The rejected brides of RupandehiSima Harijan was only twelve when she got married eight years ago. She belongs to one of many communities, in Rupandehi district, that still practice child marriage.
Sima Harijan was only twelve when she got married eight years ago. She belongs to one of many communities, in Rupandehi district, that still practice child marriage.
Sima’s husband, a boy from an Indian family, was picked by her relatives. They wed in a small ceremony at Sima’s village in Semara VDC-1, attended by close friends and relatives. After the ceremony was over, the groom and his family returned, leaving behind the young bride. It is the way marriage takes place in Sima’s community; a bride is allowed entry to her husband’s home only after she has come of age, which is marked in a special ceremony called Gauna.
Sima is twenty today, but she is still living with her mother. Her Gauna never took place, for her husband’s family demanded a dowry of IRs 300,000.
“There was no way my mother could come up with that kind of money,” said Sima.
She is not the only bride to have been rejected after marriage, and dowry is not always the reason.
Nineteen-year-old Puja Chahin, of Kamhariya VDC-2, was married at the age of eleven. And she too is a reject bride. Her marriage, however, broke down for a different reason altogether. It was the colour of her skin, not dowry, that her husband and his family objected.
“My family tried to persuade my husband’s parents on many occasions, but they were not willing to accept me. They said that they cannot have a daughter-in-law with dark skin,” said Puja.
The records at the District Police Office show that 15 cases of brides being rejected were lodged in the current fiscal year alone. Most of these cases occurred as a result of underage marriage.
Himala Thapa, chief of the Children and Women Service Centre, said underage marriage is still common among Gupta, Thahare, Kurmi, Lodh, Harijan, Bajiya, Kalwar, Pasi, Paswan, Mauriya and Tharu communities in the district.
“We have many instances of marriages breaking down and husbands not accepting their wives because they were got married at early age. Underage marriage is illegal, but some communities are still practicing it as their tradition,” Thapa said. “There should be major intervention if we are to protect young girls from becoming the victims of underage marriage.”