In a stunning turn of events, ill omens in the stars did what government could not in a large central Indian state — they prevented many young women from being forced into marriage. India has the largest number of child brides in the world, due to its massive size and widespread poverty.
On May 4, while Americans celebrated Star Wars Day, India had a real religious holiday. Akshaya Tritiya, also known as Akti and Akha Teej, is a holy day for Hindus and Jains — indeed, it is one of the four holiest days in the Hindu calendar. The holiday is celebrated when both the sun and the moon are at their extreme points in the sky, and is considered very auspicious for marriages.
Last year on this date, government officials were able to stop 34 underage marriages in Madhya Pradesh, a state in the center of India. This year, only two to three cases were even reported, due to an accident (or a miracle) in the heavens.
“After 100 years, in the planetary alignment Venus, considered the lord of marital life, is combusted. This anomaly or ‘nakshatra dosh’ can cause harm to marriages that are solemnized when either Venus or Jupiter is weak,” priest Vinod Singh Rana told the Hindustan Times.
Prashant Dubey, a child rights activist, celebrated the occasion. “I am happy that when government couldn’t change mindset of people, a planet did it effectively. Otherwise several underage marriages are soleminised [sic] on Akshya Tritiya.”
The Indian government reported that one child marriage was stopped on the holiday, while they have stopped more than 60 underage marriages during the current season. The government had officers in all districts on high alert, given the tendency for many marriages to occur on that holiday.
Last month, Britain’s Daily Mail published footage of a mass child marriage in Rajasthan, a northern Indian state well-known for child marriages. In the video, a five-year-old child bride cries loudly as she is forced to walk around a fire with her 11-year-old groom.
A prominent child rights activist, Kriti Bharti, has annulled 29 child marriages in Rajasthan and is credited with stopping 850 child marriages. She encourages harsh reprisals for families who force their daughters to marry young.
“Our society will never improve and this cruel concept will keep continuing if strict action is not taken against these people,” Kriti told the Daily Mail. “Action should not only be taken against the families but each adult involved in this ceremony including the decorators, caterers, attendees and relatives.” Kriti only wishes strong and harsh judgment due to the wrongs suffered by these children, however. “My heart goes out to these little children trapped in this tragedy.”
Next Page: Child marriage is the real war on women, and it is connected to Islam in India.
The legal age of marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men, but according to the International Center for Research on Women, 47 percent of girls under 18 have already been married. Tragically, this high percentage only puts India at number 13 on the list of countries with huge child marriage problems, behind Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, Bangladesh, Guinea, Mozambique, Mali, Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Malawi, and Madagascar.
Poverty and tradition lie behind child marriage in India. While the practice was banned in 1929 by the British colonial government, even then there was an exception for Muslims. The 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act extended the ban throughout the whole country, although some Muslim groups have pushed for earlier ages for child brides — as young as 12 or 15. Some states in India claim that Muslim areas have higher rates of child marriage.
This accident of astrology may have prevented child marriages on one particular day this year, but the issue remains a pertinent struggle in many countries throughout the developing world. This shows the true tragedy of the global war on women, which should put to shame the cries of our radical feminists focused on abortion and free birth control.