If their parents had it their way, these two 17-year-old girls would trade their books for marital responsibilities.
Whether it could it be termed a stroke of luck or perhaps their resolve to fight against injustice, these two gutsy teenagers who just cleared their second-year pre-university exams were able to thwart their family’s attempts at their child marriages.
While the efforts of a good samaritan helped one girl, an anonymous letter saved the other.
The common thread intertwining the stories of these two girls is how they were able to seek refuge at Makkala Sahayavani, run by Parihara, a social welfare organisation that has been working with the Bengaluru police for 25 years.
It was April, when one of the minors ran away from her home, after being pressured to get married when all she wanted to do was to attend college. And so, armed with her mark sheets and degree certificates, she decided to board a bus from Yeshwantpur bus station, to move into a city with the hope of securing admission in a college.
Due to the intervention of a good Samaritan, she was able to reach Makkala Sahayavani’s centre on Infantry Road. Speaking to The Times of India, Rani Shetty, the in-charge of Parihara, said, “Govardhan, an electrician, noticed she was getting undue attention from youth loitering around the bus stand and helped her. The girl was smart enough to carry all her documents and was convinced about not returning to her parents. She’ll turn 18 in a few months, and until then, the Child Welfare Committee will take care of her.”
The other prospective child bride was able to thwart her wedding after an anonymous letter with a copy of her wedding invitation, and birth certificate arrived at the Makkala Sahayavani office The wedding ceremony was scheduled for May 13.
The staff at Makkala Sahayavani contacted her parents and invited them to a meeting.
“The family was poor and the father was a truck driver. While they’re clueless about the Pocso Act, they were aware of the moral incorrectness of child marriage. With another son in the family, they were keen to get their daughter married off soon. They expected her to perform badly in the exams and wanted to rid themselves of the burden, but the girl wanted to study further,” Rani told TOI.
Fortunately, the counsellors adept at their work were able to convince the family to call off the wedding.
“In smaller cities, family pride matters a lot. The father was embarrassed about calling off the wedding as they had already distributed cards, but we convinced him. The girl will soon join college,” added Rani.
We wish both girls a successful life ahead! We hope they grow up to be resilient women who can carve out an identity for themselves and help turn around the archaic mindsets of their families, communities and the society.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)