India has a population of more than 1.3 billion people, there are still at least 270 million people living on less than US$1.90 per day. While laws, systems and attitudes regarding key 'fault lines' such as the caste system, gender and feudalism are rapidly changing, social change of this depth and scale necessarily takes time. In this context, it is perhaps unsurprising that existing research suggests that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including intergenerational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into nonstate armed groups and forced marriage.
According to Girls Not Brides, more than one third of young brides live in India. In the states of Jharkhand and Bihar, 50-60% of girls are married before they turn 18.
Reena was forced in to marriage before her 18th birthday.
When I was studying in the 9th class, I suddenly got a message that my wedding had been fixed for August 15th, 2012. I felt like my dreams had been shattered. I had thought I could be a teacher or stand on my feet. That dream was finished.
I have a large family and we are five sisters. My father is very poor, that’s why he felt if I get married early then I will ease the way for my four younger sisters.
I asked my in-laws only if I study I will get married. If I can’t study, then I won’t marry. My in-laws agreed to let me study as much as I wanted.
I was married before I was 18 but I will make sure my four sisters are educated and not marry before 18.
I am now studying in 10th class and I want to keep studying and become someone. I want to stand on my own two feet. I haven’t left my studies and won’t leave them until I am independent.
Some names in this story have been changed to protect identities.
Narrative provided by Girls Not Brides. Original video by Breakthrough