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Village forces girls to marry by 15 or be doomed

 

SAHANA ATTUR | Mysore, January 12, 2012 21:43
Tags : child marriage | girls | gandathur | mysore | beda community |
 

What can be worse than a child marriage? How about a tradition which says that girls must get married by the age of 15 or else have to spend their life as a spinster? Well, this is exactly the tradition which is being followed in a village near Mysore district for the past several decades.

Gandathur, a hamlet near HD Kote Taluk here in Mysore district in Karnataka, is really infamous in the area for following the inhuman practice. Elders from the Beda community have made it mandatory for girls to get married as soon as they attain puberty.

Marriages in this hamlet, in fact, depend not much on the age factor but on the puberty attainment by a girl. If a girl attains puberty at the age of 10, she will be forced to marry within the year itself. The village is full of teenage girls each of whom has already given birth to a few kids even before reaching 18 years of age.

Lalitha, a mother of two kids is now 18 years old. Since she attained puberty at the age of 12, she was married off when she was only 14. In the years following her marriage, she gave birth to one baby boy and a baby girl. “I studied till 4th standard. We are three daughters of my mother and my elder sisters also got married at a very young age", explains Lalitha while speaking to TSI. Lalitha's neighbour Saraswathi, whose father is a patriarch of the Beda Community, has also being victimised by this evil tradition. Saraswathi attained puberty while she was in senior secondary school and despite her protests was married off in the same year.

Worse to this, once a girl crosses 15 years of age, her chances of getting married diminishes as the village elders mandate that she can only marry widowers or those men who want to go in for a second marriage. So deep is this cultural psyche that even most boys in the villages refuse to marry girls aged 15 years or more.

The story of 19 year old Raji, who refused to undergo early marriage becuase of her ambition to study further, is heart rending. "It is a pathetic reality of Beda community that girls enter into wedlock between 10 to 15 years of age. Girls here have a constant fear of not getting suitable grooms if they cross the age limit set", she laments. Raji expressed that she is more disheartened when educated people do not raise their voice against this inhuman practice. "We being females are considered a backward class of the society who can not even afford education also", she added.

It may be noted that the hamlet comprises 1227 people, out of which 662 are females and 565 are males. The ratio of females per thousand males is higher as most girls above the age of 15 years remain unmarried, creating an imbalance in the sex ratio. According to the recent Census data, 122 women remained unmarried as they were above 15 years of age.

Although it is illegal for girls to marry before the age of 18, the local authorities continue to turn a blind eye to the problem. When TSI spoke to the local Police Superintendent Manish Kanikar, he simply shifted the blame elsewhere. "The issue of girl child marraige comes under the Department of Child and Women Welfare and yet we have not received any calls from them", he said. When probed further, Kanikar said that a legal service authority had visited the village when news of such practice came into light, but nobody in the village filed any complaints.

When TSI contacted CC Patil, the State Minister for Women & Child Welfare, he expressed awareness of the problem and said that the local police is taking care of it. "Most of the people living in this region are illiterate. Necessary measures have been taken to stop this heinous practice and also an awareness drive has been led by SP, DCP of the district", avers the Minister. Patil adds that the community elders have in fact agreed that the practise of child marraiges should be stopped immidiately in the village.

Surprisingly, even after the sensitive issue hit headlines, the minister has not even bothered to visit the concerned village as yet. While the police and politicians continue to ignore the social menace, girls in this village continue to suffer the fate dictated by hard core age old caste and cultural traditions.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017