, Institute of Women Studies, University of Lucknow.
Prof Chandra said, “We often hear excuses like higher dowry, fear of incest as reasons for child marriage. We need to fight these rather than compromise. Women like the one who fought for her daughter are the true role models of an empowered caring person we need.”
Hindustan Times recently awarded women for saving daughters from hyenas and leopards. “Though there has been a long tradition of subservient self-effacing women, we too have extraordinary examples of spirited women who created history,” Prof Chandra said.
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