I want to receive new articles by email
Working to end child marriages
By María V. R.
A UN report states that child marriage is a serious problem that affects over 600 million young women and girls throughout the developing world. In India it is a deep-rooted tradition for adult men to marry girls who have not yet reached the age of 15. These girls are given by their relatives in exchange for a dowry, and with the expectation that the union will bring a higher social status for the entire family. Many of these girls are not even sexually developed, but after getting married their husband has the right to force them to have non-consensual sex, which in other countries would be classified as rape and considered a crime.
This abusive custom has given rise to groups of women who join together to disrupt and discourage child marriages. Their work focuses on raising awareness about the implications for a girl's life of giving her in marriage to a man who is double or triple her age. They do this by talking with community leaders and asking them to set a good example by not allowing their daughters to marry below the legal age. They also work with religious leaders encouraging them to refuse to perform these types of marriages. These women even stage protests at prominent underage weddings to inhibit the arrival of guests and bring more exposure to this problem. It is not easy to change cultural systems that have been in place for centuries, but these courageous women are bringing the light of the 21st century to this dark corner of Indian society.