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Let the 'Braves' be 'Braver' Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by SASWATI PAIK, India Apr 2, 2005
Human Rights , Education   Opinions
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Sarita Tyagi, Swati Tyagi, Sunita Devi, Sushma Rani, Neelam Rani – the teenager bravery award winners of 2003 were highlighted in all the leading newspapers of India on 20 January, 2004. They belong to the state of Haryana and participated in the Republic Day parade riding on caparisoned elephants. The village where they live is Harsinghpura in Gharaunda Block of Karnal District. Among these five girls, the first four are students of Class IX and the last one i.e. Neelam Rani is in Class V.

Almost all the local media have focussed on the incident for which these five girls were awarded. In April, 2003, these five girls resisted the marriage of two children of 6 and 12 years respectively of Bhopal Singh in their village. The father of the children was actually selling his children to be relieved from the pressure of huge debt.

In a nutshell, these 5 children, Sarita, Swati, Sunita, Sushma, Neelam have been awarded for resisting child marriage in their village with their strong determination and courage, despite being so young at age.

The girls have shown an extra-ordinary courage; they have once again proved the strength of unity. They are little, but strong enough when they join hands with each other. The bravery award has provided recognition of their courage, which can further create a platform for others to protest against social evils, and protect many of them from happening again and again to others.

Apart from the evil of child marriage in this incident, there are some other social aspects associated with this same incident that need to be focussed on more. It must be kept in mind that child marriage is an isolated incident, which is related to many other social practices that ultimately reflect the mental set up of traditional societies, especially in rural India.
Let us focus on this single incident and reveal the facts associated with it.

The father of the two minor girls was ultimately selling his daughters to the so-called bridegrooms in the name of ‘marriage’. This reflects that the female children are still considered by some people as ‘materials’, rather than ‘human beings’, which can be utilised for income generation by means of ‘marriage’. The incident of child marriage in our society is not being practised openly nowadays as there are laws against this. But there are still such practices in many of the villages of India.

If the children finally would have been married off to those grooms, what might be their status in their in-laws’ house? They ultimately would have been converted into bonded slaves for thier whole life, ‘bonded’ by so-called ‘marriage’.

Look at the other side of the same incident. The minor girls were studying in Sanskar Bharti Public School of Harsinghpura. They were being forced to leave their studies at an age when all the children are supposed to be provided ‘free education’ by our national government. They were going to be a part of the long list of ‘school drop-outs’ in our country.

Child marriage, selling of children, school drop out – all such incidents are mainly associated with the female children of our society, who are still the most unwanted in their families. In the state of Haryana, such happenings are most expected where the two child norm is really difficult to implement because of the craze for a son in almost all the families, especially in rural areas. In a rural society, the female family members are supposed to spend maximum time with both household and agricultural works, but their labour is rarely counted or honoured. It is taken for granted that male members are supposed to be more busy in practising ‘hukka’ culture (smoking); talking to or playing cards with the other male members of the society, rather than assisting their wives and daughters in domestic or agricultural works along with the dairy practices.

The male members of the rural Haryana are, in most cases, born elites whereas the females are born ‘bonded’ labourers who are supposed to do all the works, both inside and outside their homes. At the same time, the females of the society are supposed to be ruled by the societal traditional norms like ‘ghunghat’ or ‘purdah’ to keep themselves isolated from the outer enlightened world. ‘Purdah’ and other ways of restoring their so called ‘modesty’ are all due, or rather, traditionally imposed on the females since their birth. Even the school girls of the rural Haryana rarely can enjoy the liberty to play in the ground as it is still considered to be a ‘shame’ for the girls. It is a shame for our nation, I must say, that despite having so many bright, strong girls who are nurtured by the traditional dairy products in rural Haryana and are capable of doing so many works both at home and outside, we have so limited female athletes in our country. At this point, we are all negatively affected by the illogic rule of traditional society, where equality in terms of social status is far to be achieved.

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Saswati Paik, completed Post graduation in Geography in 1996 and went through Research Training Programme in Centre for Studies in Social Sciences (CSSSC, Kolkata, India) under Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR). She completed M.Phil in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi in 2000. Now she is about to finish her Ph.D. in Geography from the same university. She has several articles, published in magazines and newspapers and has presented numerous research papers in workshops, seminars and conferences of university, national and international levels. She has actively participated in various training programmes and workshops related to her academic field. She has work experience of about 6 years. She has worked in ‘GISdevelopment’, the monthly magazine published from Noida (India). She has worked as Researcher in State Resource Centre, Haryana (India) and as Faculty in Hamdard Education Society, New Delhi (India). She was associated with Centre for Science, Development and Media Studies (CSDMS) and as a part of her job profile, has worked as a member of the editorial team of ‘i4d’, the monthly magazine published by CSDMS, Noida (India). She has also occasionally contributed write-ups to the magazine, some of those are available at their website www.i4donline.net.
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