Archive for the ‘child marriage’ Category

Why We Won’t Stop Buying Brides

The practice of bride buying is closely tied to many patriarchal conditions of sex selective abortions, dowry and gender discrimination. Are we ready to break all the moulds to really want to put an end to this?

A simple Google search on ‘bride buying India’ gives you a mix of results that indicate the human rights violating practice of bride buying in Northwestern states of India, matrimonial sites as well as links to designer bridal sarees and jewelry. This dichotomy itself explains a lot about how tradition and patriarchy are intertwined with the booming economy in our so-called modern Indian society.

The practice of bride buying is not very recluse from the society today. We know that it’s a vicious cycle and relationship between the gender bias within patriarchy and poverty in our country, although patriarchy does not have a stronger root or causality in poverty. Most of us know the stories and modus operandi to how it happens. The archaic system of patriarchy that propagate heavy dowries to be incurred for daughters’ marriages and desire for a long lineage, even to maintain the caste purity in the line, leads to a strong preference for the male child. Female babies are either killed in the foetus or killed or thrown in the garbage shortly after their birth. This issue was vehemently taken up and investigated from all angles in the launch episode of the social issues show, Satyameva Jayate, hosted by popular actor, Aamir Khan.

Decades of families and communities killing the girl child has resulted in an entire demographic of young girls and women missing in many villages in the Northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, which are some of the most key places. Hence, in sexual frustration and desperation and of course, the fear of their family being wiped out of the face of existence (which is what they attempted to save in the first place), they look for brides from poorer states on the Eastern parts of India. This time: caste, religion, ethnicity, color and even age, no bar.

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It is a country with a female president and where men revere female goddesses. And yet, India is far from a haven for women.

According to current estimates, Indian men outnumber women by nearly 40 million. That startling gender gap, activists say, is the result of gendercide.

Nearly 50,000 female fetuses are aborted every month and untold numbers of baby girls are abandoned or murdered.

“It’s the obliteration of a whole class, race, of human beings. It’s half the population of India,” said women’s rights activist Ruchira Gupta of Apne Aap Women Worldwide.

Why is there such deadly discrimination against girls? Part of the answer is money. Girls are a financial burden to their parents, who must pay expensive dowries to marry them off. The dowry is a cultural tradition and the single biggest reason Indians prefer boys.

When an Indian woman gives birth to a baby boy, it is an occasion for jubilation, said women’s rights activist Gita Aravamudan, author of the book, “Disappearing Daughters.”.

Mother Says She Was Tortured to Abort Twin Girls

Those seeking to maintain the status quo, meanwhile, have been aggressive.

Mitu Khurana, 34, a pediatrician and a mother trying to fight the system, said she’s faced death threats for the lawsuit she has filed against her husband and her husband’s family.

Khurana said her parents-in-law tricked her into eating a cake made with eggs, knowing that she was allergic to eggs. She had to go to the emergency room and at the hospital, where, Khurana said, an ultrasound determined that she was pregnant with twin girls. (Watch an interview with Mitu Khurana here.)

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A friend recently sent me a web link to the work of artist-activist Fazal Sheikh, in particular his works on women in India. His books, available to view at his website, feature portraits and stories of females, from babies to the aged, who have been aborted, abandoned, abused, and in some instances, murdered.

Last week, while browsing through titles at a bookstore near my hotel, I saw a flier for a gallery exhibit of Fazal’s work – Ladli ‘Beloved Daughter’ that was being shown at Kriti Gallery here in Varanasi.

I knew of his work with widowed women living out their lives in Vrindavan, but was not aware of the extent of his work with all of India’s daughters, until seeing his Ladli exhibit at Kriti Gallery. The portraits and accompanying stories of the Beloved Daughter series tell of the systematic rejection and ritual abuse occurring in India, a reality that some prefer to ignore or deny that it exists.

In speaking with Navneet of Kriti Gallery, I learned that none of the galleries in Delhi are willing to host Ladli. Some, including an editor of one of India’s major news sources who came to the opening of the show at Kriti, outright reject and therefore denigrate the women and their stories, refusing to believe this India still exists. Some guests were angry that Navneet was hosting Fazal’s work, but others, like a group of high school age girls, were moved to tears by it. And this is what the portraits and stories do. Stir us to outrage, to sadness, and ideally, to action.

Krishna’s Story
from the online edition of Ladli:

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This important article was brought to my attention by reader Tomas Eric Nordlander of Human Rights Defence

Written by Arun Kumar
Sunday, 19 October 2008

Present time, child marriage is a curse in the global society. Child marriage is a violation of human rights. In most cases young girls get married off to significantly older men when they are still children. Child marriages must be viewed within a context of force and coercion, involving pressure and emotional blackmail, and children that lack the choice or capacity to give their full consent. Child marriage must therefore always be considered forced marriage because valid consent is absent – and often considered unnecessary. Child marriage is common practice in India, Niger, Bangladesh, Pakistan Guinea, Burkina Faso, Africa and Nepal, where mostly girls are married below the age of 18.

Consequences of child marriage

Child marriage has its own worse effect on the young girls, society, her children and health. Young girls who get married will most likely be forced into having sexual intercourse with their, usually much older, husbands. This has severe negative health consequences as the girl is often not psychologically, physically and sexually mature. Child brides are likely to become pregnant at an early age and there is a strong correlation between the age of a mother and maternal mortality and morbidity. Girls aged 11-13 are five times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than women aged 20-24 and girls aged 15-19 are twice as likely to die. Good prenatal care reduces the risk of childbirth complications, but in many instances, due to their limited autonomy or freedom of movement, young wives have no access to health services, which aggravates the risks of maternal complications and mortality for pregnant adolescents. Because young girls are not ready for the responsibilities and roles of being a wife, sexual partner and a mother, child marriage has a serious negative impact on their psychological well-being and personal development.

Psychological effect of the child marriage is worse than the physical effect of the young girl. Girls are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS as compared to boys due to physical and social factors. Young married girls are even at higher risk because their older husbands may already be infected in previous sexual relationships. Furthermore, the age difference between the girl and the husband and her low economic status make it almost impossible for the girl to negotiate safe sex or demand fidelity.

Young girls also have to face many domestic pressures. Mostly, Girls are used to beaten by their husbands including my country INDIA. Domestic violence seriously endangers the physical and mental health of women and girls and can even put their lives at risk.

Dowry is another part of this violence. Girls are forced to bring more dowries from their parents. If they do not bring they are harassed, some times they are burnt alive, often hanged, poisoned and killed by her familyBecause of our past traditional patriarchal society, there always remained gender inequalities as pointed by a great historian GERDA LERNER. Gender inequality is both a cause as well as a consequence of child marriage. Child brides usually have lower levels of education than girls who get married at an older age. Education is therefore seen as a way to prevent child marriages. Once a girl is married, she experiences a lack of autonomy to make personal decisions about her life.
To a limited extent, this affects the future of child, his education and health. Early marriage, together with its relation to low levels of education, high levels of violence and abuse, severe health risks and harmful power dynamics, results in increased vulnerability to poverty for girls and young women. So childe marriage has worse affects not only the mother of the child and child but also on the society.

Human Rights Violation

Child marriage is a violation of human rights and is prohibited by a number of international conventions and other instruments. Nonetheless, it is estimated that in the next ten years more than 100 million girls are likely to be married before the age of 18.

There are universal rules for the marriage and rules against the childe marriage. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that men and women of full age are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending parties.

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination of Women (1979) states that the betrothal and the marriage of a child shall have no legal effect, and all necessary action, including legislation, should be taken to specify a minimum age for marriage and to make the registration of marriages in an official registry compulsory. In their general recommendations of 1994, the Committee considers that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years for both men and women.


We call on all governments to take all necessary action to end child marriage by:
The full implementation of the above mentioned Human Rights Conventions.
Adopting a clear and unambiguous position on child and forced marriages.
Introducing laws to rise the legal age of marriage to 18 years as a universal law.
Raising the awareness on the negative impacts of child marriage.
Promoting and protecting the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and young women, through legislation, availability of services and information and community outreach.
Promoting gender equality and the right of girls and young women to education.
Promoting higher education to all young girls so that they can decide what is important for their future.

As a conclusion it can be pointed out that childe marriage is a major subject of concern. It should be eradicated globally as soon as possible. it is up to us to solve this problem as we have created this inequality in the society.

Arun Kumar is pursuing a History honours (B.A.) IIndYR from Delhi College of Art and Commerce, at University of Delhi.

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A few years ago I saw the film Matrubhoomi: A Nation Without Women. A deeply disturbing Indian film said to be futuristic in nature, from the sound of the attached article, it looks like the future has arrived. Girls are becoming an endangered gender in India. While dowry is still demanded in most marriages, things are changing in some parts of India where there are not enough women of marrying age. The result? Girls are being bought, sold, kidnapped, and trafficked. Unbelievably,“…even local elections have candidates promising brides in return for votes.”

An excerpt from the November 11th edition of Hindustan Times:


Where have all the girls gone?

In the prosperous districts of Haryana and Punjab — where son preference has resulted in a skewed sex ratio — girls from economically weaker backgrounds in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal are being openly bought in droves for ‘marriages’ that are more often than not without the consent of the girl. The legal status of such wedlock, of course, remains questionable. According to data compiled by Shaktivahini, a Faridabad-based NGO that takes up anti-trafficking issues, there are up to 50,000 paros in Haryana alone, including a huge proportion of minors. Faced with a crisis, even local elections have candidates promising brides in return for votes.

Census 2001 shows that the child sex ratio in Haryana and Punjab stands at 820 and 793 per 1,000 boys respectively. But according to the latest health survey by the Punjab government, villages like Sansarwal in Patiala have touched an alarming 438 girls per 1,000 boys.

Ergo, girls are fast turning into a vanishing tribe. A recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) report warns that female deficit in the marriageable age (20-49) is set to touch 25 million by the year 2030.

The impact, however, is already being felt here. Says Dr Madhav Mohan Godbole, the director of Balgrah, a rehabilitation centre in Rai, Sonepat, “Villagers come to us and plead for brides. They say if we can’t fix them up, they will be forced to buy girls.” Faced with a crisis, even local elections have candidates promising brides in return for votes. Ram Prasad of Seoti village in Sonepat, concedes, “frequent trips are being made from all over Haryana to hunt for girls in Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and even Maharashtra.”

In a typical ‘buying’ scenario, someone with ‘contacts’ in source states facilitates such arrangements in return for kharcha-paani, explains Rishikant of Shativahini. The ‘going rate’ ranges from Rs 6,000 –10,000, depending on the age and virginity. Forced by poverty, many a time the paros also have to ‘accept’ polyandry.

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This is an excerpt from a meeting I had with a family in Nagwa, the slum area of Varanasi. I was speaking to Rakesh, the younger brother of Rani. He told me the story of his sister Rani, and her (failed) marriage that was arranged for her when she was 15.

In this part of the conversation, Rakesh is telling me that her parents are trying to arrange her second marriage. Rani has two children, and they cannot afford to take care of them. They also become the recipient of gifts when her engagement is announced, which they are excited about, but they do not have any money for a dowry, so do not know how they will manage it.

Rakesh: If we are going to get her married then everybody come to here to give something. We have lot of things. Many, many people comes here and give lot of things to her. And we will give back also. One man is calling me, telling me, he is asking me if you will give me a television. We don’t have money to give a television. We are just thinking, what are we going to do. It is a rule, if my daughter is going to marry, then you will give to something new. When your daughter will go to marry then something else I will give to you. Like this, circle give. So, we should have to circle back, no?

Barbara: Why did your sister marry so young, at 15?

Rakesh: I don’t know…they don’t have brain.

Barbara: They didn’t think about her age? Did Rani want to get married at 15, or was she against it?

Rakesh: She don’t know everything because mother, father didn’t told. She is also very small that time.

Rakesh and Rani have a younger sister; Moni is 15. When I asked about the possibility of her marrying anytime soon, Rakesh told me that he will stop his parents if they try. But with their father being out of work, and their struggle to make ends meet, it it may happen due to economic necessity. But first, they’ll have to come up with the dowry demands.

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