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Brave Rajasthan Girl Files Papers To Get Her Child Marriage Annulled

Child marriage was once rampant in India, heck even many Western countries practiced it, so much so that it was the accepted norm. But thankfully, child marriage is banned in most several countries, and governments have mandated minimum age limits for both girls and boys to get married. In most cases, this is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

Despite such a legislation being enacted in India, certain deep-rooted religious and cultural beliefs play truant and child marriages occur, much to the distress of young girls. One such case is of Santadevi Meghwal’s, who is facing a fine of INR 16 lakh for rejecting a marriage that was arranged when she was all of 11 months old!

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Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

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Santadevi, now 19, of Rohicha Khurd village in Luni Tahsil, which sits about 70 km from Jodhpur, was all of 11 months old, when her parents got her married off to Sanwalaram, who was 9-years-old then. She became aware of her child marriage when she turned 16, when she was asked to go live with her husband and her in-laws. But with her parents’ support, Santadevi refused to do so, and has been fighting it ever since.

“I was 11 months old when I was married off. It was only when I grew up that I realized what had happened,” said Santadevi. “I want to study and become a teacher. I don’t want to go there.”

Santadevi’s parents confessed that her husband’s family has refused to annul the marriage, which prompted them to take the matter to the village panchayat. To their dismay, the panchayat imposed a hefty fine of INR 16 lakh and banned the family from the community, adding salt on the wound.

“When I renounced this marriage, my so-called husband Sanwalaram started stalking me and threatening to take me away forcibly,” Santadevi told TOI. “At first, I was scared as my parents were not with me. But, the more pressure they put, the more determined I got to break free.”

Talking about how they were ostracized from the community, Padmaram, Santadevi’s fathers told NDTV news channel,

“The community is forcing us to send our daughter to the groom’s and if we don’t, they are demanding 16 lakh rupees from us. I am ready to face the opposition of my community for the good of my daughter.”

In her quest to get the illegal child marriage annulled, Santadevi has been supported by not only her parents, but also by a local charity called the Sarathi Trust. The charity said that apart from helping the girl’s family, they are planning legal action against the village council leaders, and had also advised Santadevi’s in-laws to give the green signal for an annulment.


Image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Kirti Bharti of Sarathi Trust admitted that their attempts to reason with Santadevi’s ‘husband’ Sanwalaram have fell on deaf ears. She said, “We’re going to move to court for annulment on Wednesday.” The Women and Child Welfare department has not only sought details of the case, but also offered the family all the legal aid necessary to fight it.

Santadevi had already filed the relevant papers in the court at the time this article was written, and the court has listed the matter for May 25th. If she had filed the papers with her ‘husband’ Sanwalaram’s consent, the whole legal process would have been expedited.

“Had it been consensual, the legal process of annulment would have been expedited,” said Santadevi.

The brave young woman made an appearance in the family court with her father Padmaram on Wednesday afternoon, after completing all the legal formalities.

“I was a little scared while coming her, as my in-laws had threatened me this morning that they would not let me reach the court and take me away with them,” said Santadevi.

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Kirti Bharti of Sarathi Trust said that the court would give Sanwalaram three chances to appear before it, failing which the court will decide the case ex-party.

Although child marriage is against the law in India, the practice is still widespread in several parts of the country. According to government figures, about 47 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24 were married before they were 18. And in the case of Rajasthan, the figures were still more horrifying, with some 65 percent of women who were child brides, much higher than the national average.

Child marriage hampers is one of the greatest threats to improving the status of women, since it cuts across every part of a girl’s development, creating a vicious cycle of malnutrition, poor health, and ignorance.

Let’s all hope that people wake up and get it through their thick skulls that child marriages do nobody any good, and that girls need to have a carefree childhood, before getting married and producing babies – as if a girl is better for nothing else! Hah! Such outdated and outmoded and archaic and decidedly patriarchal mindset needs to be changed from the inside out, if young, innocent girls have to have a real childhood.

Featured image source: Pixabay, under Creative Commons License

Article Name
Rajasthan Girl's Attempt To Annul Child Marriage Fined With INR 16lakh
Santadevi Meghwal, 19, who was married off before she was a year old, has filed papers to annul child marriage that she wasn't even aware of. Read more here
Chaitra Ramalingegowda

Chaitra Ramalingegowda

I fell in love with storytelling long before I knew what it was. Love well written stories, writing with passion, baking lip-smacking-finger-licking chocolate cakes, engaging movies, and home-cooked food. A true work-in-progress and a believer in the idiom 'all those who wander are not lost'. Twitter: @ChaitraRlg