Did you know that Karnataka remains the only state in the country that declared every child marriage to be ‘void ab initio’ or invalid from the outset?
The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act states that every child marriage, whether solemnised before or after the commencement of the Act, shall be void by the contracting party who was a child at the time of the marriage. Moreover, girls must be 18 or above, and boys must be 21 or above to get married.
Despite this concrete step towards eradicating child marriage in Karnataka, the state has recorded a spike in such cases. Last year, 75 cases were reported, a rise from 29 in 2013, The Times of India reported.
Rampant in rural areas, minor girls are often forced into marriage before they turn 18. While some girls succumb to the pressure, others fight the evil practice and write their own destinies.
One such case is of Rekha V, who preferred running away from the house over spending her life doing household chores after getting married.
She hails from Kotturu village in Chikkaballapura district. Her father abandoned the family when she was barely four months old. To support the family, Rekha’s mother worked as domestic help.
While growing up, going to school was the best the time of the day for the 18-year-old. “I was always keen on studying hard and making my own identity,” she tells The Better India.
When Rekha turned 16, her mother decided to get her married to her maternal uncle (her mother’s younger brother). The girl resisted, even opposed, but she was pressurised by the elders.
It requires a lot of courage to leave your home behind, but once I took the step, there was no looking back. I request parents to let their children follow their passions instead of forcing them into child marriages.
Clear about her future, Rekha escaped from home two years ago with a friend’s help. She came to Bengaluru in search of a better life.
Thankfully, she had cleared her SSLC exam, scoring 74% before fleeing her village.
She stayed at her friend’s house and immediately joined a computer training centre in Hebbal. When the authorities came to know about her plight, they connected her with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC).
“I spoke to a person from the CWC by dialling 1098 for help with further studies. They helped get accommodation in a PG run by the NGO, Sparsha Trust, in Mathikere,” she shares. The Trust also helped her secure a seat in the Kannada-medium Government Pre-University (PU) College in Gollahalli, Nelamangala.
For two years, she studied hard. In the recently announced II PU results (commonly known as 12th boards), she scored 542 out of 600. An impressive 90%!
It was a very emotional and surreal moment. When the results came out, I could see the last two years flashing before my eyes. I couldn’t have been more proud, she says.
She plans to study BA and major in History, Political Science and Economics. “I want to become an IAS officer and these subjects will help me prepare for the UPSC from an early stage. I want to make our world better and improve the condition of girls in the country,” she says, confidently.
Along with juggling her studies and computer classes, Rekha is also active in cultural and sports activities in college. She likes playing Kabaddi and Throwball and is also learning Bharatanatyam.
In her free time, she likes to mentor her juniors at the PG and in college.
When asked if she has any advice for girls who wish to seal their own fate, Rekha says, “No force in the world can stop a girl from following her dreams. All you have to do is be brave and courageous, stand up against injustice and fight your own battles. Set your priorities and work hard every single day, till you accomplish them all.”
We, at The Better India, wish Rekha the best in all her endeavours!
If you wish to report a child marriage, contact the Child Welfare Committee at 1098.
All images courtesy Rekha V.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)