News / Asia

Indian Girls Rise Up Against Child Marriage

Aru Pande
Child marriage is an ancient practice in India, and despite being illegal, it continues today in mostly rural areas. Nearly half of women in India are married before the age of 18 and many of those become brides much younger.

But one group in eastern India is looking to change this trend.
Bithika Das is concentrating on her school work. The 16-year-old girl from a small village in West Bengal state knows this opportunity to study is one that was nearly lost two years ago when her parents arranged her marriage to a young man.
“If I got married then, my education would have stopped at ninth grade. I could have achieved nothing in the future with an incomplete education. In my husband’s family, I was not going to get good respect,” she said.

Foundation fights back

After her parents' refusal to cancel the marriage arrangement, Bithika contacted the Murshidabad office of the Childline India Foundation. The group runs a 24-hour hotline, providing counseling and other help to children in crisis.
Childline activist Debika Ghoshal led the team that helped stall the marriage of then-14-year-old Bithika. The group works with local police to lodge criminal complaints against parents who do not comply with the law banning child marriage. Activists then focus on ensuring that a young girl is able to continue with her education.
“The girls say they want to study further. They are closer to the media and they know that society - the world - is marching ahead; everyone is advancing," said Ghoshal. "So, they, too, want to move ahead. But mostly because of poverty and partly for some other social reasons the parents want to marry them [their daughters] off in their childhood.”

Money a factor

By marrying off their young daughters, poor families can reduce their financial burden and, in some cases, avoid paying a higher dowry to the child's potential in-laws.
Murshidabad resident Amena Begum had hoped to marry off her 14-year-old daughter, but the marriage was thwarted by activists and her daughter returned to school.
“Where shall I get a suitable groom for her if I don’t marry her off right now, and let her study further, and finally she turns 25?” asked Begum.
The United Nations already has raised awareness of the consequences of child marriage in India, citing the higher drop-out rates of child brides and their greater risk of being physically and sexually abused.
Childbirth versus education

But the effect can be more grave. UNICEF says girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are more likely to experience delivery complications during childbirth and that neonatal, infant and child mortality rates are much higher for young mothers.
For now, young girls like Bithika are being spared this fate as they rise up against a centuries-old practice.

"I know when I marry in the future I will go to a good family, and because of my strength and job I will get respect there. They will not be able to neglect me," said Bithika.

This teenager has finished at the top of her class and has been recognized by the president for her courage. She now has a different vision of her future - one that involves becoming a school teacher.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dr.Muhammad Naeem from: Pakistan,Karachi
October 20, 2012 10:23 AM
I would like to say in this regard that awareness about it is very important.

by: Muhammad Tariq Ghouri from: Pakistan
October 14, 2012 3:18 PM
Every single person has right to live his or her life as he/she wish, No one has right to snatch basic rights. Bithika became the role model for others girls who lives in this type of society,

by: anwarali from: rajasthan bhadra
October 11, 2012 10:41 AM

by: paris tun from: myanmar
October 11, 2012 7:45 AM
We need a lot of good heroes to get rid of horrible traditions like child marriage.Our world is hungering for heroes.Feel very bad to hear that many women become victims of this terrible tradition. But glad to hear that there are good people with compassion,help those who are in need. They are definitely the hope of many children.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs