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A childhood without marriage for Foranta

by isabel last modified 2010-07-05 18:43

When Foranta’s father started making arrangements for her wedding, the Village Development Committed and Youth Mandal stepped in to ensure the child marriage didn’t go ahead. Now Foranta is enjoying school and feels free to be a child, and her parents have become advocates against child marriage.

Foranta - child marriage case study

Her grandmother was just two years old when she married; her mother was five when she married her seven year old father. It seemed only right that ten year old Foranta should follow tradition. It was just what happened here, especially as there were fewer girl children to go around.

Foranta’s father Ambalal had made an agreement five years before that she would marry the son of a friend’s friend. That son was now 12 years old. If he went back on the promise, his friend’s own daughter’s wedding would be called off too. In India this process of exchanging children to make good marriages is known as ala sata and it stems from the shortage of young girls. When Foranta was nine, Ambalal started making the wedding preparations, buying cooking ingredients and building a new chula, or stove. All his relatives and everyone from his village, Shalsagar, were invited to the party.

A member of the VDC heard about the wedding, and three days before it was due to take place they visited Ambalal and urged him not to let the marriage happen. He seemed determined to go ahead with it. The Youth Mandal informed the SDM who sent a teacher to explain that he could face imprisonment and a fine. The police were informed and took Foranta’s father to the police station. Ambalal faced the Block Level court and signed an agreement that his daughter would not get married until she was 18 and would attend school.

Her mother said she had no idea about the drawbacks of child marriage, she thought it was normal.

Foranta is a shy child, but when she does speak she tells of how much she enjoys school. She is making use of a CRC GVNML set up, reading books and painting. She feels free to be a child. If she was married, she said she would feel other responsibilities. Her mother said she had no idea about the drawbacks of child marriage, she thought it was normal. Now that she knows the negative effects it can have on children she feels very strongly that girls should not be married before the age of 18. Looking back, Ambalal is thankful to the VDC for stopping the marriage and he now sees it is not good for children to be married young and miss out on an education.

In this case, the VDC weren’t just responsible for stopping one child wedding, they turned Foranta’s parents into advocates against child marriage. Changing traditions which have been alive for hundreds of years is a slow process, and it is not just new laws that will change behaviour. It takes significant social efforts to make the smallest steps.

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