Indian child bride married at 11 months finally wins her freedom

19-year-old was fined with a sum of £16,000 and banished from community for trying to annul the marriage


Web Desk October 21, 2015
19-year-old was fined with a sum of £16,000 and banished from community for trying to annul the marriage. PHOTO: COVER ASIA PRESS

An Indian child bride who was married at the age of 11 months to a nine-year-old in Rajasthan, was finally awarded an annulment by a family court this week.

According to reports, Santadevi Meghwal, 19, was informed about her marriage with Saanval Ram, 28, two years ago after which she tried to annul the marriage.

Breaking tradition, India's child brides fight for freedom

However, as soon as she decided to take the step, Meghwal and her family were fined with a sum of £16,000 by a Panchyat, a self-government organisation, who also banished them from the community.

Determined to fight for freedom, Meghwal, who now dreams of becoming a teacher, with the assistance of a charity and child marriage activist finally succeeded.

"I did not believe in this marriage and I was determined to fight for my freedom and break free. I was not going to give up," Meghwal said. Upon being awarded the annulment, she termed it to be "a wonderful day for me."

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The teenager approached a family court on May 13 this year to request the annulment, however, as her husband and his family heard about it, reported her to the Panchyat for going against the age-old tradition.

"It’s appalling that my marriage was hidden from me all these years, Meghwal stated, adding that "I only came to know when my village elders told my father to send me to my in-laws."

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"At first I couldn’t digest the fact but it was the truth and my parents told me to accept it as my fate," she explained saying that "I was not going to sit back and have my life taken away from me. I refused, and kept on giving excuses and refused to go to my in-laws house but the pressure built, I was threatened and told I’d be forcibly taken."

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Unable to fight the pressure, Meghwal reportedly approached Saarthi Trust, a children’s rights group where its founder, also a child marriage campaigner, Kriti Bharti; said she was "over the moon" when Meghwal won her freedom, adding that "It’s my dream to eradicate child marriage from India forever, and this is just another girl’s life I have helped to save."

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She further added that "parents are generally apprehensive about going down such roads because of the humiliation and the consequences of being ostracised from the community. But thankfully Meghwal’s father finally supported her."

The charity was responsible for helping the first girl in India - Laxmi Sargara - to annul her child marriage in 2012 and since then they have helped to annul 27 child marriages.

According to a census in 2011, about 1.6 million children were married between 2000 and 2010 in Rajasthan.

This article originally appeared on Mirror

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