Monday, June 25, 2012

The Child Brides of India.

It is May 2012.

The heat reflects off the untarred roads creating simmering images of the infamous Indian summers.

42 degrees. 43 degrees. 44 degrees.

You can have a safe bet on the temperature unlike the rupee, unlike the country's economy, unlike the country's GDP. It will never fail you.

In this heat, a cooler buzzes in a one-room house in the Shakurpur Basti. Occasionally, a goods train passes by while passengers wait for their locals. In this basti, I meet three women- all the faces of a common woman of India. Dressed in sarees as is still the tradition, their foreheads beautifully decorated with the symbolic bindi, they are mothers to little children, they are the wives to the men who remain out of their homes working, bringing whatever they can. There is another thread that ties these women together, I realize as I step out of one house and enter the other.

There were all child brides.

No fathers were punished. No grooms were punished. Nothing was reported.

No history comes out to haunt you even when you have committed a crime. No enquiries called for even when the brides shyly tell you that they were married off when they were 15 or 16 or 17. No one is accounted for.

Except for the bride.

Of course, some are happily married, as they say.

But, some of them, they have a little voice that hesitates when they talk about their marriage. It could be anything… and yet.

And, this is Delhi, the country’s capital that I am talking about.

I wonder what happens when a child is married off- what circumstances surround her, what people tell her about marriage. I fall in the "lucky women" category and for the most part of the rest of my life, I will fall in that category as will my daughters.

India will celebrate its 65 years of independence from Britishers. 15th of August will be another day when the schools will be off, offices will be closed, another speech by our Prime Minister, and another day come and gone. God knows, we still have lots to be freed from. Freedom from Britishers, comparatively, looks easy.

Yes! Our forefathers, the creators of independent India thought about us- their progeny. They thought about how we will live in an independent country, and they thought about what we will have to our discourse. They raided the constitutions of the developed worlds to write a Constitution of our own- a remarkable achievement, a symbol of pride, a heritage.

India, though, still continues to struggle with child marriages.

India- A country where more than one-thirds of all the world’s child brides live. 

India- A country where marriage is celebrated for what it is- an occasion to rejoice, a union of two souls into one, even if the bride is 16 and the groom 18. Even if the bride is 12 and the groom is 14. Even if the bride is 13 and the groom 18. Even if the bride is 17 and the groom is 30.

India- A developing country.  


  1. This fascinates me. Completely.
    I think of myself at any age younger than when I chose to get married (and that was considered young, at 23) and I can't even imagine. What a different life it could have been.
    Thank you for writing this. I'm equally horrified and fascinated.
    (I hope that's not terrible to say...)

    1. No, of course I understand Corinne. Sometimes I think of it the same way...