In a harrowing depiction of the state of affairs regarding child marriage, an Indian girl has sought one last attempt, to separate from her parents’ desire to see her married before turning eighteen.
Duli Hembrom, a thirteen-year-old girl from the state of Jharkhand in India, is scheduled to wed her husband on April 22 in Jamshedpur, which will finalise her incomplete education – something she was adamant on maintaining.
The student had reportedly failed to convince either of her parents against the marriage and instead reached out to her principal to annul any marital proceedings.
In a heartbreaking letter she wrote, “My parents have fixed my wedding on April 22. I do not want to get married; I took an oath at the time of admission that I will not get married before I turn 18. I do not wish to get married early,” in the letter, according to India Times.
Duli’s appeal is a frightening depiction of the larger issues regarding child-marriage in India and around the world.
As of last year, more than 700 million women across the globe were married before they turned 18, with more than a third of those, being married before the age of 15. India accounts for one third of all child brides globally.
Hembrom’s father spoke to Hindustan Times insisting that his decision would not be altered, citing the reason being that it was “too difficult to marry off a grown-up girl”.
Whilst child marriages are technically illegal in India, the law allows little intervention into cultural practices, with perpetrators rarely being held accountable. The most recent statistics count that only a mere eleven people were convicted of committing the offence in 2010.
This issue of gender disparity is one of the main reasons behind the perpetuation of archaic customs that endanger female lives and increase the likelihood of furthering financial dependence and negative economic consequences.
“If girls aren’t in school, they aren’t able to learn the skills which enable them to make a productive contribution to society,” says Suzanne Petroni, senior director of gender, population, and development at ICRW.
Jayati Ghosh, an economics professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University stated that the sad truth is, that parents often marry off their children young to ensure physical security for their daughters, before they are “marred” and therefore unwanted; “In [the fathers’] minds, it’s better the husband do it than someone else.”
This issue is not just localised to India, it’s reach effects girls all over the world. “Fifty-one countries across the world have a prevalence rate of 25 percent when it comes to girls married before 18,” says Petroni.
Petroni also stated that the heath issues associated with child marriage are all encompassing; “Married girls are more likely to be HIV positive or have STIs than unmarried girls because they are often married to older men with more extensive sexual histories, and they lack the education or rights to have any control over their sex lives.”
Furthermore the issue of early pregnancy in child brides is “the second leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, globally”. With girls becoming pregnant whilst still adolescents themselves, the risk of complications in pregnancy and childbirth is incredibly heightened.
The United Nations Population Fund (UFNPA) has spoken out about the practice, labelling it as a human rights violation that “remains widespread in developing countries where there is poverty and gender inequality”.
According to UN statistics, the number of child brides is expected to rise to 140 million, with 18.5 million of those being under the age of 15, by 2020.
In Africa, 42 percent of girls are married before the age of 18, compared to 29 percent in Latin American and the Caribbean.
Hembrom’s heartbreaking plea must be used as a constant reminder that customs endangering the lives of children are still shockingly prevalent across the globe. Child marriage is a painful fate that can be avoided through the correct rehabilitation of customary mentality, police procedures and public education.