Child marriage continues to be one of the most pressing issues in our country.
The archaic tradition, which is still practised in different communities across states like Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Andhra Pradesh, is undoubtedly an infringement of child rights, where underage boys and girls are betrothed without their consent.
While the legal marriageable age in India is 18, as young as 10-year-olds are victims to repressive traditional values and norms even to this date, where they are secretly married off by their parents to much older individuals and often succumb to underage pregnancies.
Activism against child marriages has been an ongoing battle between family honour and outdated customs where child rights organisations remain on constant vigilance of cases being reported by people and subsequent rehabilitation of the children, who are often disowned by the families.
Amidst all this, the story of a young woman from Rajasthan beats all odds.
Submitting evidence consolidated through Facebook to the Court, she managed to get herself relieved from a marriage that was secretly conducted when she was a minor.
Sushila Bishnoi, who was illegally married at the age of 12, had appealed to the court to dissolve her marriage. However, her husband had denied of having any kind of association with the girl and even went to the extent of thwarting her case.
With the help of a child rights activist, Sushila then scanned her husband’s Facebook account till they stumbled across evidence that proved crucial in substantiating her statement.
“Many of his friends had posted congratulatory messages on his Facebook page. The court has accepted the evidence and declared the marriage invalid,” said Kriti Bharti, an activist whose Sarathi Trust charity has annulled many child marriages in Rajasthan, reports Republic.
Though girls are married in Rajasthan at a very young age, more often is the case that they remain with their parents until they hit 18, post which they are sent to their husband’s residence. Sushila had also been living with her parents, since the time of the secret wedding ceremony in 2010 when both the girl and boy were just 12 years old.
Sushila had mentioned in a statement that her parents had been compelling her for some time to move in with her husband and consummate the marriage. While she wanted to continue studying further, her parents and in-laws nagging rose to the extent of her running away from home. “It was about life and death, and I chose to live, ” she said.
And for Sushila’s luck, she was able to reach a shelter where she met Kriti, who played a major role in accelerating legal proceedings to dissolve the marriage.
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