16-year-old refuses to accept her child marriage

April 23rd, 2012 - 8:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Jaipur, April 23 (IANS) She was married off when she was only an infant yet, but coming of age the 16-year-old Rajasthani girl now wants that marriage annulled and freedom of choice to be educated and working restored to her.

“Child marriage is illegal as per the law, I have sought help from an NGO. I have been told to seek legal remedy under section 10 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1956,” said Laxmi, a resident of Luni town in Jodhpur district, some 400 km from the state capital.

The issue of her child marriage has come to the fore because her in-laws want her to move in on April 24, the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akha Teej, when Goddess Lakshmi is brought home.

“I was recently told by my elder brother Hanuman that I had been married when I was an infant. I was quite shocked. He told me that I was married to one Rakesh three days after the death of my grandmother in 1996 with the consent of elders in my family,” Laxmi told media persons.

She said her so-called in-laws were now pressurising her maternal family to send her to them as their “bahu” (daughter-in-law).

“As per the local tradition that is called ‘gauna’, I am now being forced to stay with my in-laws. I had been living with my brother for the past 16 years,” said Laxmi. As per the ‘gauna’ tradition followed in some rural areas of Rajasthan, girls are married off in the childhood, but sent to live with their in-laws later when they enter their teens.

The ambitious Laxmi would have none of it, however. She wants to pursue studies. “I will complete my graduation and then would like to work,” said Laxmi.

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