Though still a common occurrence in rural India, a tribal village in Maharashtra is going against the tide by saying no to child marriage. Three years ago, the entire village took a vow to make sure their girls are not married before they attain 18 years of age.
In Shivali, a tribal village part of Palghar district of Maharashtra, the village council passed a resolution against child marriage in 2014. Since then, in the village, not a single girl has been given in marriage before reaching the legally sanctioned age of 18 years. What is even better is that a lot of these girls get a chance to finish school and pursue higher education as well.
Savita, a 19-year-old, is all set to get married this summer. She told Village Square,
"I dropped out of school after 7thgrade. Our parents were poor and migrated every year. In their absence, I had to look after my younger siblings. But I feel fortunate that I was not pushed into an early marriage by my parents. I continue to help them in the fields and at home.”
Her sister Sangeeta, a 15-year-old who is now studying in a boarding school, said,
“After completing my graduation, I will join the police force. Marriage can wait.”
It was very common for girls to be married off once they hit puberty. It took the continuous effort of local NGOs to convince the people in the village to agree to take the vow.
This is promising in the light of recent events where poor implementation of the Child Marriage Prevention Act, 2006 in Maharashtra has come to light. According to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), in rural areas, Child Marriage Prevention Officers (CMPO) were appointed only six years after the law was enacted. CMPOs are the ones responsible for preventing child marriages from happening and in creating awareness and providing counselling. According to Indian Express, even though the act came into force in 2007, in Maharashtra rules were notified only in September 2008.