Fighting child marriage, defying all odds, Renuka regains her rights
Renuka, an RMAG from Bochanhalli village got engaged, when she was studying in std 9. An active member in the RMAG groups, interested in studies but because of prospects of her early marriage she started losing her interest in studies. But life had to offer her a second chance….
It all started with her mother participating in the exposure visit to Mysore. After returning from there the mother’s perception started changing about her daughter’s marriage. She called the groom’s family and clearly communicated to them that the marriage could only take place after 3-4 years after her daughter turns 18 years and complete her education. This worried the prospective groom’s parents. Even Renuka called and informed the groom about her decision to study and marry only after she turns 18. This caused greater worry to the groom.
Everything went well for some time. One fine day, the boy on the pretext of taking her to a festival of the local deity took permission from Renuka’s parents to for her to be away for 2 days. After 2 days when the girl didn’t return home, the elders in the family went to the groom’s place to enquire and found out that he married her at the festival. The groom’s family threw allegations against Renuka’s mother that she would let Renuka visit and stay with the boy for 2-3 days every week, so in order to avoid any embarrassment with the larger community, they got them both married stealthily. When the community leaders requested the family to let Renuka continue education, Renuka expressed that she would like to study from Koppal as the school in Bochanahalli (her “husband’s” village) was not good. She also shared that she was happy contrary to her confession with her friends over a call where she supposedly wept at all that happened. Renuka felt trapped and she found no escape.
But when this came to the knowledge of the staff of Project Sphoorthi, they immediately sprang into action. They visited Renuka’s home and learnt in detail about the incident. They followed it up with a visit to Renuka’s in-laws’ place and found the groom and the bride alone at home. Upon the arrival of the staff, Renuka hid herself. She was not wearing any ornaments indicative of marriage. When asked why she was there she told a different story to them. She said that she was there to look after her mother in law who was unwell. In some time the mother in law arrived and she also shared the same. KHPT staff obviously, knowing the other side of the story Cautiously evaluated what they said and spoke openly to the family. They discussed =that if Renuka was married before she turned 18, it would simply be a crime and such marriages are considered illegal. If the boy’s family continued to keep Renuka in their home without the parents’ consent then it would amount to kidnap too . The team advised the in-laws to come to Bochanhalli with Renuka and settle the matter amicably between the two families.
On the decided date and time, a meeting took place at Renuka’s home which saw heated arguments between the two parties but finally truth come out. The in-laws agreed to the fact that they got their son married to Renuka but upon learning the law and the legal consequences of this act, they agreed to not meet the girl till she attains the age of 18 years.
At her home that day, we saw a puzzled, disturbed and traumatised Renuka. But when asked about continuing her education, she said yes! Renuka got her dreams back and will be back in school soon.