In the United States most people shakes their heads when they hear about teenagers as young as 16 or 17 getting married. After all, the success rate of marriages that begin when couples are still kids is never higher than the failure rate.
Imagine, then, a 1-year-old marrying a 3-year-old. Because that happened in India. And, as you can imagine, it didn’t work out.
Laxmi Sargara is now 18 and just successfully had her marriage annulled, according to CNN.
Laxmi only found out she was married when her in-laws gave her a few days notice before Akshaya Tritiya — a day seen as favorable for child marriages — that she’d be going to live with them.
But instead of giving in and going, she ran off to see her brother, who in turn took her to meet a social worker.
“She said, ‘I don’t want to go, I want to die first.’ She was not in that situation to accept all these things, to accept her in-laws, to accept her husband,” the social worker said, according to CNN. “She was very frightened.”
On the day she was meant to start her new life with her “husband” and his family, both parties signed a legal document annulling their marriage, although it took her husband some convincing — he believed that since the marriage “had been conducted properly,” he could “take” his wife.
Child marriages aren’t actually legal in India, but the annulment document was a social agreement that declared Laxmi was “unmarried and independent.”
The social worker is now helping Laxmi become literate, as well as rehabilitating her “socially and mentally so she can live her life happily ever after.” She is too afraid to return to her village at present since child marriages are a regular part of life there, although she might go back as soon this weekend. She is currently receiving counseling twice a day.
Because many parents in India fear the “violation of a girl’s chastity” could affect their family’s honor, they are quick to marry off their daughters. And because the price of a girl’s dowry is directly proportionate to the level of her education, many young girls in India are denied formal schooling.
Laxmi’s annulment is thought to be the first of its kind in India. A UNICEF representative told CNN the average age of girls marrying in India is “gradually increasing, but at a very slow pace.”
The idea of a marriage between babies is devastating, no matter the cultural beliefs. But as slow as the custom of marrying off young girls in India is, at least there is change afoot. Here’s hoping more brave girls like Laxmi are able to break free from the shackles of repressive traditions in order to earnestly go about finding their own happily ever after, too.
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