Even as the Supreme Court, in a historic decision on October 11, ruled that sexual intercourse with wives aged between 15 and 18 years will be considered rape, a village in Uttarakhand's Haridwar is decking up their minor daughters to get them married.
According to the Times of India, several minor girls -- some of whom are as young as 13 and have not obtained the legal age of marriage -- of this village called Gaindi Khata will tie the knot in the upcoming winter.
Why are they married off
A 38-year-old woman, whose name has not been revealed, has five daughters and a young son and will soon be witnessing the marriage of two of her daughters.
While her eldest girl, a 13-year-old, got engaged at the age of 10, the woman's second daughter, a 10-year-old, got engaged in August.
The woman is of the opinion that as the girls have not received education and have little knowledge of the outer world, it's better to get them married.
"How can we allow them to live on their own?" said the 38-year-old reasoned.
Village elders lie about minor's age
When the English Daily reminded the older members of the village about the top court's recent order, they lied that the girls have obtained the legal age for marriage.
However, this doesn't seem to be the case when the minors were questioned.
"My nikaah is over and now only gauna (ceremony associated with the consummation of marriage) has to take place since I have just attained puberty. I am 13," another teenager told TOI.
In fact, it is rather disheartening that most of the minors are not happy to be married off as minors.
"But I do not want to get married. My fiance had married twice in the past and has two kids. I do not like him at all. I want someone to help me escape this wedding," added the teenager
It is this age-old tradition of marrying minor girls that has earned the village the title of 'Land of minor brides'.
"There are around 5 lakh Van Gujjars across the country and around 1 lakh in Uttarakhand alone. Van Gujjars do not marry within the same gotras (clans) but it is mandatory for them to marry in the same community. There is always a fear looming among elders that they may not find grooms for their daughters if they get older. Hence they are married off early," said Uttarakhand-based Avdhash Kaushal, a Padmashree recipient, academician and activist.
According to the latest National Family Health Survey, 13.9 percent girls in Uttarakhand are married before they turn 18.