Saturday, April 28, 2012

Child Brides and An an Indian Heroine

It's funny how when the news reports something good no one listens. When the news reports something bad people show up from everywhere to say how wrong the news is. While I can't answer for media anywhere else in the world I will say that in the US journalists are held to a very high standard. Someone checks their work for them before it is published to verify it is accurate. Still, if they report even the tiniest thing that is false they can lose their career or be jailed, etc.

Even then, a lot of media is still biased because it's basic human nature to form opinions. We get emotional and that emotion comes through in our writing, even when words are carefully selected to hide it. So, despite the fact that the media is always biased in some way, I still read it. I'm always on the lookout for stories that inspire me, anger me, or provoke me to advocate for changes and the one I'm writing about today is no different.

This is reportedly the first documented case of annulment for a child marriage in India.  But now this woman is scared to go home. Apparently child marriage is still an expectation in her village.

I'm guessing you guys already thinking that I'm going to post about how bad this problem is in India. Well, you're half right. You see, this happens in the US and long before I even knew hubby I would raise hell about this very topic. So just so you know this is a sore subject worldwide, I'll start with some US information for those of you who don't know it. 
  • There are some US states where girls as young as 13 are legally able to marry. (New Hampshire - 13; New York - 14 requires a court order; North Carolina - 14 requires a court order; South Carolina -14) All of them require parental consent if not more. And all of them have a higher age set for boys than girls.
  • Among SOME Mormon communities, old men are married off to very young girls. (I'm not getting into how sick these polygamist communities are. Just know I hate anyone and everyone who messes with children and that tyrade doesn't belong on this blog.) 
  • The rate of marriages for girls under 18 that is recorded is 11%.  Many illegal child marriages are not recorded (regardless of country) so the percentage here will not reflect the sick marriages mentioned above.
This sick phenomenon happens worldwide and it pisses me off. How the hell can people say publicly that it's wrong for young women to have sex (aka teen girls) but it's fine if you marry them to someone. Do you not realize they're having sex if they're married and being married doesn't magically reverse the health damages sex can do to their body. There's also a general consensus in the US that there should not be a large age gap between a husband and wife. So tell me why some sick ass old man is being allowed to marry several young girls under age 10? Grrrr....sorry....I'm not going off on that tirade.

Saudi Arabia currently has no minimum age for marriage but is planning to change that.
Niger has the highest percentage of child brides - recorded at 74%
Afghanistan 54% recorded
Bangladesh 51% recorded

India outlawed child marriage in 1929 with the enactment of The Child Marriage Restrain Act. This hasn't stopped the practice but has slowed it to 50% of girls being married before they turn 18 (that are recorded). In the article, Laxmi's marriage was not recorded and was stated as a "social obligation" meaning the marriage ceremony took place and the parents made the vows for them with the promise between the parents that they would uphold the marriage. You should keep in mind Laxmi was age 1 when she got married this way. The boy was aged 3. Given her age now, that means this marriage took place in 1994. As of 2006, parents who marry off their children before age 18 can also be punished.

It's touted that 40% of the child marriages occurring worldwide happen in India. Considering there are over 200 countries, that's an excessively high percentage even if India has the second largest population in the world. And which state is the worst? Bihar marries of 68.2% of it's girl children before they turn 18. (PDF page 140) 31,665 Bihar women were married before the age of 15.

There are also still mass child marriages occurring where protesters are attacked if they try to stop them. This is what happens to people who try to save the children:

NY Times: India's effort to stop child marriage hits a wall - This woman was brutally attacked and had her arms cut off.
NDTV: Officials attacked while stopping child marriages in Rajasthan - In this one, government officials were attacked by 5000 villagers and stones were thrown at them. (Thanks for the link Gill)

The 40% statistic comes from here: The Only Good Reason to Have a Mass Wedding of Child Brides - I saw it in other sources too but thought you all could benefit from reading that article.
I like this article too: UK forced marriage victims much younger than previously thought - It makes mention of an 87 year old marrying a child. Sick bastard.

Statistics come from: United Nations Population Fund

So, though it's taken me a while to get there, this blog post is a salute to Laxmi Sargara who on April 26, 2012 set a new historical precedent for Indian women. May there be a million women standing tall behind her. God willing, let her be the light that guides countless others to do the same and end this horrid tradition.


  1. FYI (no biggie): 
    heroin = opiate drug 
    heroine = heroic lady

  2. Wow kids can legally get married in US in certain States, that is scary. There are no provision in the law in Switzerland for child marriage, no derogation obtainable either, both parties must be 18, Church wedding do not count as official at all, the couple must be married in city hall before they can have a church wedding. Now I wouldn't rule out some people having an informal wedding ceremony if the partner do not meet the legal age but I never came across it or heard of it in the media back home.

    In India they have the law and people who ignore the law as well, not all marriages are legally registered in any of the marriage acts, whcih makes it that much more difficult for the governement to step in, vsome villages are so remote that there isn't much control there :( tradition prevails, and a religious ceremony is official enough to them, since they are less likely to apply for a passport and a visa to work abroad registering the marriage isn't much of a priority. It doesn't make it acceptable at all, but yeah I can see where the governement is having trouble keeping things in check :(

  3. Yes ma'am. In those 4 states they can get married that young with parental permission and in 2 of the states they also need a court order by a judge to approve it. There are other states where girls age 16 can get married as well. At one time there was one state with a law that 12 year old girls could marry. Laws that were on the books for hundreds of years but still very wrong. They're being changed slowly.

    Under Indian law a girl must be 18 as well but that often goes ignored, especially in villages like you mentioned. But the government is trying and getting maimed, killed, etc by these villagers who insist on setting up these marriages.

  4. Good detailed article. Even I was surprised by the USA stats on child marriage ages. But I guess that once again proves that changes take their time to happen irrepective of geographies. 

    Happy that I helped in news story link :)

  5. Kristy,

    Just so you know it's not the Mormon (aka The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) that does that. It's the FLDS (Fundamental Latter Day Saints) that practice this. :-)

  6. FLDS is part of the Mormon faith. It's like the split between denominations of protestant faiths. They still announce themselves as Mormon and study the Mormon doctrines. Their only distance from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the polygamist marriages.

  7. Yep, it's sad but they are legal under certain circumstances.

  8. You nailed this subject right, girl. Not to mention the too many under aged child moms in the US and even in Europe. I think that are a lot of revolutions for women in India where they fight for their rights. A recent move I adore is the chance given to girls to change their names and choose their own name. Many girls are named "badly" by their elders (such as names which means "unwanted" or "burden") just because they turned out girls and not boys. 

  9. I loved how those girls got to change their names. If I remember correctly it was the girls in orphanages that were given that chance. I just couldn't believe they named them unwanted in the first place. It seems cruel to me.

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