False promises tempt minors for marriage

Bangalore child rights

Most minor girls in the city now regret marrying their older partners, under false pretences.

By Yukta Mudgal

In Bengaluru, many girls below 18 years of age get married due to allurement by older men, lack of awareness and emotional support from parents. Child marriage is prohibited under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.

Valli, 31year old social worker at Marga, an NGO in Koramangala, said “Parenting plays the most important role in preventing child marriages.”

“I got married when I was  17 years old because my father wanted me to get married to a 32-year-old man who was rich. I grew up seeing my father beat my mother. I started thinking of living my life on my own terms and got married early. But in the eighth year of my marriage, my husband started drinking and hitting me.”

As per data shared by the Directorate of Women and Child Development Department, Bengaluru received 20 complaints against child marriage in 2019-2020, 43 complaints in 2020-2021 and 51 complaints in 2021-2022.

Valli narrated the story of 16-year-old girl Kavya (name changed), who ran away from her home to marry a man who lured her with a promise of a good life. After two years of marriage, the man started beating her. Kavya left him and now she begs in one of the lanes of Rajendra Nagar slum near Koramangala.

Another story Valli shared was of a 15-year-old girl Sofie (name changed), who got into a relationship with a 27-year-old man. At 18, she is a mother of two. Her husband rarely comes to the house and has an extra-marital affair.

Rajendra Nagar resident Pooja (name changed) said, “I got into an affair with Sanju (name changed) when I was in the 10th grade. When my mother found out about the relationship, she beat me and that very moment I decided that I should leave my house and marry him.”

Pooja, now 19, has a one-year-old daughter with Sanju. She suffers domestic abuse by her husband. “While cleaning toilets in hospitals, I cry profusely and regret marrying him.”

Hasina Begum (name changed) of Hombegowda slum near Lalbagh said her teenage daughter got into a relationship with a boy and now she is pregnant. Hasina said that she wants her to study or get married but her daughter is reluctant.

Nagamani, nodal coordinator, Child Rights Trust, said, “Early pregnancy leads to health complications. We talk to the girls about post-pregnancy and relationship issues and solutions to get out of them. After rescuing the girls, we send them to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC). We come across many cases of child marriages. Girls who are married off early lose their childhood and their chance to get an education.”

As per a  report in December 2021, the government introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha to amend the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, in order to raise the age of marriage for girls from 18 to 21 years.

Nagamani said: “Even if the age at which girls get married changes, the mindsets and attitude of the society will not be changed. We need to make our girls more aware about the laws and educate them first.”

Asha H.K., Senior Assistant Director, Child Marriage Prohibition Cell, Directorate of Women and Child Development Department, said, “Some girls are married off early because their parents feel their daughters are a burden. Some cases happen because parents do not want to give a portion of their property to their daughters, but most cases are of girls deciding to get married due to allurement by men.”

“Cases of child marriage have risen in Karnataka because migrants from Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Kerala have settled down in Bengaluru and marry their young daughters in the capital city. Karnataka has 58,522 child marriage prohibition officers who try to create awareness about girl child education and health. We have launched a programme called Video on Wheels which shows inspiring stories of women,” Asha said.


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