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    » 06/13/2012, 00.00

    INDIA

    Rajasthan: married off at 9, a 24-yr-old woman wants her marriage annulled

    Nirmala Carvalho

    State High Court orders government to protect Shobha Choudhary and her family after village authorities threaten them. The young woman is finishing a university degree, whilst her husband is semi-illiterate. "I cannot accept such a marriage," she says. Child marriage in india is illegal but widespread.

    Jaipur (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."

    "My 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."

    She 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.

    Although 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.

    "There 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."

    According to the US-based International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), 50 per cent of all Indian women are married before they are 18.

    In 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.

    The 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."

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    See also

    08/10/2005 INDIA
    Legalising child marriages "an attack against women", say church and NGOS

    Catholic leaders and women's rights campaigners slam the High Court ruling as "retrograde, outrageous and very dangerous". The Delhi Archbishop said: "The situation of women continues to worsen."



    07/02/2008 INDIA
    Dubious proposal to lower marriage age to 18
    India’s Law Commission wants to lower the age of marriage for men from 21 to 18 like for women. Its goal is to erase child marriage and its abuses. An expert argues that tinkering with the law to fight abuses will not work; what is needed are better structures and health care.

    10/06/2010 EGYPT
    The country’s highest court imposes divorce on Coptic Church
    Court rules that Coptic men can remarry after divorce. In Egypt, marriage and divorce proceedings are regulated by a couple’s religion. Coptic Pope Shenouda resolutely rejects theing.

    21/07/2009 INDIA
    Court overturns ruling ordering abortion on 19-year-old mentally challenged and orphaned woman
    The woman was raped by two security guards working in the government-run shelter where she was living. She is in her 20th week of pregnancy. Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered the termination of her pregnancy, arguing she could not raise the child and would treat him as a “toy”. The young woman said she wanted to have the baby.

    17/07/2007 INDIA
    New Delhi not to allow single states to define religious minorities
    Union Minister Antulay reassures Christians and other groups that no law will be approved if it violates their rights. Christian leader Dayal concerned that a proposed bill will deny Sikhs, Christians and Muslims minority status in states where they are well-represented, thus depriving them of constitutional rights.



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