#Rinku is a Malala,and so many others from Nepal to break Silence around #Child Marriage

#Rinku is a Malala,and so many others from Nepal to break Silence around #Child Marriage

by Radha Paudel
Radha was talking with Rinku , April 30, 2016 Birgunj (consent taken for display)

When I was studying at grade four, I heard and observed that many very young girls were getting married in my village, said by 18 years (her parents and neighbours hadn’t agree with her age, claiming 19 years) young, Terai Dalit girl named Rinku Thakur from Chhapkaiya 1, Birgunj, Parsa. She further added, I also heard about committed suicide by many young girls and women due to early, force marriage and other forms of domestic violence. She was quite worried since then due to fear of child and forced marriage in her culture and society. Being an eldest (#1-Rinku 18 years, “2-Brother 16, SLC attempted, #3- Sister 14 years 10th grade, #4- Sister 11 years at 7thgrade) she is more vulnerable who must follow her parents peculiarly marriage without a single comment in many ways e.g. her marriage is a matter of honour in her society in order to continue the culture of this community.

Nepal has one of the highest child marriage in the world where 41 % (UNICEF, 2015) adolescent girls get married before the age of 18 years due to gender discrimination, poverty and culture. According to the land of law, the 20 years old is the legal marriage for both women and men or 18 years with parental consent (2010) and defined up to three years imprisonment and £102 as fine as punishment for child marriage though there is merely zero of enforcement of the law. Currently, the national strategy formulated on it as well.

Her parents supported her wish when she denied to marry when she was in grade 10. Sadly, it wasn’t remaining same and fixed her marriage with seventh grade boy who is working as carpenter in Ghodesim, India in March 2016. They also paid for Dowry equivalent USD $ 1200. Her persistent fighting didn’t work out. When she felt hopelessness at family, she shared this issue with her colleagues at Terai FM where she worked as part timer. Because she neither like to commit suicide nor faced to various forms of violence as others as she has been witnessed since childhood.  She does fully aware that girls and women do not have single voice, treated as less than animals or goods, suffering from various forms of domestic violence. She encountered the verbal, physical, emotional torture from her parents, uncles, aunts and neighbours since long regarding her marriage.

Radha with Rinku’s mother, Father, brother and youngest Sister at her yard of house, April 30, 2016 (Consent taken for display)

Her dad Mr. Nagendar, 40 years, also works as carpenter, considered so called caste based profession and mom, Mrs Meenadevi, 40 years is operating tailor with four foot machines at their own house where their children also assist them. In such business city of the country, this family considered a poor family though they have strong tie with neighbourhood regarding marriage. While Rinku disagreed for marriage, the entire neighbourhood including school teachers, elites, women, men and all supported to Mr Nagendar to make happen the marriage. The neighbours were seemed more strong than parents while having meeting with her parents. Dad was constantly saying that Police Superintendent (SP) is her dad not him, and mom was agreeing with her husband and neighbours who were speaking with feeling of dishonour and breaking the culture of Madhesh community. Rinku’s siblings were almost silent where brother was supporting to neighbours by nodding his head and sisters were busy for hospitality (sitting arrangement, tea, water) and sounded very scare for same situation because the second sister had already banned to go to school and there was a rumour of marry with same guy.

SP, Raja Babu Shrestha in between Radha and Dinesh in his office, May 1, 2016, Birgunj

Her parents threaten, scolding, shouting, beaten for many days and house captivity for 2 days including not allow to go work, to meet friends and all as a pressure for accept their wish and finally, they asked to leave the family, leave her all documents including citizenship. Her parents were giving fake message about her to police and journalists too. Despite all mental, physical, social, cultural pressure and all, Rinku left her family, supported by police and started to live in shelter of a NGO since April 6, 2016.
During the course of consultation with various stakeholders, this writer found that the police office is serious and trying to work in holistic manner for Rinku though there is huge challenge for future girls as well as institutionalize it.  The representatives of Chief District Office , Women, Children Development  and Social Welfare office remain passive where they supposed to play more proactive role. Both are throwing the ball towards NGOs and activists rather strengthening system to building assurance among upcoming Rinkus, creating enabling environment for girls at home, building critical mass to stop child and forced marriage, celebration of Rinku’s braveness and creating rippling effect among all adolescents and parents across Nepal and beyond. They can mobilize the all like-minded individuals/organizations such as human right activists, organizations, NGOs, media etc. This writer was also interacted with the women leaders (Para legal groups) from same city about Child marriage and Rinku. Sadly, they neither aware on it nor discuss this case nor have plan to reaching out Rinku and her community during their seven days training.

Radha was interacting with Cordinators of ParaGaman, at the building of Women, Children Development  and Social Welfare Office, Birgunj, May 1, 2016 (Consent taken for display)

In March 23, Nepal hosted a girl summit with the theme entitled ‘Girls are the Future of Nepal’ for ‘reaffirm the government’s commitment to ensure a future free from child marriage by 2030’ where Rt. Honourable President Mrs Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prince Harry from Great Britain, Minister of Women and Children Development, Development Partners were together to stop child marriage at Hotel Soltee, Kathmandu. Sadly, none of them showed up or taken this Rinku’s bravery step as successful and legendary action for moving ahead specially in Terai Community and beyond. Rinku, spoke with few local and national media. She received few offers for job and incentives through police but she denied because she was not alone in this community. Many girls are silently accepting due to lack of confidence for their future, she added. She further loud,  I am bit educated and empowered and already got scholarship for four years BBS course at Birgunj so could I asked them to reach out with such girls and protect them from every day’s dying including my younger sister.

Girl SummitMarch 23, 2016, Soltee Hotel, Kathmandu Nepal along with Rt. Honourable President Mrs Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Prince Harry from Great Britain (photo from internet)

It was about a month of leaving family, always she thinks that someone should take bold step to save many girls and future generation for abolishing such harmful traditional practice though she missed her siblings and parents, sometimes dreamed her younger sister, she said. Since childhood, she had faith on her dad but it was false when the time came.  Further she added, my parents and neighbours were blaming me that I was taking this decision because I had affair with someone in Nepal or I was doing in an interest of few people. But it was not true at all, I wanted to abolish such practice from my community because here, girl do have less than zero value since history and no one dare to speak so this is the time to speak and stand. She boldly stated, I aware that it was too challenging and will be challenging though I never back again. Now, my mom and siblings keep on coming here to persuade me but I neither trust them nor go home next few years. They might kill me or kidnapped me or anything they can do for the sake of their ego or honour.
Rinku is Malala, Great Peace Maker, Rosa Parker and many others from Nepal but there is no any systemic intervention till May 1, 2016 because working in such challenging case is not easy. It needs passion, commitment and action over the lips service and big funds. Currently, she lives in one of the most conflict affected with very warm weather and strong traditional community so development worker might feel challenge. No matter whether Rinku is 18 or 19 years old, it is serious violation of her human right. In the past, few girls and boys activists or peer educators also cancelled, postponed early or forced marriage but Rinku is the first person who stood up higher in many ways from such very conservative society. The same region has been in agitation, protest for regional rights since last September 2015. Unfortunately, none of the political leaders have seen Rinku as a champion, great leader for social transformation which is essential ingredient for sustained political transformation and stability. Merely, none of the stakeholder considered that Rinku is making things happen to bring all for celebration but only roaming across social media with suspect, doubt, confusion and so on.
Child or forced marriage is not only an issue for Terai but also critical concern across Nepal though the causative factors and background vary among place, ethnic group, caste, class etc. To transfer the national and international commitment in to action, such cases should get attention by state first. To overcome such deep rooted social evil, the action should self-explanatory and engaged in two sides; community where parents would consider the girl equal human being as boys and the girls would build confidence to stay with their parents and continue their education or job as they desired.
Radha personally went to Birgunj to honour Rinku for her bravery 
(Note: Would extends sincere thanks to Rinku, her family members, neighbours, journalists, SP Rajbabu Shrestha, Assist CDO, WCDO, Pawan Tiwari, Pramod Karna, Preeti Karna, Pralad Giri, Suresh Giri etc.
Special thanks to Dinesh Chandra Giri for coordinating with stakeholders, taking care of my local transport, food and accommodation.

I am so sad by seeing the reaction of stakeholders when Rinku was in Media at April 7 2016. To me she is the highest personality. Finally, I determined to meet her to extend my salute, hugs, love, solidarity. So I went to Birgunj in public bus in April 29, and returned May 1, 2016. I have dying dream to educate and empower Terai girls since 2005 but still not able to make significantly due to financial resources.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.