Helping girls avoid early marriages in India
In India, 44.5% of girls get married before their eighteen birthday
Young women in India are particularly at risk of being forced to marry without their consent. Dramatically reducing their opportunities in life and putting their sexual and reproductive health and well being at risk.
Tanay, is a peer educator from the eastern city of Kolkata, who Interact has helped train to confront early marriages. He and his friends see the scenarios of early and forced marriages' play out on a weekly basis:
“They want to marry their daughters early as they have financial problems." Says Tanay of parents who want the dowry money they feel raising a daughter has entitled them too.
"If they get a good price for their daughter, it can help their financial situation a lot.”
Early marriage poses severe physical and psychological risks to girls.
I was forced to get married before 18. Though I was aware of the risks involved, I was not able to raise my voice against the decision of my parents" Sabita, 20 years old.
Pregnancy is rarely far behind marriage in India, where family planning use is low.
Young women in their teens are more likely to suffer complications such as fistula. They and their babies are less likely to survive childbirth.
Tanay says it’s difficult to talk with families about these issues.
“You’re going into someone’s personal space and the question comes up – if I don’t get my child married now, who is going to take care of her?... However, when we explain the consequences of child marriage, they often agree to do the whole thing later.”
Interact, in partnership with the Children In Need Institute (CINI), works to support gender equality in India.
Rijuta (left hand in photo) is another peer educator. Working alongside 42 others in her community to provide information about early marriage and other issues like changes in the body during adolescence, periods or contraception.
“Parents have stopped looking for bridegrooms before their girls reach 18. Boys used to drop nasty comments at girls, but that’s totally stopped now.”
Cultural and religious beliefs have a big impact on peoples lives
This is especially for women and girls rights in India, which is why we seek to involve local leaders in the defense of girls’ rights in India.
Faisal is a peer educator working within his Muslim community to raise awareness of issues like forced marriage, gender inequality, family planning, and HIV and AIDS:
“I asked our local youth leader to come and talk to the Mullah… Now, the Mullah’s daughter is a peer educator. In cases of early marriage, the Mullah makes personal visits to the family so they will marry later.”
We encourage children and young people, especially women, to take part in decision-making processes that affect their lives.