Saturday, October 27, 2012

India 24: The Brigade to Foil the Marriage of Children

Yesterday Bangalore newspapers carried the story of a 16 year old girl who dialed 1098 and saved herself from becoming a child bride minutes before she was to be married.  The Child Rights Commission here established a hot line which sent three volunteers and a policeman to the girl's home.  She was taken to a safe house and her father has agreed let her continue her education and not to marry her off until she is l8.

Story is consistent with what one of my three remarkable women, Jyoti Tanna, told me: girls are married off because families can't afford to keep them and look for an out.  The Commission says it has intervened in 932 cases this year, all of them successfully.  However the larger picture is that 40 percent of all the child brides in the world are in India and last year 14 million girls 15-l8 gave birth.

In a previous blog on the subject of women's rights and treatment I touched briefly on the plight of widows.  In the Hindu tradition, widows are suppose to destroy all their jewelry, not remarry and live a chaste life.  A 20 year old book, City of Djinns (Demons) by William Dalrymple, told of 5,000 widows in a temple in Vrindavan who lived on a little rice and two rupees a day because they had nowhere else to go.  I assume this could not possibly still be the practice.  But the 2008 Rough Guide to India says the number of widows in Vrindavan is now 9,000!  There are NGO's at work trying to help them.

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