Child Brides

In the past few days,  I saw two really well made documentaries – an episode of PBS NOW about “Child Brides: Stolen Lives” on DVD and “Smile Pinki” which won an Oscar this year.

For this PBS episode on child Brides, the correspondent Maria Hinojosa traveled around the three continents – Asia (India ), Africa (Niger) and America (Guatemala) to know more about child marriages in these regions and the efforts that are being put to solve this problem. The video showed children in India getting married at the age of 5 years hidden in the darkness of night, as it is illegal. Marring off girls at such a young age leads to a very high rate of child birth complication as their bodies are not fully developed. Moreover, statistics reveal that two-thirds of child marriages lead to domestic violence. Equally important is the fact that since these girls get married off so early in life, they are uneducated, unaware of their rights and are totally dependent on their in-laws and husband. They do not have any individual identity. Child marriages also lead to each women having more number of kids, thus contributing to the problem of over-population.

One of the interviewees mentioned that Dowry is one of the root causes of this problem. If the family finds someone who is willing to marry their daughter for a smaller amount of dowry, they immediately marry off their child so as not to loose that guy. I believe that besides this, another root cause is ignorance about the importance of education in our society especially among the poor and more so for the girl child. The parents think – “kya karegi hamari ladki padhke, shaadi karke sasuraal hi to jaana hai, vahan ghar bhaar chalayegi and bachche paalegi” (There is no use of educating our girl child. She eventually has to just get married off, go off to the in-laws, and take care of the family and children). Majority of these parents still think of their girl child as a burden on themselves due to the demands of dowry from the groom’s side.

Child education can help in eradicating this problem of child education. It is very important to send the girls and boys too to school at their young age. Keeping them in school, seeing them learn and progress ahead can act as a deterrent to the parents to not give their children to early marriage. Also, the children start developing their own personality and identity, get a different perspective in life, and see the vast opportunities available for them in life – who or what they want to become in life.

It is necessary to awaken and inform the people and masses about this pressing issue and the leaders and other influential people of the society can form a very effective medium in spreading the message (the documentary shared an exemplar of this in Niger).

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The ‘Smile Pinki’ documentary highlights the problem of children with cleft lip.  The documentary is well made. It took me on an emotional journey and I felt my eyes get wet at times, and my lips smiling at some other moments. It really touched my heart. This documentary served as a reminder to me that, there are people out there who want to spread love and happiness in the society, people who are thinking not just about themselves. Such people should be an inspiration for all of us.

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