Choti si umar….
Photo courtesy ICRW(The International Centre for Research On Women)
India is a child marriage hub, says a UNICEF report.
UNICEF released their State of the World’s Children-2009 report that also revealed shocking figures about how India is still living the curse of child marriages, one of the major causes of the high maternal mortality rate.
High rate of child marriages in India is perhaps one of the reasons why women in developing countries like ours are 300 times more likely to die during childbirth than those in the developed world.
Evidence shows that those who become mothers in their teens are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s.
The statistics are alarming:
45% of women married before they turned 18.
78,000 women die during childbirth every year.
One million infants die every year, 40% of them in the first week after birth.
The National Family Health Survey-3 (NFHS-3) also suggests that more than 50 per cent girls in the state become mothers by the age of 19. Rajasthan tops the list in the country with the average age of a girl at marriage being 16.6 years, closely followed by Bihar (17.2 years) and Madhya Pradesh (17 years).
Every year, large-scale child marriages take place on Akshaya Tritiya in the rural areas of the state, especially among the tribals. Districts like Kota, Jhalawar, Barmer, Chittorgarh and Dungarpur are infamous for witnessing child marriages in massive scale. Though the official figures are quite low, according to the NGOs, over 60% of the girls in the state are married off before they turn 18.
What were the thoughts of the father of the nation on this evil?
Much as I wish that I had not to write this chapter, I know that I shall have to swallow many such bitter draughts in the course of this narrative. And I cannot do otherwise, if I claim to be a worshipper of Truth. It is my painful duty to have to record here my marriage at the age of thirteen. As I see the youngsters of the same age about me who are under my care, and think of my own marriage, I am inclined to pity myself and to congratulate them on having escaped my lot. I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage.
There are some steps that governments are taking in order to prevent such marriages from happening.
Alarmed at the high rate of school dropouts by girls due to child marriages, the Jharkhand government plans to give stipends to schoolchildren only if the parents sign an undertaking that they will not marry their daughters off below 18.
There are quite strict laws in India regarding child Marriage.Child marriages are prohibited in India.
The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929
(19 of 1929)
However,the Government of India has had to explain its stand on the child marriage act before the judiciary at various times.
This practice of child marriage however is not prevalent in just India,it is prevalent in other South Asian countries too.and not just south asian countries but in countries like Ethiopia ,Niger and Uganda.
On Wednesday, 11-year-old Soram Singh peeked shyly from behind her veil a couple of hours after her marriage to Bheeram Singh, 16, a student in the nearby government school. Singh is a common surname in the town, and the two are not related.
“The law to stop child marriage is not powerful enough,” Girija Mewada, a police constable posted at a Hindu temple in Rajgarh, said Wednesday, as she noted down the names of young couples who went to the temple for wedding blessings.
India law prohibits marriage for women younger than 18 and men under age 21, and parents who break the law — nearly all such marriages are arranged by parents — can be jailed for up to three months.
But while the practice is dying out among urban, educated people, child marriages remain common in rural areas. There, it is seen as being beneficial for both families: The bride’s parents don’t have to support her for very long, and the groom’s family gains an unpaid servant, often treated as virtual slave, who usually brings a dowry.
The children remain in their parents’ houses, though, until the girl reaches puberty, after which she is brought to the groom’s home with great ceremony and the marriage is consummated.
There are organisations like ICRW which have been working tirelessly for this cause.
Shobha Gurtu -Choti si umar parnai o babasa
E-Snips (The audio version is available here)
or on YOU Tube (The lyrics are here)
(the pics seem to have no relevance as such to the song…and yet look at the innocence on those young faces and try to picture the turmoil in their hearts if they were ever to be married off…..the kind of lament that leads to this kind of a song…..)
I first found this song on E-snips.
Most of us are familiar with the serial called ‘Balika Vadhu’ which is being aired these days on the COLORS channel.The title song of that serial ,that is, the lyrics and the music have been inspired by this Rajasthani folk song.
Usually most Bidaai’or wedding songs In India focus on the bride and her role as a daughter.Most songs describe the daughter leaving her parents house and the heartache that results.
However,what makes this song more heartbreaking is the fact that this is a traditional folk song from Rajasthan,a state which has been rather infamous for its tradition of child marriages .The tradition of child marriages in Rajasthan goes way back.As a result such songs have become part of their heritage.
This song describes the heartache and confusion of a little girl who is bewildered and cannot fathom why or how she is being sent somewhere else…when all her life this ..her parents home is the only home she has ever known.
Why am I being sent to someone else’s house at such a tender age O father?
Why have you made me a stranger to my own family at such a small age ?
Did I do something wrong?Was it my fault ?she asks…
You gave me so much love and affection for so many years…why are you now sending me away?
I am the innocent bird perched on the tree in the courtyard,I will fly away if you want me to….
I am the calf tethered in your courtyard…will you break the rope and let me go?Why will you let me go?
If you want to send me…then send me..
if that is your wish then so be it..
…but please call me when saawan arrives……(saawan-the monsoons/rainy season)
and the little girl,,,the daughter keeps asking the same question again and again in the song…
Why are you sending me away father?Why?Did I do something wrong?Was it my fault?
Why are you making me paraaya at such a small age?(paraaya-not mine./.someone else’s)
I was born in your home…I played in your home…now you are sending me to some other house?
I take one step ahead,and somehow I can’t…my feet want to turn back of their own accord….my heart is shedding tears..
.my heart is overflowing with emotions..
I turn and look back…what do I say?
what can I say?
My tears say everything….
My heart’s heavy with tears…and churning with emotions
come my friends…lets embrace…
for I dont know if we will ever meet again or not…
my brother. my sister in law …I am leaving all of you…
my eyes are brimming with tears…
and in the end the little girl ,the daughter…so very young…tries to console her own heart by saying
these are the ways of the world….what can I do?
I will have to bear them ….I will have to abide by them will I not?
This is not a literal translation of the song.It merely seeks to provide the gist…the meaning that the song is trying to convey.. It is in Rajasthani or maybe dhoondhari language (I think)I was only able to understand parts of it.
What breaks my heart and anyone’s who understands the meaning , is the fact that a little girl …the kind of girls we were ,the kind of girls our daughters are…that kind of a girl …..that innocent little girl who should be in school,playing with toys….that young a girl is singing this song…
I cannot even begin to imagine the ugly tradition called child marriage which gave birth to this song.
The tradition might have existed for a number of reasons…but isnt it time to put an end to it?
What a travesty that it continues still in the India of today…
Folk songs are the true indicators of where a culture has come from and indeed where is it headed….
Folk songs have a whole history inherent in them….they sing of all that we were and all that we are….
What does this heartbreaking song say about Rajasthan?And us?
Edited to add:-Some reports on the status of women in India
The survey, which took into consideration women-sensitive variables such as sex ratio, literacy rates, child mortality, fertility and work participation, found the Hindi heartland states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana as the most women-unfriendly.
Concern focused on an arc of populous northern states where child marriages are most deeply rooted: Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, with a combined population of 420 million, about 40 percent of all Indians.
According to decades of research, child marriages contribute to virtually every social problem that keeps India behind in women’s rights. The problems include soaring birth rates, grinding poverty and malnutrition, high illiteracy and infant mortality, and low life expectancy, especially among rural women.
In Rajasthan, a survey of more than 5,000 women conducted by the national government in 1993 showed that 56 percent had married before they were 15. Of those, 3 percent married before they were 5 and another 14 percent before they were 10. Barely 18 percent were literate, and only 3 percent used any form of birth control other than sterilization.
3) 40% of the world’s child marriages take place in India
2)Child Marriage In South Asia-Brutal Murder Of Innocence