Indian woman Laxmi Sargara was just one year old when her family had her married to a 3-year-old boy named Rakesh. The woman, now 18-years-old, had her marriage legally annulled in what has been considered a ground-breaking case challenging the culture of child weddings, Agence France Presse reported Wednesday.
According to AFP, the families of Laxmi and Rakesh had decided that they would live together and have children when they grew up.
The AFP reports that although child marriages were outlawed inIndiain 1929, they are still common in many parts of the country, particularly in the rural and poorer communities. The girls that are married off when they are babies often remain in their parents’ homes until they reach puberty and then they are taken to their husbands’ families amid great celebrations, reports AFP.
A Unicef report says 47 percent of married women inIndiawed before age 18 and that 40 percent of the world’s child marriages take place in India, reports MSNBC.
“I was unhappy about the marriage,” Laxmi, now 18, told AFP. “I told my parents who did not agree with me, then I sought help. Now I am mentally relaxed and my family members are also with me.”
Laxmi only discovered that she was married a few days ago and would be sent to her husband’s home this week. She inevitably sought the advice of social worker Kriti Bharti, who runs the children’s rights group Sarathi Trust, AFP said.
AFP reports that the social worker then negotiated with the husband and both families to try and convince them that the marriage was unfair.
“It is the first example we know of a couple wed in childhood wanting the marriage to be annulled, and we hope that others take inspiration from it,” the social worker told AFP.
According to AFP, the social worker says that the husband initially wanted to go forward with the relationship, but due to Laxmi’s fierce opposition became convinced that the marriage should be revoked.
The AFP says that the marriage was annulled through a joint legal document signed by the bride and groom and validated by a public official in Jodhpur.
The annulment coincided with the Akshaya Tritiya festival, a traditional date for mass child weddings. On Sunday, villagers in Rajasthan attacked and injured at least 12 government officials who tried to stop a wedding of about 40 child couples, AFP reports.
International Business Times reports that child marriage is not only a problem in India, but also in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, South Asia and even in some parts of the U.S.