01 August, 2021

Child, Do You Take This Man... I Don't

Too young to wed, these child brides are old enough—and brave enough—for divorce

T. Narayan
Child, Do You Take This Man... I Don't
In the end, it was just a simple, short ceremony. But for Susheela, it was the beginning of a new life. This 15-year-old girl from Alur village in Andhra Pradesh's Rangareddy district set an example to thousands like her when she took off her mangalsutra and returned it to the man she had been married to at age 13. Susheela is not eligible for a formal divorce, for the simple reason that she is a minor and her marriage cannot be recognised by law. So, it was the village panchayat that witnessed the ceremony involving the return of the mangalsutra and other gifts exchanged between the two families during the wedding, formalising the annulment of a marriage she wanted out of.

Child marriages are not uncommon in these parts of Andhra Pradesh. Nor are battered child wives. For all these girls deprived of a childhood, Susheela's rebellion could be a milestone. Her agricultural labourer parents had pulled her out of school after Class 7 and, ignoring her protests, married her off to a 20-year-old from a neighbouring village. Constantly harassed for more dowry, she was also made to...

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