The How, Why & What of Indian Child Marriages

We know the legal age limits for men and women in India, but I’m sure, most of us have not questioned it. Nor have we asked why is the legal limit very very serious. Did you know, the legal limit used to be 18 and 14 for boys and girls respectively? Did you also know that India ranks 10th in the world for it’s child marriages? Shocking isn’t it? Here’s more information at your fingertips.

ORIGIN STORIES : 

There is controversy over how child marriages occurred, some blame a certain religion, others blamed marauding camps attacking girls that for their security they were married off. However, there are signs that before the 19th century, there was child marriage world over. Basically, there is no conclusive reasoning for why it’s now important for Hindus or Muslims to marry their children before the consent age.

THE STATISTICS OF IT ALL : 

Nearly 12 million children (boys and girls) below the age of 10 were married according to a survey in 2016. More so in the rural areas than in the urban areas is what the stats seem to showcase.

Screen Shot 2017-08-22 at 2.48.16 pmScreen Shot 2017-08-22 at 2.48.29 pm

THE LAWS :

The 1929 child marriage law, firmly defined what constituted as a child and placed the legal age limits as 18 for girls and 21 for boys. There were consequences listed as well within this law, however, it proved tedious to follow through.

The 2006 child marriage law, was more stringent in terms of the name, the options for voiding a child marriage and more stringent consequences were listed. It also allowed for a girl to nullify the marriage and to be provided for monetarily till she was of legal age or she was married.

While these laws applied to the entire nation at large, the Muslim clergy spoke against this invasion into their personal law, as marriage was a religious event, not something that the law should be interfering with. There are many debates centring over this topic, and while both sides have a point, the main issue is about protecting a child’s innocence than a personal insult against a religion.

REASONS FOR A CHILD MARRIAGE :

Whatever the origin story, whatever the stats or the laws, it’s still disconcerting that child marriage is a thing. To most of us in the urban and privileged background, we cannot understand why child marriage occurs in the first place.

RELIGION, is one of the primary reasons for child marriages. Tradition and religious rights dictates a lot of our lives and it follows through with this as well. However, it does go a little more deeper, with the issue of DOWRY for a girl child. The later a girl takes to get married, the more dowry is required by the groom’s family – even though dowry is a serious offence. POVERTY, is another reason for child marriages as this ensures monetary gain through a successful alliance – a throwback to the old days of alliances formed between families. It also helps cut out extra EXPENSES such as daily amenities and education for the child.

CONSEQUENCES OF A CHILD MARRAIGE:

Yes, it is true there are bound to be consequences to violating a law, whether it is tradition, religion or poverty at play. Children need a certain maturity to make decisions, especially with something important as the institution of marriage.

Marriage, even with guardians dictating the way they live, there are issues pertaining to HEALTH of both children. They need to know about sex – safe sex to be exact. Most child marriages also occur where there is a high prevalence of illiteracy, so EDUCATION pertaining to anything relating to hygiene, good nutrition and sex education will be limited or sparse.

MORTALITY RATES is higher in these circumstances, because they don’t know how to take care of themselves when they are pregnant, nor do they know how to care for their babies nutrition, hygiene, etc. With no proper guidance, they also are unable to decide about FAMILY PLANNING and thus have a high prevalence of unexpected pregnancies, with unfortunately a few leading to PREGNANCY TERMINATIONS, such as miscarriages, stillbirths, etc.

Another surprising consequence of child marriage is DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Younger girls are more open to domestic and sexual abuse from their husbands than girls at 18 years and older.

IS THIS REALLY A MAJOR PROBLEM ?

Yes, child marriages are a problem, not just for the VICTIMS in a child marriage, but also society and the country at large. If the children are allowed their right to education, there are a vast variety of benefits.

Girls once educated are able to take care of the HYGIENE and NUTRITION of the family. Educated girls are also able to family plan and thus in effect this brings down the POPULATION at large. Bringing the population down, also helps with each nuclear family having sufficient funds for their children. Having more than one child can be a CHOICE and not something unwanted that stresses the FAMILY FINANCES.

Educated girls also bring down the MORTALITY RATES of both pregnant girls and infants.  And at this point, though it might be a big ask, DOMESTIC ABUSE can be curtailed with older women knowing their rights and how to get help from it.

This all boils down to one main thing, EDUCATING children and letting them enjoy their childhood without forcing them to grow up unnecessarily.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

You can join the YWCA of India in taking part in the advocacy issue of fighting against child marriage among other things. Forming think tanks to protect the rights of other children and helping them get their basic rights. Educating those around you to raise awareness about this issue.

 

Advertisements

‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign

tshirt-hiv-front.png

The YWCA of India has been conducting a ‘Keep Calm and Get Tested’ Campaign in an effort to raise awareness about HIV / AIDS. A video study here, shows the current knowledge from the public about what is HIV and why there is a need to get tested.

Here are a few facts to guide you on what is one of the world’s major health concerns particularly in nations were the stigma is the strongest.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus – in simple terms – this is a virus that infects the body’s immune system thus decreasing the natural ability to ward off infections and other diseases.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – in simple terms – this means that the person is in the most advanced stages of the HIV infection and it is defined as thus when they suffer from more than 20 opportunistic infections and related cancers.

HIV is TRANSMITTED by:

  • unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or oral sex with an infected person
  • Transfusions of contaminated blood or blog products or transplantation of contaminated tissue
  • The sharing of contaminated injecting equipment and solutions (needles/syringes) or tattooing equipment
  • Through the use of contaminated surgical equipment and other sharp instruments
  • The transmission between a mother and her baby during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding

The spread of HIV from person to person is called HIV transmission. The spread of HIV from an HIV-infected woman to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

HIV is NOT TRANSMITTED by: 

  • Shaking hands or hugging a person infected with HIV

  • It is not transmitted through contact with objects such as dishes, toilet seats or doorknobs used by a person infected with HIV

  • It is also not spread through the air or through mosquito, tick and/or other insect bites

How to PREVENT HIV transmission: 

  • Practice safe sex – use condoms
  • Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections (including HIV)
  • Avoid injecting drugs (or use sterile needles / syringes)
  • Ensure that any blood or blood products you require are tested for HIV
  • If you have HIV, start treatment immediately to prevent transmission to your partner or child

SYMPTOMS for HIV / AIDS

After getting infected, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache or rash have been known to show up. These may come and go for a month or two after getting infected. (these varies across patients).

At the earliest stages, HIV multiplies but very slowly. Severe cases can include chronic diarrhoea, rapid weight loss and signs of opportunistic infections (infections and infection related cancers that occur frequently because of the body’s weakened immune system), however this takes a few years before they show up.

Without treatment, HIV can advance to AIDS. The time it takes for HIV to advance to AIDS varies, but it can take 10 years or more.

HIV transmission is possible at any stage of HIV infection—even if an HIV-infected person has no symptoms of HIV.

What is the TREATMENT for HIV?

Combination ART which stands for Antiretroviral Therapy treatment prevents the HIV infection from multiplying in the body. In simple words – its a combination of medicines that stops the infection from growing and allows the body’s immune cells to prolong the HIV infected person’s life, reducing the chances for spreading the infection.

Recent advances in access to ART, HIV-positive people now live longer and healthier lives. In addition, it has been confirmed that ART prevents onward transmission of HIV. Progress has also been made in preventing and eliminating mother-to-child transmission and keeping mothers alive. In 2015, almost 8 out of 10 pregnant women living with HIV, or 1.1 million women, received antiretrovirals (ARVs).

While this is mostly good news, the bad news is that

there is no cure for HIV / AIDS.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Look into more information on HIV / AIDS from WHO or any other NGO near you that has access to this information. The YWCA of India has been following this campaign closely and has been trying to spread as much information about this as possible. So get tested regularly. Donate blood when you can, but make sure sterile equipment is used. Spread all the information you have as much as you can. Most importantly, don’t get mired in the stigma surrounding getting tested, your health and others is more important than your pride.

KEEP CALM and GET TESTED. Have you done it yet? 

Pink for Girls, Blue for Boys?

‘Good News’ in India is celebrated with such enthusiasm that the happy couple are surrounded by so many well wishers from family to friends. The next step in this, ‘Good News’ saga is to buy everything under the sun for the new baby in the family. However, that sends us down another road of what gender is the baby going to be? For generations we have been informed that blue is for boys and pink for girls. It’s tradition really, and we do not mess with tradition.

How did this tradition actually set in though?

This leads us back to the world history of how this gender specific colour formed. From the early 1800s white was the norm for babies to toddlers. White dresses to be specific. It was easier to lift to clean dirty diapers {cloth diapers in those days} and far far easier to bleach when those dirty diapers exploded.

The fashion changed to different shades later when colours were introduced, however, it was still dresses – because of the ease of changing diapers. In fact, around 1918, in the US a statement was made about how, ‘Pink was a strong colour and hence for boys and blue was a softer, fragile colour, hence it was for girls.’ There doesn’t seem to be much backing for this story though and has hence been dubbed as an urban legend.

Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918 said, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.” Other sources said blue was flattering for blonds, pink for brunettes; or blue was for blue-eyed babies, pink for brown-eyed babies, according to Paoletti.

In 1927, Time magazine printed a chart showing sex-appropriate colors for girls and boys according to leading U.S. stores. In Boston, Filene’s told parents to dress boys in pink. So did Best & Co. in New York City, Halle’s in Cleveland and Marshall Field in Chicago.

What did get recorded as fact, was a graphical representation on a map in the US of what colours departmental stores used for boys and girls, in the Time magazine in 1927. Even then, pink was subscribed for boys and blue for girls.

When did this trend change? 

The shift to pink for girls and blue for boys happened just right after World War II, during a time when mass marketing was just starting. Gender specific became the norm, because it was easier to market it as thus. In a time when the fear of the wars had bled into everyone’s psyche, society inadvertently built a structure of what was normal and what wasn’t. Marketing managed to weave a ploy around this.

What cemented the notion though was France, the leader in fashion. Traditional French fashion had girls in pink and boys in blue, however, the rest of Europe had the opposite. Early 20th century, tradition and marketing built the notion that gender specific colours were pink and blue and that has stuck since then.

Gender specific for the win

Mass producing for the baby industries became easier and they raked in more money because of this. They sold a concept that just wasn’t true. Science has found that while men and women do register on different regions of the colour spectrum, it has not found that they identify to pink or blue respectively.

How about here in India?

In the Indian context, the gender specific notion is a fairly new phenomena, considering the vast economic growth of this developing nation. Buying gender specific colours before the baby is born is also a tricky concept considering our laws are against finding out the sex of the baby – due to our female infanticide rates. However, we have been buying into the trend of how babies need to be dressed in one specific colour and not. Our shopping malls and baby centred shops have very specific colours for a boy and a girl. Another aspect that could be perpetuating this notion could be our culture as well, where girls have to be in glittery frills and boys in sober pants.

In Conclusion . . . 

Traditionally, girls are dressed in brighter, fun shades, while boys have sober, darker shades. Boys get dirtier, girls do not. Boys run around, girls do not. Girls only identify being a princess, boys love dragons. Stereotypical norms have been set in place, have been for centuries and messing with it as expected creates friction. Whatever the current scenario, it is interesting to mull over the fact that neutral dresses were the norm and pink was subscribed for boys than girls.

 

 

What is Social Justice? by John Rajkumar

Social Justice is not something I was aware of, not until my wife asked me to help her with a blog post. So I did what anyone with access to the internet would do, I Googled it.

The first bit I searched for was the definition of what Social Justice is, and here is what I found first.

The fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice.

The definition indicates that social justice looks to form a new society. A society where all citizens are equal and have equal opportunity. As an idealist, this does sound a worthy goal to me. However this definition is very basic. Tells me the what and not the how. So how will a society with Social Justice work? Perhaps before I try to define Social Justice I need to know its history and roots.

How did Social Justice start?

With help from Wikipedia I learnt, Social Justice has its roots in the 1840s, the term was used more towards the end of the Industrial Revolution. The key aspect at this point was POVERTY. The goal was to ensure resources were distributed evenly. Since then Social Justice has evolved to include other imbalances in society, such as, Equal rights – irrespective of gender, caste, colour, religion, etc. Essentially in a society there should be no reason to discriminate against an individual and prevent him from benefiting for the work he is trying to put in. At the same time there should be empowerment and upliftment of the underprivileged.

Are we aware of it? 

Understanding this I realise, this has been a topic we discuss often. Perhaps not under the term Social Justice and not completely under it’s definition. Most democratic countries have been a part of this. They have passed laws preventing discrimination. Laws have also been passed to provide welfare to the poor. This is entrenched in the Indian constitution as well. The chapter on Fundamental Rights has article 15, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, religion, race or caste. Article 17 abolishes untouchability. The People world over contribute to this as well. We pay taxes, we stand up for ourselves or for members of our society, either online or on the streets. Voices were raised in light of violence against women. This has been an ongoing conversation for decades – where voices have been raised. Some voices have been heard and some not yet.

True, but it is a long road. . . 

In my mind, the road is long and a lot more progress to be made. As an Indian, I see debates raging on various topics that affect the progress of Social Justice. We see citizens from underprivileged backgrounds, marginalised castes as well as women rising above their disadvantages and excelling. They have done this on their own will power, or with assistance from the Government or NGOs. However, we still see abject poverty, caste and gender-based discrimination. There are debates raging on how we should prioritise our citizens or on the methods we should employ to achieve Social Justice. This is normal I would presume in a functioning democracy. However, I do go back to realising, this is a long and difficult road.

How do we contribute? 

So, what is it that we can do to move Social Justice along the right path? I obviously don’t have the answer. I believe one important element in this is – the NGO. In a functioning democracy the primary custodian of this, is the Government. However, a Government has priorities that cover aspects other than Social Justice. Governments are not unknown to make mistakes as well. Here is where an NGO should stand as a pillar towards this goal. NGOs work at the grass roots, identify social and economic issues, work for the have nots and fight for their upliftment.

Contrary to what we read on the news, this world is seeing one of the most peaceful times. Perhaps now is the time for us to look outward, look at our fellow brothers and sisters, understand their trials and burdens and ask ourselves, what can I do?

 

John Rajkumar

Orange the World: UNiTE to End Violence against Women

A little known fact: 1 in 3 women experience physical or sexual violence from someone close to them, or someone they know.

Thus the initiative started by Secretary-General UNiTE to End Violence against Women calls for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in 2016 – from the International Day of Violence against Women [25th November] to Human Right’s Day [10th December].

‘Orange the World: Raise Money to End Violence against Women and Girls strongly emphasizes the need for sustainable financing for efforts to end violence against women and girls towards the fulfillment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ingrained in us is the inequality of roles, rights, opportunities and attitudes between men and women. It’s something that requires a lot of education, a lot of manpower, a lot of open dialogue to break down these barriers. Most instances, women believe they should be in these unequal positions, since a novel concept being spoken of breaks the balance that has been maintained, and that rocks the boat for most. All across the world, leaders realise that for economic and development of any nation, these injustices need to be worked on. However, they also realise that a lot of funds are required to invest into this initiative. Hence, Orange the World.

Evidence shows that even relatively small-scale investments that are timely and well integrated can bring enormous benefits to women and their communities. Donate to support efforts to end violence against women and girls worldwide.

Join in this campaign, by sharing your photos, messages and videos showing how you orange the world at facebook.com/SayNO.UNiTE and twitter.com/SayNO_UNiTE using #orangetheworld and #16days. Follow the UN Women website for the 16 days of activism from across the globe.

YWCA – Who, Where, What & How

Our Mission

In a changing world with changing needs, the YWCA of India needs to respond effectively with timely intervention in programmes and projects that specifically address the needs of marginalized communities. It calls us to be inclusive of all communities regardless of age, class, caste, creed, religion and to be committed to protecting human dignity and environment.

Our Vision

The YWCA in India continues to be challenged in empowering women and girls to face gender inequities, social and economic disparities, caste based discrimination and all forms of violence against women. Today in a world ridden with environmental degradation, violation of human rights, the YWCA as one of the largest women’s movements is in a strong position to be an agent for social transformation and change.

THE WORLD YWCA – A PAGE FROM HISTORY

England, 1855:

Emma Roberts Prayer Union and General Female Training Institute {GFTI} founded by Hon. Mrs. Arthur Kinnaird were two women who strove to improve the situation of their fellow women – separately initially – created because of the industrial revolution and the Crimean war. Their movements grew and soon they joined forces and formed the largest world organisation of women, the YWCA with the blue triangle as it’s symbol.

1855-1875:

Various groups had already formed in Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland, USA, Canada and British Guyana. In 1894 four existing National Associations Great Britain, USA, Norway and Sweden formed the World YWCA with London as Headquarters.

1930:

The Headquarters of World YWCA was later relocated from London to Geneva Switzerland.

The current World YWCA is a global network with presence in more than 120 countries, 20000 communities and 25 million outreach programmes.

THE YWCA of INDIA – A PAGE FROM HISTORY

1875:

Miss Hariette N. Butt, a missionary formed the YWCA of Bombay along with Miss Mary Vitters, Ms, E. Mc Ritchie and Ms. Sorabji – helping in the Pillow and Flower mission for patients in hospitals and work houses.

1887:

A home for 5 young women was the start of hostels in India.

1896:

Partly due to the efforts of Ms Hill and other YMCA leaders, the forty Indian language branches and fifty English speaking branches with twenty secretaries from abroad were united by a National Committee which came to be known as YWCA of India, Burma and Ceylon.

1947:

After the partition, The YWCA of India was formed.

Today the WORLD YWCA has more than 25 million women serving 22,000 communities spread across 128 Countries. With the presence of 86 YWCAs in India and a 7000 strong volunteer force, the YWCA of India reaches out to women and girls of different ages, economic, ethnic, occupational, religious and cultural backgrounds. It is a forum for empowerment, development, growth, sharing of ideas and formation of issue based partnerships.

OUR WORK

Since the first YWCA started in Bombay in 1875, it has grown from providing accommodation to working women and students to areas of advocacy and community outreach programmes.

Advocacy action :

which strives for the removal of all forms of discrimination and violence against women in the law, media, employment, status at home and in other spheres of life. It networks with other women’s organization and has proactively collaborated in the framing of drafts for Bills and Legislations. The YWCA of India also serves on Complaints Committees set up by Ministries, Government institutions and Public Sector Undertakings for prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace

Community Development services:

The YWCA works to improve survival, protection and participation of children of all ages through early childhood care, education programmes and advocacy for their rights. It has adopted a programmatic and multi-faceted approach to improve the quality of living in areas of education, economy and health. It also conducts Family Life Education for Adolescent Girls programmes and leadership development workshops and trainings. The YWCA also works to prevent child marriage and assists young and vulnerable mothers through various community initiatives and livelihood programs.

Other services:

YWCA of India also offers, hostels for working women and students, schools emphasizing a high standard to value based education, counselling and crisis centres, vocational training centres, school for the differently challenged, crèches and about 45 guest houses.

Our Projects:

The YWCA of India’s Community Development Project – Pippal Chhaya in TrilokPuri, Delhi:

This is a resettlement colony that focuses on empowering the children, especially girls, through education, socio – economic awareness and advocacy sessions on social issues, English and computer classes, fitness activities, character building workshops, health care through fun activities which are both engaging and informative.

Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights:

Projects on Sexual and Reproductive health and rights are conducted and these focus on educating youth on issues such as HIV/AIDS and Drug abuse. Training on gender justice for children at schools is also a key area of our work.

The YWCA of India – Dehradun { Spreadacre’s Project}:

This property, had been providing residence to the senior citizens who had decided to spend their retired life in this beautiful town. In 2010, the Home lost the last of its residents and the YWCA of India decided to renovate the heritage Cottage before new residents took up accommodation which is now reopening on 4th September 2016.

The Day Care Centre which has been functioning since 1986 on this property has been providing day care facilities to 30 senior persons. Recreational programmes, camps, income generation, rehabilitation, financial and medical aid are provided from this unit.

Guest Houses:

The guest houses run by the YWCA of India in Ootacamund, Coonoor, Nainital, Delhi and Mussoorie help raise funds for our work and provide clean, comfortable and safe accommodation for travellers.

The YWCA also offers services like hostels for working women and students, schools emphasising a high standard to value based education, counselling and crisis centres, vocational training centres, schools for the differently challenged, creches and about 45 guest houses.

OUR PURPOSE:

Being one of the largest women’s movements, the YWCA of India is in a strong position to be an agent for social transformation and change. We network with the government, policy makers, corporations, local communities and the general public. Our programmes in the communities aim at holistic development of women and girls making them employable citizens with a deep sense of commitment to society. The intent is to develop a scalable and sustainable model for development.