|There are 10 million child brides in the world and one-third of those are in India! Child marriage is one of the greatest threats to a girl’s life and liberty. We should stop euphemising it’s horror and sanctifying it by calling it “marriage”. We should call it ‘girl slavery’ which far more appropriately describes what child marriage does. It enslaves a girl physically, sexually, psychologically and emotionally and does her enormous harm. Her education is truncated, her immature body is weakened and rendered ill, by early and repeated childbirth. Young and afraid, she is unable to offer any resistance to oppressive and abusive in-laws and husband. Even before she embarks upon it, she loses all control over her life!
Even though the Indian legal system outlaws the marriage of a girl before the age of 18, society especially in rural areas, not only sanctions it but actively promotes and encourages it by creating peer pressure to marry off young girls. Many people maintain that they are under tremendous pressure by society to marry their girls as soon after they reach puberty. Marrying girls young is perceived as a way of settling them, keeping them safe and chaste and in control. Social norms in India, do not allow girls to be autonomous equal persons with the right to live life to its full potential. At Study Hall Educational Foundation(SHEF), we have been working for girls’ right to live as equal, autonomous persons worthy of respect for several years. This initiative started at our Prerna Girls Schools through critical feminist pedagogy. Later, in the year 2011 girls education and empowerment initiative, Aarohini was founded to strengthen government schools with gender studies curriculum. Over 1000 schools are touched by the Aarohini Initiative across India.
This year we are campaigning specifically against child marriage in all our partner schools, families, communities and the government. We begin our campaign with this web campaign and invite you to join us in our fight against child marriage in India. We look forward to receiving your articles, messages and entries of any kind which will encourage our students and their parents to say NO TO CHILD MARRIAGE/GIRL SLAVERY!
Dr Urvashi Sahni