(AsiaNews) - A 24-year-old woman from the village of Rajwa (Rajasthan) has
asked the state's High Court to annul her marriage, which was celebrated when
she was nine. In view of the situation, the court ordered the government to
protect Shobha Choudhary and her family since her local Khap Panchayat (caste
assembly) issued threats against them. Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the
Pontifical Academy for Life, called her decision "courageous", a tool against "a
blight on Indian society."
husband is semi-illiterate and can barely write his name," said Shobha
Choudhary who graduated from school and is currently in university. "I'm
working as well as completing a Bachelor of Education. It was not my decision
to get married; I was only nine. I cannot accept such a marriage."
found the strength to rebel after a court ruling made Indian legal history. Back
in April, a court in Rajasthan annulled the marriage of 18-year-old Laxmi
Sargara, who was married off at the age of one.
a 1929 Indian law bans child marriages and imposes stiff fines on those involved,
such a practice has survived. In many parts of the country, like Rajasthan but
also Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand, mass child
marriages are performed.
are many ways to get around the law," Dr Carvalho said. "Once they are done,
they cannot be annulled. Not only are such marriages a violation of human
rights, but they are the worst kind of exploitation and abuse."
to the US-based International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), 50 per cent
of all Indian women are married before they are 18.
addition to domestic (and often sexual) abuse and psychological problems, they are
often infected with the HIV virus by their husbands. Post-partum mortality is
also a major cause of death for women 15 to 18.
High Court has set a hearing for 4 July. "I hope the court will annul the
marriage to send a message to all the young men and women who want a better
life for themselves and rid us of the tradition of child marriage," Dr Carvalho
said. "Although this practice is waning in some parts of the country, we still
have a long way to go before we eliminate it from society for good."