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India is home to 1/3 of the World's Child Brides

The custom of child marriage is about 2000 years old in India. The Laws of Manu, an ancient revered text recommends that the age of the husband be about 3 times that of the bride. So for eg. it says a 24 year old man is entitled to an 8 year old girl.

When a custom is entrenched in religion -- it becomes very deeply seated in a people's psyche, and it does not engage with reason. In India, social workers, ngos, even groups formed of village women trying to enforce change in this custom from within, have come under brutal attack.

Yesterday November 14 was Children's day in India. The 50 Million Missing commemorated it with this post on 'The Child Brides of India'


Caroline Gikunda's picture


The story for the child Brides, is touching.I feel sad that children out there are going through such horrible life.I have faith and hope that same day this vice will halt, change takes time but eventually it shall be embraced.It takes people like you for things to change and happen, thanks bernaji for your broad step, GOD bless you for fighting for the children, GOD will surely reward you.This a very good article

Rita Banerji's picture

thank you

Thank you Caroline for your support. It is the 21st century -- and it definitely is time for this custom to change.

Rita Banerji

Eva masiga's picture


Hi! congratulations for the heart you have for the children. It is sad that innocent creatures are suffering that much but but I thank God because of people like you who are standing for a change. We are backing you in every way.

Rita Banerji's picture

people need to know

Hi Eva,

There are many women who have been fighting this in villages -- and they come under attack from villagers. These women don't have a voice to the outside world, and those of us who do, need to speak out for them, and let the world know this is happening. Thank you much for listening and for your support for this fight.

Rita Banerji

Insha Allah's picture

With YOU

Dear Rita,

I am really impressed with your passion and commitment for the girls and women from India where gender inequality is still a huge problem in such a developed country.

I am with you.

Best regards,

Shwe Wutt Hmon

Rita Banerji's picture

sadly no!

Dear Shwe,

That is what the world thinks of India -- it is developed country. But actually all that wealth and development is enjoyed only by a very small percentage of Indians -- maybe 10-12% But did you know that the malnutrition of children in India is far worse than that of children in Sudan. See this article. About 44% of children in India are malnutritioned

Rita Banerji

Sarah Diop's picture

Thank you

Thank you for posting this and bringing awareness. One voice creates ripples and this one has.

Wishing you many Blessings,


Rita Banerji's picture

thank you

Thank you for responding Sarah. The 50 Million Missing Campaign keeps at it, and when people respond, we feel good -- "oh! people ARE listening!" It is very encouraging for us -- so a big thank you :)

Rita Banerji

erikan's picture

I knew this was going on but

I knew this was going on but I didn't know that it was three times the age of the child in the Laws of Manu. What sort of attack do the social workers and NGOs face? What do you see as the solution, and how do you envision local, national and the international community working towards that solution?

Thanks for the post!


Rita Banerji's picture


Hi Erika -- there was this film made called Bawander that you can get on -- it has english subtitles based on a true story. An ngo got some village women to volunteer to talk other villagers and talk them out of child marriages. This is the story of the fate of one woman volunteer. When she tried to stop a child marriage the upper caste, wealthy men of the village got together and gang raped her. Then the police and the courts colluded with the upper caste village men -- and isolated this woman, her family from the village -- and the judged ruled that she lied because upper caste men would never rape a lower caste woman -- that would pollute them! Do see the film

In a another case a social worker had her hands chopped off! And the chief minister (the highest post) of the state said "if you intervene in people's traditions that is what will happen to you."

The thing is people in villages know that if a girl is married early, she is subject to rape, and other abuse. But a daughter is a disinvestment -- she's of no use to the family the way they see it. There feeling is why should I spend on the education of girl -- when it is of no use to ME. You see people keep saying -- inform villagers that if the girls is educated she can work and earn better. Of course they know that. But for them in the end they still have to arrange her marriage -- and they see it as foolish spending. They are spending additionally on her -- when that is of no use to THEM. It makes no difference if that helps the girl -- because that is of no consequence to them!

We've had many horrible customs for girls and women. But the only laws that that protect girls and women in india today -- that are more or less effective were enforced by the british. And i mean ENFORCED. Like right to education. Right to property. Abolishment of sati (the burning alive of widows on their husband's pyre) -- but after the british left -- we have passed numerous laws -- like the law against female feticide, and dowry -- but the government has not ENFORCED ANY LAWS. I think this needs to be treated as a human rights issue internationally. And there has to be UN and EU pressure here on the govt of India.

See these two articles


Rita Banerji

I am an American, studying Women's and Gender Studies. This semester in a class called Issues in Women's Studies, Non-western focus I was assigned India as my country to research. In my research I found such disparities between the majority, rural women and the small minority of middle to upper class women.

One of the more memorable accounts was of a woman who was pregnant, homeless and had no one to turn to. Last July she gave birth on the streets of New Delhi in the rain and dirt. She died three days later. Her baby was rescued by a good Samaritan. No one helped her even though it was a very busy street with shops and vendors and pedestrians. Women are discarded in large numbers in India and other women will not help for fear that they too will be shunned or worse.

I believe if women could somehow overcome the fear of repercussion and embrace and stand up for one another change could occur gradually. As you stated, when cultural norms and religion go hand in hand change is difficult to employ. Education is the key in creating value in the women of India, as well as women in other patriarchal societies. Unfortunately rural education for poverty stricken women is not a priority.

A question for you regarding the health care system in India. During my research I discovered numerous reports of excessive numbers of health care workers absent on a daily basis and government run clinics being closed during the day because of the absent workers. Apparently, the health workers are paid whether they show up or not. Have you seen or heard this also?

The maternal mortality rate of India's women is staggering. It seemed to me in my research that lack of available facilities and the great distance rural women would need to travel to take a chance on finding an open facility impact the mmr. I do realize there is no one reason for the high mmr, I would like here your take on how much of an impact the closed facilities has on the rates.

I was also concerned about the stats on the number of self proclaimed doctors who have had little or no formal medical training. Is there an agency that regulates doctors?

**Funny how slowly summer vacation went as a child. Now it seems like I blink and a month has gone by.

Rita Banerji's picture


Hi Terri,

In that case we hope you will join our campaign The 50 Million Missing (fighting female genocide) on facebook!

You say "Education is the key in creating value in the women of India, as well as women in other patriarchal societies" -- unfortunately not! Education is very important. It is a tool. But it is up to the women whether or not they use it. Unfortunately in India -- the pressure of culture and society is so overwhelming that even women with education don't use the tool. See for eg. this story (the woman who was subject to abuse was a professional doctor). Even over the course of our campaign trying to help her she has told us many times that she wanted to go back to her husband because girls need their father! (And eventually we withdrew ). And see this case -- the woman was very educated, earning a lot -- working with a multinational

The problem with middle and upper class India is that they hide it better because they have the money to bribe police and courts and they have a pull -- but in poorer communities their living quarters are crammed and their stories spill out. The highest rate of female annihilation in India -- due to feticide is in the upper and middle classes!

Corruption is the worst problem in India. Not just health workers -- but any office -- schools etc. people don't show up and get paid. Money leaks out and there is no accountability. Yes -- lots of medical quacks doing abortions. There are agencies to regulate everything -- but nobody is accountable to anyone at any level.

One of the issues with maternal mortality (india has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the world) -- people get ultrasounds to see if it is a girl -- that is getting cheaper now because the machines flood the market! But abortion is still expensive -- you need hospitilization a doctor etc -- so they the families go cheap on that -- get the quacks -- and that's the reason a lot of women are dying.

Rita Banerji

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