This Girl From Rajasthan Was Married Off At The Age Of 14. A Jodhpur Court Has Finally Declared Her Marriage Void
If there one thing no one can deny it’s that we are a society that is obsessed with marriage. Getting girls married, to be precise. In college, we are taught that marriage is a social institution. Is it merely an institution though? In my opinion, it’s the concept around which our society revolves. If a girl isn’t married by a certain age, her family is shamed and boycotted. Which, let’s face it, is every Indian family’s worst nightmare. That’s probably where child marriage stems from too, isn’t it? It’s ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of girls. Like the girl from Rajasthan, we are discussing today, for instance. She was married off at the tender age of 14 and not, 8 years and tremendous struggle later, a local court in Jodhpur finally declared her marriage void. Even though we have strict laws against child marriage, they aren’t protecting anyone until this disgusting mentality changes.
In May 2013, 14-year-old Chhota Devi (what an ironic name!) was married off while she was still in the 9th grade. Since then, she has faced more struggles than most people do in their entire lifetime. She has been terrorized by her husband and in-laws, harassed by the caste panchayat, thrown out of her house and forced to drop out of college. And she isn’t alone. There must be thousands of girls, around our country, who share this same story. It’s heartbreaking. However, recently, after 8 years, a court in Jodhpur agreed to annul her marriage. That’s a major win for Chhota Devi!
Talking to Indian Express, Chhota Devi said that in 2013, when she was in the 9th grade, she was married off along with her two older sisters and cousins who were much younger than her. Her in-laws let her continue her studies until she was in the 12th grade and even allowed her to stay at home. But her husband, who she describes as “a good for nothing drunkard” would stand outside her school and harass her. This was just the beginning though. Chhota Devi said that once she finished schooling, things got much worse for her.
Chhota Devi said, “He started asking me to come home. He and his family used to say akhbaar parhne layak ho gayi hai… humare parivaaar mein koi padha hua nahi hai, tu kahan jaayegi padh ke (you are proficient enough to read newspapers… no one in our family is educated, what will you do with all this education). He himself was unlettered and a drunkard and I decided not to be with him. But when I declined, he started threatening me and my family. The threats and abuses didn’t stop and I had to sit home for a year. Then, during my first year BA examination in 2018, he came outside the college in Piparcity. It was a Political Science paper that day. He was drunk and wanted to talk to me. I could barely write anything and escaped from the back gate. I couldn’t clear that paper and eventually dropped out.”
Further adding, “I approached a few NGOs but either they didn’t get back or told me that their hands are full. Then in 2018, I filed a court case. With that, the in-laws started threatening my family and caste-panchayat pressured my family to pay the in-laws. Sometimes they asked for Rs 10 lakh, other times they said we should pay Rs 21 lakh or Rs 25 lakh. My parents are farmers and didn’t have that kind of money. Under pressure and scared, they stopped talking to me and I was asked to leave home.”
Neither her brother nor her sisters came to her aid. Chhota Devi’s family completely abandoned her and hence she was forced to fend for herself. She knew an acquaintance who lived in Jodhpur in a PG. She got in touch with the PG owner and explained her situation. The owner agreed to let her stay there for free. By then, due to all the mental pressure and financial trouble, Chhota Devi was already “contemplating suicide”. However, during one of the court visits, she met advocate Rajendra Soni and Roopwati Deora. They ran Joy of Living NGO.
On May 23, 2013, she was married off at the age of 14. Since then, she faced threats from her ‘husband’, her in-laws, harassed by caste panchayat, thrown out of house by parents.https://t.co/fUsz1ibFAZ
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) March 25, 2021
Also Read: Your Job Is To Serve Your Husband, Says Wedding Planner In Jakarta While Promoting Child Marriages And Servitude
Chhota Devi said, “They helped me immensely and motivated me. I told them what I had gone through and they offered to represent me pro bono. I also found a job at the ticket counter of Carnival cinema hall in Jodhpur, for which I used to get Rs 8,400. I then started preparing for competitive examinations, and used to watch online videos by Utkarsh Classes, although I couldn’t afford their course.”
Then the pandemic hit and all the cinema halls were closed down. She struggled a lot during the pandemic as she had very little money. Meanwhile, in the family court, the groom’s family made claims that suggest the wedding only took place in 2016, after Chhota Devi was an adult. They claimed that she wasn’t forced into the marriage and spent very little time at their house.
Of course, Chhota Devi wasn’t having any of that. She denied the claims and said that even if she was married in 2016, she would still be underage. Her in-laws could not procure any documents to back their claims. And hence, Invoking section 3(1) of the Child Marriage Act, the Jodhpur District Family Court held the marriage void. This was indeed a huge win for Chhota Devi. Unfortunately, though, her financial troubles are far from over.
Chhota Devi said, “I wanted to be a policewoman so I’ll continue to prepare for the exams, irrespective of whenever they declare vacancies next… I’ll wait.” She also wants to pursue her undergraduate course at a private college in Jodhpur but doesn’t have the funding at the moment.
Her determination and strength are inspiring. Despite all the pitfalls and struggles, she hasn’t lost hope and is going after her dream of becoming a policewoman. But we can’t forget that not all girls survive. It’s high time child marriage is completely abolished. It ruins lives. Having a stringent law is not enough, our society needs to understand why the concept is so problematic. Only then will girls like Chhota Devi have the chance of living the life they want and deserve.