Her fate was all but sealed, the wedding bells ringing in her relatives’ heads. Then the bride-to-be, a little girl playing in the dirt in this impoverished village, plucked up her courage and said, “I do not.”
The British Raj tried to stamp it out. Mohandas Gandhi, himself a child groom, campaigned against it. The United Nations has condemned it. And in 2006, the Indian government explicitly banned it.
But child marriage remains pervasive in India, accounting for one-third of such unions worldwide and underscoring the contradictions and complexities of a society that produces cutting-edge engineers even as it clings to feudal traditions.
“These girls are very brave,” said Sarita Singh, secretary of the Rajasthan state Department of Child and Women Development. “There are enormous social forces working against them.”