Kavita*, a 12 year-old girl living in rural West Bengal, was rescued from child marriage by JVI and partner organization Suprava Panchashila Mahila Uddyog Samity (SPMUS). Although the Indian Prohibition of Child Marriage Act (PCMA) states that the marriage of a girl under 18 years of age is illegal, the long-standing practice ofchild marriage persists for cultural and financial reasons. In Kavita’s case, a local man, almost 20 years her senior, attempted to force her into marriage despite her repeated refusals. The man, Sanjeev*, had been requesting Kavita’s hand in marriage from the first time he saw her, when she was only a fourth grade student.
Kavita, the youngest of ten siblings, initially lived with both of her parents. Her father was an alcoholic and squandered all their money, driving the victim’s mother, Hema*, to move away with her daughter to seek an independent living. There, Hema found work in a domestic setting, earning the equivalent of about $22 per month.
On May 5, Hema took Kavita to Sanjeev’s house, telling her that she was to get married later that evening. Kavita refused, protesting she was not yet of marriageable age and that she wanted to finish her studies. She was offered gold earrings if she agreed to the marriage. Despite her initial objection, the wedding ceremony went forward, conducted by a local priest.
Later that evening, some of the village inhabitants informed the JVI team that an illegal marriage had taken place. Immediately, the team went to the local police and registered a complaint. By 9 pm that same day, police were on the scene and arrested Sanjeev. JVI sponsored lawyers successfully opposed Sanjeev’s petition for bail and he remains in custody. The legal team will work closely with prosecutors to ensure he is held accountable.
Today, Kavita is recovering in a shelter home where JVI partners are providing counselling and other needed services to empower her to reintegrate successfully into society. Kavita is receiving the support she needs to achieve her goal of finishing her education. Thank you for your partnership as we help girls like Kavita look to a brighter future.
*Name changed to protect identity of the victim and family