Rajasthan’s Suppliers To Refuse Wedding Tents For Child Marriages

Tent suppliers helping combat child marriage in their own way 

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Kishan Gopal (R), 15, sits with his 12-year-old newly-wed wife Urmila in a mass marriage outside his village near Kota, Rajasthan. (Photo: Reuters)

Wedding tent suppliers may not be the most obvious allies in the battle against child marriage, but in Rajasthan, they have come together to tackle the high child marriage rate.

The Tent Dealers Welfare Samiti of Rajasthan, with over 9,000 members, has been demanding the birth certificates of the brides and grooms it supplies to.

In India, the legal marriage age for a woman is 18 and 21 for a man. The charity ‘Girls Not Brides’ estimates the rate of child marriage to be as high as 65 percent in Rajasthan and almost 70 percent in Bihar.

We want to show people that this is wrong (and) that they should not be doing this.
Ravi Jindal, President, Tent Dealers Welfare Samiti of Rajasthan

“We complain to the police and the village headman, get them to intervene, so there is pressure on them to not do it”, he said.

The association has stopped at least 80 child marriages in Rajasthan in the past two years.

Despite their efforts, and similar actions by thousands of suppliers across the state, the practice is still rampant. In Rajasthan, weddings peak during the Akshaya Tritiya festival in April and May, which is considered an auspicious period.

Colourful tents, decorated with flowers and lights are erected for guests to enjoy the wedding feast. Worldwide, more than 700 million women were married before their 18th birthday, according to a 2014 UNICEF report.

While boys are also married as children, girls are disproportionately affected. Early marriage makes it more likely that girls will drop out of school. Campaigners say it also increases the risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death during childbirth.

South Asia is home to 42 percent of all child brides, worldwide. India alone accounts for one-third of the global total, according to UNICEF.

Child marriage is most common in rural areas and among the poor, where a girl is seen as a financial burden. 
Sanjay Sharma, General Manager at the Save the Children charity in Rajasthan

Girls are also married early because of fears for their safety. “It is not as though people are not aware of the law...,” Sharma said. “But they say it is their tradition. So every little action helps, be it from the police, from the government or tent suppliers.”

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