09/07/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Punjab Sisters against tradition of child brides

by Santosh Digal
Forced to marry by their families when still teenagers, girls undergo serious physical and psychological risks. Religious of the Diocese of Jalandhar educate parents and children to abandon this practice through discussion groups and training courses.

Forezepur (AsiaNews) - In the region of Punjab, as in other parts of India, families force their daughters to marry when they are still young, despite it being banned by Indian law. For years, Sister Rita Denis and Sister Elseema Augustine Panthaplackal of the Little Sisters of St. Teresa through dialogue educate families of the diocese of Jalandhar (Punjab) to abandon this practice and to offer young people professional formation.

Sister Elseema Augustine says: "When a girl marries at an early age she is exposed to physical and psychological risks. Girls under 18 should have adequate education to build their future, they should not marry". "We - adds the religious - try to make their parents understand these needs."

In recent years, the two religious have started groups in several villages of the diocese, where they present the pros and cons of marriage contracted during adolescence to Christian, Hindu and Sikh families.

"Our mission - says Sister Rita Denis - is to help families to change attitudes through continuous visits and try to convince parents and children to abandon this practice, the result of local tradition." Sister Rita said that thanks to the constant dialogue and confrontation with other parents, many families have changed their minds.

In addition to helping families and teenage girls, the two religious have also offer formation courses to young women already married, teaching them the basics in how to raise their children and to have full knowledge of family responsibilities.

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