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

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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
    good

    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.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora