Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Curious Case of Child Brides and their Education

I was reading this article in the newspaper about how a child bride was refused admission into school in Tamil Nadu at first, and later on admitted on the request of the officer concerned. But the officer had some reservations about it though. He felt that admitting child brides might send the wrong signals to society that we are encouraging child marriages. Some people feel that way he said. I am sure they do. I do laud his effort to get her admitted and also laud his honesty in saying what most do not. This is how our society thinks.

I find this an Indian way (I don't know any other way actually) that we punish the ones who have no say in the matter at all. If someone has been married off at an age when they have no say in that matter, how can you punish them by denying them education. As it is they are victims of a crime - and we compound the crime by punishing them. I find that it happens explicitly in many cases such as harassment, rape and goes all the way up or down to corruption and dubious business ethics. The culprits go free and the ones who are doing their dirty work, mostly forcibly, are arrested. Like you'd arrest the prostitute, and not the pimp. The clerk and not the officer. The officer and not the minister. The murderer and not the one who paid him the supari.

If child marriage is to be discouraged you pass laws to that effect. You hold those responsible for conducting them. You counsel the child and see that justice is done to her. You annul the marriage - or since it is illegal, do not recognise it. But no. What we do will be to catch the easiest target available which is the child and deprive it of whatever hope and justice she should get. We make her feel like she has committed the crime when she is the victim (just as rape victims are made to feel that they provoked the rapists with their behavior and the innocent rapists did what they are born to do, after that). We then tell her that she has no further access to education, a good life, because she is a child bride.

Can we grow up and become a bit more sensible? Can we understand who is the victim and who is the culprit? Can we do what is expected of us as responsible citizens and see that justice is done? If a child marriage has happened, it is the state's incompetence that has allowed it to happen. It has no further right to punish the child when it should actually be falling over to compensate the poor child. Come on fellows, get your act together. It's getting a bit tiring to see this charade going on everyday.

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