16-year-old girl rescued from aunt's house hours before wedding
A 16-year-old girl, a student of Class XI, was rescued from her aunt's house in Budge Budge hours before she was to be married off on Tuesday evening.
A team of officers from Maheshtala police station reached the venue, all decked out, and rescued the girl.
The girl’s father is a daily labourer who does odd painting jobs and the mother, a homemaker, places chumki on saris to add to the family income, police said.
The teenager who was to be married off is the second of three daughters of the couple. The eldest daughter is married.
The father has been ailing for a few months and lost his earning following the outbreak of Covid-19.
“The girl cleared Madhyamik this year and was admitted to a higher secondary school in Bishnupur, on the southern fringes of the city. With the family struggling to make ends meet, the parents decided to get her married,” said an officer.
The Telegraph has reported how pandemic-induced poverty has led to a rise in child marriage and child trafficking.
An NGO had tipped off the police that the Class XI student was being married off at her aunt’s house in Maheshtala, far away from the village where the girl lives with her parents and sister.
The man to whom she was to be married earns a living by selling vegetables. The police said he also worked as a tout at the state transport department's office in Alipore.
“Since the marriage didn’t take place, we have not arrested anyone. But the girl’s parents and her aunt had to give us in writing that they would not marry her off till she came of age and they would allow her to complete her education,” an officer at Maheshtala police station said.
“Some neighbours have agreed to help the family so that the girl could complete her education. The parents will open a bank account in the girl’s name and the neighbours would transfer money there.”
“When our field workers got to know about the wedding, they tried to talk the parents out of it. When that failed, we alerted the police,” said Dalia Roy, of Jeevika Development Society, which works with women across South 24-Parganas.
“Over the last year and a half, during the pandemic, we have been able to save a dozen underage girls from being married off.”
Hundreds of contractual labourers in Budge Budge, Maheshtala, Bishnupur and other areas in South 24-Parganas have been struggling to eke out a living during the pandemic, which has crippled the economy.
“Some of these families are agreeing to proposals to get their underage girls married off, unable to feed them any longer. Once, we had rescued a girl after she had boarded the groom’s car after marriage,” Roy said.