Shanta was only 13 when her parents forced her to leave school and married her to a man twice her age. At 15, while most of her peers were in school, she gave birth. Now 17 and emaciated, Shanta is back in her parent's home after her marriage collapsed: Her husband is in prison for a serious crime that Shanta didn't want to reveal, just as she didn't want to reveal her real name.
"I didn't even understand what marriage meant at 13," she says, her eyes brimming with tears, as her 2-year-old lolls in the background. Shanta hadn't even seen her husband, let alone known him, before she tied the nuptial knot.
More than one-third of all brides in India are below the age of 18, an estimate that activists say could be low, as many marriages - both child and adult - seldom get registered. A Supreme Court decision in February now compels couples to register. Nevertheless, this month, on Akshaya Tritiya, an auspicious festival for Hindus, child marriages were reported to have been solemnized in parts of the country, under the nose of police and despite a 1929 law that sets the legal age of marriage at 18 for girls and 21 for boys.
"More than one-third of all brides in India are below the age of 18." This is just totally unbelievable. It's no different than selling these kids into slavery. I realize it's an issue that has to do with the society of the region and the acceptance of such things but it needs to change. If enough people start to look at the issue it might change but people need to make noise, not just in India but all over.
It always bothers me to see children abused in this way. Selling little girls to be wives of older husbands is abuse pure and simple. I don't care what the local society has to say.
Research on child abuse suggests that religious beliefs can foster, encourage, and justify the abuse of children. When contempt for sex underlies teachings, this creates a breeding ground for abuse. Mary Garden