India

Indian teenager's plea to annul her child marriage

Santadevi Meghwal
Image caption Santadevi Meghwal says she does not even remember her "marriage"

A 19-year-old Indian woman, married off at the age of 11 months, has petitioned a court to annul her child marriage.

Santadevi Meghwal said her family had been ostracised and the village council had ordered them to pay a fine of 1.6m rupees ($25,000; £16,000) if they chose to annul the marriage.

At the time of the wedding, the groom was nine years old, she said.

Activists say child marriages are prohibited in India, but millions of children are still married off.

They must be dissolved if one or both partners wish to opt out, activist Kriti Bharti of non-governmental organisation Saarthi Trust, which is helping Ms Meghwal in her appeal, told BBC Hindi's Abha Sharma in Jaipur.

"If done with mutual consent, the annulment may take place within three days. Otherwise, things may take their own course. An annulment application of a 15-year-old girl married to a 55-year-old man is pending for the past 18 months," she said.

Ms Meghwal, who lives in Rohicha Kalan village in Rajasthan's Jodhpur district, said she didn't even remember her "marriage".

A college student who wants to be a teacher after graduation, she told the BBC that her so-called husband had studied only up to 10th standard in school and that she had no intentions of living with him.

Despite being illegal, child marriages are common in many parts of the country, and millions of children, especially in rural and poorer communities, are routinely married off and incidents of young women refusing to accept them are rare.

In a similar case in Rajasthan in 2012, another young woman had her child marriage legally annulled.

According to the figures released by Unicef in 2015, 47% of girls in India were married before they turned 18, the official age for marriage.

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