How Can We Help? #Endchildmarriage

“We have a vision where women and girls live in dignity, are healthy, have choices and equal opportunities.”

Foundation for Women’s Health Research and Development.(FORWARD)

This is a story about Suneeta (Name changed), a girl of mere sixteen years. So many of us were fussing over our school exams when we were sixteen; but children like Suneeta never get a chance to even study.

Suneeta is an orphan, raised by her relatives. After losing one’s parents it is very hard for a child of 4 years to cope without the parents. The familiarity of her mother’s touch and her father’s baritone, were all now gone with her parents. All she was left with was her relatives who were now her foster parents. They took her in and took care of her and she started getting comfortable with the new family. To her horror and disappointment, they wanted to be rid of her by marrying her off to some stranger.

childmarriage_legistify

What Steps were taken?

Whether he was a stranger, or her friend she did not know, but she found a confidante in Shantanu (name changed). She shared with him that how petrified she was about the notion of marriage. She wanted to run away but was not confident enough. It was this confidante who helped her in this in-escapable situation.

“We received a call from a client and he kept on requesting us that we help him somehow in stopping this marriage. I did not think there was any lawyer who would want to get involved in this situation. In this urgent situation all I could think of was that girl, and that’s when we decided to call in on the appropriate authorities, to help this girl out.” Said Adv. Dipshi Swara, from Legistify.

Legistify Team took this case Pro Bono, and worked as a well-oiled machined and connected shantanu to the Delhi Commission of Women (DCW). We emailed DCW, who responded within two days. They called the Legistify team asking for more information on the matter.

“When they received our mail, they called us within two days and asked us about more information on the matter; so we connected the client and DCW over a call in which the client gave the DCW official all the information.” added Adv. Dipshi.

How they stopped the Marriage?

The girl belonged to Nangloi village in Delhi, and the DCW officials reached there before the marriage took place. They asked for the identification documents of the girl. After a lot of resistance, the relatives finally gave up and gave them her school ID. The ID proved that Suneeta was indeed just 16 years old. When the officials took Suneeta inside a room, away from her relatives, she stated that she was being forced to get married.

The Officials then called the local police and the relatives were taken to the police station. The DCW officials submitted the ID proof of the girl along with the statement that she gave about being forced.

“I knew, that if got involved individually and called the police myself, she would have been forced again into marriage. The next time I wouldn’t have been able to help. So I decided to involve others!” said Shantanu.

What is the Present Situation?

The joint efforts of Shantanu, DWC and Legistify, helped save a girl’s life. In order to avoid arrest, Suneeta’s relatives were made to give a written statement to police, promising that Suneeta will not be forced to get married in the future.

“Most people simply don’t know the extent of the problem. An estimated 25,000 child marriages occur every day. That’s mind boggling, so much so that to many people it becomes abstract, unreal. We, at Legistify, are in this field for providing legal aid to people who are stuck in situations like these.” Said Akshat Singhal, founder of Legistify.
“Also, being a part of this finally made me realise, that this is why we did Law. To save complete strangers who have our need.” said Advocate Dipshi.

What is our duty as Fellow Citizens of India?

It was indeed a great victory for Suneeta. I write her story here, because she may be an insignificant individual in the millions’ population; but, she represents so many other girls, who are facing the same terrifying future. Let this story be the inspiration to all of us, that no matter who you are, there are always people who are ready to help you.

unity in diversity_legistify

We need to understand, that just because we don’t practice it, or don’t know anybody who does, the social evil of child marriage still exist. We need to fight it, and let’s not be strangers, because we are all Indians.