ITANAGAR: The practice of child marriage is still prevalent in many parts of the country and Northeast India is not an exception to it. Despite various laws against forced marriages, the practice is still prevalent, although in hiding.
A 13-year-old girl’s escape from a forced marriage in East Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh has brought into spotlight the practice of child marriage still prevalent in parts of the state’s rural areas.
According to Pooja Sonam Natung, general secretary of the East Kameng unit of Women Welfare Organisation, Jeroni Tawo, who got married in 2013, ended her marriage last May through negotiation brokered by the WWO.
Jeroni walked through dense forest one day from her village early this year to reach the deputy director’s office seeking help to break from the matrimony. Her ordeal in fact began in 2008 when she was just five years old. Her parents decided to marry her off to a man much older than her, Natung said.
Her father Taru Tawo began the process of accepting bride price from the boy Taling Pinche, in his late 20s, and the marriage was solemnized in 2013. Jeroni Tawo’s bold decision was inspired by an awareness campaign run last year by the WWO in East Kameng district against social evils like child marriage.
The campaign organizers had asked people to come forward and report cases of child marriage in that area. Natung said that the 13-year-old escaped on the morning of May 31 last when everyone was asleep.
The matter was brought to the attention of ICDS cell, which together with the WWO and the East Kameng Social Cultural Welfare Organisation began talks to arrange for her release from the marriage.
ICDS CDPO Dorjee Khandu Thungon was present during the deliberations and supported the negotiation by the WWO. It goes to the credit of the boy Taling Pinche who respected her spouse’s wish to break free from the marriage and accepted the decision to terminate the marriage. Both Jeroni and Pinche are Puroiks, a community that has been marginalized for years.
The amount of bride price was fixed at Rs 1,12,500 which Pinche did not take. In acknowledgment of his decision, Pinche was given Rs 40,000 by the administration. Natung said that cases of child marriage are reported off and on from the rural areas only and most people in urban areas are against it.
(Image used only for the purpose for representation)