Too Young For Marriageby Ayesha Jain, 4th February 2016
Seema was a bright young girl that enjoyed counting and problem solving. She dreamed of being a mathematician or scientist but her parents felt that girls were not worth educating. Instead they considered her a burden and by the age of 14, she was the bride to an older man in an illegal marriage. She gave birth to her first child the day before her 16th birthday.
Child marriage is a violation of basic human rights. It is illegal and yet there are millions of girls just like Seema who are waiting helplessly to meet the same fate.
A girl, not a bride.
While both girls and boys are affected by child marriage, girls are affected in greater intensity and numbers. A girl married at such a young age is not just tied down by the shackles of societal norms, she is also deprived of education, health and safety. Girls who are married before the age of 18 are more likely to be the victims of rape and domestic violence. Teenage girls are more likely to die during pregnancy and child birth than adult women.
India is home to nearly one third of the total child brides across the world, second only to Bangladesh.
A protest against child marriage.
Although law enforcement helps, education is key to abolishing child marriages. In our poorest societies, parents often cannot afford to educate all of their children so they are forced to choose between their sons and daughters. In almost all cases, the daughter remains home and receives no education. She is then reliant on others for her entire life and such situations only encourage the groom's family to demand dowry.
Our company is in the business of marriage and on a personal level it is very rewarding. We enjoy nothing more than witnessing the happy bonds and families that we have helped bring together. Occasionally though, we are approached by parents who wish for us to find a groom for their under age daughter. Upon learning that iMarriages will not be involved in child marriage and in spite of our protests, the parents insist that they will find a groom elsewhere. Each time we have one of these conversations, our hearts break for the child.
Actress Dia Mirza with the team at Teach Girls.
Recently we came across a non profit organisation named TeachGirls that is striving to make a difference. Based in Dehra Dun, TeachGirls has created a cost free platform for children living in slums to complete their education. Impressed by what they have achieved in such a short time span, iMarriages has selected TeachGirls as a partner to give back and help improve our society.
Providing education to underprivileged girls not only helps break the cycle of poverty, it also encourages them to be independent and not reliant on marriage. As well as young girls, the organisation now assists mature women who were themselves victims of early or child marriages.