It was Monday evening. The sky had now darkened but the relentless heat of the day wasn't ready to give up. It was sapping any energy that I had left. Bhachau was witnessing the fury of summer and the sun in its totality. This small town lies in the district of Kutch in Gujarat. After a long day’s work, I dropped lazily into the only chair next to the bed on which Amina was sitting. Her tiny room had bare minimum furniture. And the day’s heat had penetrated the room so thoroughly that it had become stifling hot. Trying to divert my mind, Amina struck up a conversation. Gradually it came to the point where one of the subjects involving two stories from our talk made me mull over the current scenario of the country. And it made me speculate whether we will ever be able to get completely rid from the shackles of social evils. Amina is one of the staff members in the Bhachau branch of Prayas. Her elder sister Sunita was married off at a very early age; the primary reason for this being deeply rooted prejudices and how the family of the girl strongly believed that her early marriage allowed them to waiver the ‘responsibility’ of settling their child. But later they had to face the consequences for the same deed. Sunita went through a lot when the groom and his family started harassing her for several reasons. Eventually when she couldn’t take it anymore she decided to split up from her husband. Even after all this time Sunita struggles with the post traumatic stress of the entire incident. And her family now regrets for the decision that they took, one which devastatingly affected their daughter’s life.Wouldn’t Sunita’s life had been different, had she not been married at such an early age? Would she have gone through this plight if her parents had supported her instead of blindly following oppressive traditions? Will her emotional scars ever be healed? We know answers to all of these questions. Yet we fail to eradicate this evil practice.Child marriage is one of the most pressing issues of the country and has been practiced for centuries. Sunita is one among those million girls to have gone through this ordeal. According to the latest UN Reports, India has the second highest number of child marriages. These girls suffer extremely high maternal mortality rates, poverty and most importantly lack of education.Now going back to the point where I said there were two stories, so which is the other one?It was on a rainy Friday afternoon in mid-July when I met Laxmi Patariya, a Milaap borrower in Gandhidham, Kutch. She was sitting in her quaint house, completely engrossed in making a blanket. She was quilting the layers of various multi-colored fabrics. The work so far done was undoubtedly pleasing to the eyes. I was so intrigued by the whole process of its making that I started asking her a dozen questions. And Laxmi gladly divulged into the details of it. She was more than happy to show me her entire collection of blankets that she had made uptil now. Her husband, a jolly man joined us in our conversation and some of the bits of that conversation simply baffled me.Those set of colorful blankets are being saved by Laxmi and her husband for the marriages of their six daughters, which would be ‘gifted’ (note as a part of the prevailing dowry system in India) to the grooms’ families.[caption id="attachment_5563" align="aligncenter" width="850"] Laxmi and her husband showing one of those colorful blankets[/caption]Dowry system is one of the most deeply rooted evils of the Indian society and it has triumphantly managed to hold its position throughout. Despite the Dowry Prohibition Act 1961, it still prevails. According to statistics issued by National Crime Records Bureau, this practice is rampant in the states of Odisha and Rajasthan. Odisha reported as many as 1,487 cases under Dowry Prevention Act accounting for 16.5 per cent of the total cases recorded in the country during 2012.This menace of child marriage and dowry mainly stems from social problems like poverty and illiteracy. Education is one of the major ways by which these can be eliminated. Creating awareness is of utmost importance. Things can be changed. And it is in our hands. Its people like us who can collectively help the under privileged and hence shape the country. No social evil shall survive if all of us join our hands together. So lend a little today and fund for someone’s education. Because you are not just contributing in the education of that other person, you are also combating these evil practices and contributing in its abolishment from the society.*Some of the names in the article have been changed in order to protect the identities.
When will we be freed from the shackles of social evils?