CHILD BRIDES: INDIA'S OUR REVOLUTION
India's New Resistance Movement
On July 8th I was a delegate at the DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor) City Convention in Minneapolis. We had an amazing convention because of all the progressive Democrats who were endorsed for the Park Board. Most of these progressives had been endorsed also by Our Revolution Twin Cities, a local, Bernie Sanders' grassroots organization in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Although we did not endorse a mayoral candidate, Representative Raymond Dehn, received the highest number of votes. He was endorsed by Our Revolution and the Nurses' Association. There was a new consciousness at the Convention where the youth and the elders did not accept the status quo any more. A new paradigm of community collaboration and change was being implemented before our eyes. These candidates were endorsed over long-time incumbents. We simply did not want the old paradigm anymore. In November the general election will certainly bring in many possibilities of reform and change.
India is also going through changes. An old, ugly problem is the existence of child brides in India. Not only does India have child brides, even the United States has child brides.The United Nations has decided to "set a goal of eliminating child marriage by 2030."There is a consciousness in the world which is about change concerning child marriage and this is a step in the right direction.
Unchained At Last is a non-profit organization which is involved with accomplishing the elimination of forced marriage. Many of these forced marriages are child marriages. It might surprise you how many underage marriages occur right here in America. Between 2000 to 2010, about 167,000 children under the age of 18 were married in the United States. Twenty seven states do not "have any minimum age below which a child can't marry." Because the children are underage, they can't divorce until they are adults even when abuse is present. Arranged marriages are found in various religious groups from Orthodox Jews to Hindus. Most states have laws which set 18 as the marriage age, but exemptions are possible via parental consent. It is the parents who want these arranged, forced marriages because of social customs and concern over economics.
I remember a young Hindu woman from one of the Caribbean Hindu mandirs (temples) in Minneapolis whose mother was trying to get her to marry before she had finished her education and obtained a job. This young woman wanted to finish her education first. A number of older women from the temples recognized her plight, agreed with her and supported her. She moved out of her parents' home after securing a job and continued her education afterwards. She is doing quite well and has a well paying job today.
The Indian government has started some steps towards decreasing child marriage by supplying vegetarian lunches to the public schools. This gives parents a financial incentive to keep their children in school until they are 18. ICRW is a an organization which advocates solutions to the child marriage practice in the world. Their website states that, "Girls living in poor households are almost twice as likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls in higher income households." Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates of child marriage in the world. So this is why having school lunches is vital in helping eliminate child marriages. Girls who have higher levels of education have much lower rates of child marriage than girls with less education. Girls in child marriages have higher rates of domestic violence than females who marry as adults. They are twice as likely to experience violence in their marriages compared with women who marry as adults. They also suffer more sexual abuse in their marriages than adult women experience in their marriages.
Under age marriage is rising in urban areas in India according to a report developed by the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and a charity called Young Lives. The report states that, "Nearly one in four girls in rural areas and one in five in urban areas were married before the age of 18." It is illegal for girls under 18 to marry in India and the age of marriage for males is 21. India has "one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world." Social custom and high poverty rates are two reasons for such a high rate of child marriage. Some girls are sold as slaves in child marriages to be servants of elderly men. Men are more desperate to find a bride because females are not favored by families who are often involved with dowries for young girls. Girls are killed at birth by mid wives or aborted because of their gender.
All this is why India needs an Our Revolution on Child Marriage. People must get to a consciousness where child marriage is not acceptable anymore. Rekha Kalindi is one of those Our Revolution girls who refused child marriage. At the age of 13 she said "no" to her parents wishes. These parents with held food for two weeks. Of course this is child abuse and not acceptable. Her teachers, government officials and classmates decided to stage an Our Revolution action by showing up at the parents' door asking she be allowed to continue her education. The parents decided with all this social pressure she could remain in school. When this happened more and more girls started doing the same. People started to say, "Enough is enough. No more child brides!"
JAI SHRI EMPOWERMENT! JAI SHRI EDUCATION! JAI SHRI MA!