Sixteen-year-old in Rajasthan refuses to accept her child marriage

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Jodhpur:  A 16-year-old-girl in Rajasthan has rejected her child marriage that took place when she was only a-year-old. The girl was not aware of this, till the time her in-laws approached her family to take her to their house a few days back.

The girl, a resident of Luni town in Jodhpur district, some 400 km from the state capital,  now wants the marriage annulled.

"My in-laws started pressurising me to come back home, they said they will take me away forcibly; so I came here to my brother and my sister in law and they have supported me," the girl told NDTV today.

The issue of her child marriage has come to the fore because her in-laws wanted her to move in with them on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akha Teej.

Akha Teej is considered the most auspicious day for weddings in the Hindu calendar but in Rajasthan it's a day almost synonymous with child marriage. Reports say even today more than 40 per cent girls in Rajasthan are married before 18. The new 2006 Rajasthan Child Marriage Prevention Act with stringent provisions has so far been ineffective with people flouting this law with impunity. Recently, a group of police and district officials were attacked by angry villagers in Jhalawar as they went to stop a child marriage ceremony.

The administration in Bharatpur, however, has come up with a unique idea - print date of birth of the groom and bride on wedding invitations - to tap and prevent under age marriages.

Scores of children are married off each year in Rajasthan on Akha Teej. To save the cost of large weddings, younger siblings are often married off with their older ones. Girls are sent to live with their in laws often one or two years after becoming child brides.

The laws against child marriage are actually quite strict. According to the 2006 Act, it's 2 years in jail and 1 lakh fine against not only for the parents of the children, but also the guests who participate in child marriage.

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