[Assam] child marriage in India
Rajen & Ajanta Barua
barua25 at hotmail.com
Tue May 6 06:53:37 IST 2008
We never heard of child marriage in Assam even among the Assamese Brahmins. Assam was free of many of the typical Hindu caste rules since long before the days of Sankardev, such as Child Marriage, Sati Dah, Dowry etc. On the other hand Widow marriage was very much in vogue in Assam since ancient times. Instead of dowry, we have the system of Jwrwn where the boy gives jewelry, dress and other gifts to the girl before the wedding. These practices are not confined to the Assamese alone but are common practices in most communities in the North East. I would say that the Assamese Hindus in fact has picked up many of the liberal social rules from the Hill people of the North East.
----- Original Message -----
From: "umesh sharma" <jaipurschool at yahoo.com>
To: <assam at assamnet.org>
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:09 AM
Subject: [Assam] child marriage in India
My mother was 20 when she got married but my father's parents (who would have been 108 years old today) got married when they were 13. His mother had a child when she was 16 - same as Mahatma Gandhi's marriage.
Almost all rural women in Rajasthan I have seen - when they move to work in the cities is that by the time they are in their twenties they already have pre-school age kids.
How about Assam? I think Sankardev had done some reform work.
Child marriages keep women subjugated.
A 1976 amendment to the Child Marriage Restraint Act raised the minimum legal age for marriage from 15 to 18 for young women and from 18 to 21 for young men. However, in many rural communities, illegal child marriages are still common. In some rural areas, nearly half the girls between 10 and 14 are married. Because there is pressure on women to prove their fertility by conceiving as soon as possible after marriage, adolescent marriage is synonymous with adolescent childbearing: roughly 10-15 percent of all births take place to women in their teens.
A May 1998 article in the New York Times states:
Child marriages contribute to virtually every social malaise 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.
The article cites a 1993 survey of more than 5,000 women in Rajasthan, which showed that 56 percent of them had married before they were 15. Barely 18 percent of them were literate and only 3 percent used any form of birth control other than sterilization. Sixty-three percent of the children under age 4 of these women were severely undernourished.
"Each year, formal warnings are posted outside state government offices stating that child marriages are illegal, but they have little impact."
One man interviewed for the article has seven daughters. He borrowed some 60,000 rupees to pay for the dowries for six of his daughters, ranging in age from 4-14. He reported that "the weddings mean that he can now look forward to growing old without being trapped in the penury by the need to support his daughters." (NYT)
Women are kept subordinate, and are even murdered, by the practice of dowry.
In India, 6,000 dowry murders are committed each year. This reality exists even though the Dowry Prohibition Act has been in existence for 33 years, and there are virtually no arrests under the Act. Since those giving as well as those accepting dowry are punishable under the existing law, no one is willing to complain. It is only after a "dowry death" that the complaints become public. It is estimated that the average dowry today is equivalent to five times the family's annual income and that the high cost of weddings and dowries is a major cause of indebtedness among India's poor.
A December 1997 article in India Today, entitled, Victims of Sudden Affluence states, "A woman on fire has made dowry deaths the most vicious of social crimes; it is an evil endemic to the subcontinent but despite every attempt at justice the numbers have continued to climb. With get-rich-quick becoming the new mantra, dowry became the perfect instrument for upward material mobility." A study done by a policy think-tank, the Institute of Development and Communication, states, "the quantum of dowry exchange may still be greater among the upper classes, but 80 percent of dowry deaths and 80 percent of dowry harassment occurs in the middle and lower stratas."
The article goes on to state, "So complete is the discrimination among women that the gender bias is extended even toward the guilty. In a bizarre trend, the onus of murder is often put on the women to protect the men. Sometimes it is by consent. Often, old mothers-in-law embrace all the blame to bail out their sons and husbands."
Despite every stigma, dowry continues to be the signature of marriage. Says Rainuka Dagar, "It is taken as a normative custom and dowry harassment as a part of family life."
Ed.M. - International Education Policy
Harvard Graduate School of Education,
Class of 2005
http://www.uknow.gse.harvard.edu/index.html (Edu info)
http://hbswk.hbs.edu/ (Management Info)
www.gse.harvard.edu/iep (where the above 2 are used )
Sent from Yahoo! Mail.
A Smarter Email.
assam mailing list
assam at assamnet.org
More information about the assam