India : child marriages are still a common practice

Girl dressed for marriage. Rajasthan ( India)

Every year in april-may, thousands of young boys and girls are given in wedlock in the indian state of Rajasthan. Sometimes, the girl is as young as 2 years old ( and the boy not much older ). The law permits the marriage of a girl if she attains the age of 18 and in the case of a boy, it should be 21. But child marriage has been a tradition for centuries in western India and the law relating to them is flouted with impunity in rural areas. In villages, child marriages are performed with the approval of the entire society.

Marriages are held on Akshaya Tritya day, an auspicious time for weddings as no dowry is then required. Parents feel that such marriages make the child sensible and responsible. They consider it’s a way to avoid unwanted sexual experiences. Moreover poor parents say child marriages involve less expenditure.This custom poses also the question of child widows. Indeed, in the state, there are hundreds child widows who are virtually used as bonded labourers by their relatives. Because of the tradition, such widows are not allowed to get married again, then facing humiliation all their life.

Despite being banned, child marriages take place openly, the police considering it as a tradition, an element of the Rajasthani identity.

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