Culture is no excuse for abuse. Child and marriage are two words that do not coincide, words that are opposites but still connected by a relentless force of culture and daunting traditions, taking away the sweetest period of their life – “their childhood.” Childhood is a juvenile period where a child is like a clean slate, supposed to absorb and mould itself into a beautiful soul, discovering pure joy and becoming a mature adult to the core. Child marriage crushes the heart of glass, the mind of stone, and tears their childhood to pieces. Dreams are shattered, education is neglected, and their minds are acquainted with numbness to the toiling of daily life responsibilities.
Child marriage is defined as the union of two individuals where one or both parties are below the age of 18, a deeply entrenched social issue that affects millions of young girls and boys around the world. It has severe consequences on both young brides and grooms. It comes with sacrificing all dreams and aspirations, and risking health due to early pregnancy. It is a slow poison, hampering a girl’s health until she gives away each piece of herself to the groom. These complications are the leading cause of death among older adolescent girls.
We often get parcels labelled as “fragile” or “handle with care,” and that is the exact condition of a child when he/she has to tie a knot of an eternal relationship with a complete stranger or a horrid significant other, not knowing what challenges lay ahead. They might have to give away their eyes or limbs to fulfill burdens as heavy as stone to keep their so-called marriage stable, meeting societal expectations to give rise to future progeny and flourish the entire family.
Often the young couple is too immature to shoulder major responsibilities and ends up fighting with each other. Adjustment problems may arise, and education gets affected, leaving the picture. The young couple may not be able to pursue higher education as they have to take on the responsibilities of the whole family. Since their education levels are low, they cannot get highly-paid jobs.
According to the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data of 2020, a total of 785 cases were registered under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act. Over half of the girls and women in India who married in childhood live in five states: Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh.
Mansha Bhat, a resident of Mandi tehsil in Pooch of J&K, got her elder daughter married at the age of 16 after her husband’s death, believing it was the best option to reduce the financial crisis. Little did she know she was pushing her daughter into a vicious cycle of tremor and torture. Following the elder daughter’s marriage, Mansha got her second daughter engaged to a 35-year-old man, later discovering his severe drinking and anger problems. She tried to call off the marriage and received death threats but managed to end it.
As a 20-year-old, imagining myself in this situation, getting married at this age seems like a nightmare. I dream and wish to achieve big for myself, be financially independent, and reach a point in life where firstly, ‘I’ and then my parents would feel immensely proud of me. To get to my goal, my comfort zone plays a crucial role, and that zone right now is my parents’ home, where I am free to do anything and don’t have other big responsibilities. I wish and hope our society gets rid of this narrow concept of child marriage completely and helps us grow in the right way – the way we want it to be for ourselves.
The writer is student at the Department of English Women’s College, MA Road, Srinagar. She can be reached at [email protected]