Children As Young As 7 Forced To Marry In Mass Wedding
By NY Daily News
More than 20 children, aged between 7-16 years old, were apparently married in front of their village community, in Kishangarh, Rajasthan, India.
Local photojournalist Shankar Puri photographed the children as they made their way to a temple for a mass wedding ceremony.
Local photojournalist, Shankar Puri, found out about the ceremony and attended but he couldn't do anything to help, as he feared for his safety if the huge number of families found out.
Shankar said: "I was tipped off about the weddings that very morning. I informed the police immediately and then I rushed to the venue. When I arrived it looked like a village fair. Hordes of men and women in their best clothes had gathered to witness the marriages of innocent children. They were singing songs and celebrating and laughing and giggling. It was really disheartening. They had no idea that what they were doing was so wrong."
Shankar said local police arrived but were unable to do anything to stop the weddings.
He added: "The police couldn't do anything as they were outnumbered by the relatives. If they had done anything the villagers would've beaten them. Even the law of the land didn't have enough power to stop these child marriages taking place."
Child marriage is an age-old custom in India and is still practiced by a majority of people both in rural and urban Rajasthan even though it is illegal and despite efforts by women's rights organisation and NGOs to stop it.
Kriti Bharti, a child right activist who has stopped 124 child marriages and annulled seven, said fighting the custom involves a lot of risk.
She said: "Stopping child marriage is a challenge as parents change the venue the night before or postpone the wedding. By the time we reach the spot, children are already married off. We are trying every bit to educate people about the harms of an early marriage, but it will take a lot of time before this custom is stopped altogether in India."