In this episode, Rajashree and Nagasimha discuss the seriousness of the situation with regard to child marriages in the state. Rajashree shares about the three-month-long research which she and her team conducted in five districts with the help of volunteers in Belgavi, Bidar, Bagalkot, Chikkabalapur and Chamarajnagar. “Child Marriage is a very serious situation because it is like a never-ending pit – the deeper you dig, the more problems you find.” They were warned by the villagers to not interfere in personal matters and even politicians claimed that there were no such incidents in their areas. As per the research, however, there are 3,000 child marriage cases in these 5 districts.
“Most of these victims of the child marriage system don’t fight back because of various reasons, like emotional torture. They are very fearful and don’t come out and talk and some of them have given up hope for themselves. But, there are some who still retain some hope and want to fight back. There are girls who have been widowed and we are conducting various programmes like counselling to make these girls fearless and strong.”
Rajashree says that conducting counselling sessions is not so easy because there are parents who may resist sometimes. “So, to make the parents agree, especially the mothers, we have started various courses like tailoring courses, beautician courses, educational courses, embroidery courses and many more. By doing this, we are providing both formal and non-formal education.” She says that most of the girls feel that what has happened to them is not right and that they are not ready to accept it.
The victims who get married also end up facing many problems at maternity hospitals. Firstly, their age will be mentioned as 18 even if they are still 16 and 17, and at the end, they just write ‘risk pregnancy’. If not, then these girls will not get any facilities from the Government.
Then she shares about how various people of the village have formed groups and are fighting against this system. “Their motive is to stop child marriage, and to do that, they have to start talking to people, give them advice, and take them on to a right path.” When the team tried to bring this situation in front of the Government, it was a bit tough. But when many people from different organisations came forward and supported the cause, they also accepted the fact that child marriage was still in practice. The Government is supporting them, too, now.
The team is now educating people on various other things, like age gap between the children, proper nutrients that should be provided to a child and relevant legal matters. As per the research, Bagalakot and Belgaum are the two districts where child marriage cases are high. The reasons vary why this is happening and one of them is that the parents want to fulfil their duties and responsibilities towards their kids as soon as possible. Another is that they have trust issues with their kids and their romantic lives.
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