The girl is playing with a doll; the boy with his new toy car. Both are dressed in bright colors. A man sits with a book in hand, reading it aloud. A 7 and an 8-year-old get married, playfully. Ten years later, the boy is unemployed and an alcoholic comes to claim her bride. The girl has no choice.
Seeped in age-old customs and traditions, this is usually how a child marriage takes place in Rajasthan, which has one of the highest rates of child marriages not just in India but the world. Almost 47% of child marriages take place in India, 67% of that number is accounted for only by northern Rajasthan. While in Rajasthan the practice is an amalgam of old traditions, customs, patriarchal society and extreme poverty, other parts of India are not oblivious to the scourge of child marriage which takes place due to grinding poverty, a primitive mindset with little or no education.
Kriti Bharti, a 27-year-old from the patriarchal heartland of India, Rajasthan sees this problem as a challenge. Defying all odds, she has annulled 27 child marriages and stopped more than 900 in the last four years. Being a woman, hers is an arduous and a dangerous task.
Annulling a child marriage is a perilous task. Kriti and her team approach the bride’s family to convince them against the marriage. They also approach the bridegroom’s family. Sometimes the parents agree. But the onerous task is convincing the community elders, as for them the honour of the community is at stake. If any of these parties are unwilling to cooperate, Kriti and her team take recourse to the legal method.
I will give them a chance to come round and agree to their daughter’s wishes. But if they don’t I will turn to the courts myself and I’ll allow the law to do its job
But her responsibility does not end here. Kriti and her Saarthi Trust which works for the upliftment of women in Rajasthan provide for the saved child so that they become productive members of society. This includes accommodations, education, vocational training and landing them into a job. She also maintains constant contact with the girls they have rescued. The Saarthi Trust also conducts camps and informal talks in village anganwadis and schools where women are allowed to share their thoughts and experiences and learn from them.
— Girls Not Brides (@GirlsNotBrides) October 9, 2016
Thanks to our efforts, child marriages which were formalised years ago are being annulled and simultaneously communities are developing an understanding that child marriage limits a child’s present and future prospects
Kriti is a recipient of many awards and accolades. She has recently received a fellowship from the British government and Thomson Reuters. She also has a place in the school curriculum in Rajasthan in which she has a chapter dedicated to herself. Kriti Bharti has received more than hundred death threats till date but there is nothing stopping her, not even death. “Such things don’t matter as long as the girl child gets rescued,” she says. Kriti at such a young age has become an inspiration for many across India and the world. Ask any of the girls she has rescued, she wants to be another Kriti Bharti!
Image Source: indialivetoday.com