Facebook Page as Evidence helps Child bride Annul Her Marriage

India's rape law, Section 375 of the IPC

In an interesting turn of events, a young woman proved in court that she was married off as a minor by submitting evidence from her husband’s Facebook page, as per reports.

The girl, Sushila Bishnoi, now 19, appealed to a court in Rajasthan to dissolve her underage marriage. Her husband denied the couple were ever married. Sushila’s marriage reportedly took place secretly in Barmer district in 2010. She was just 12-year-old.

Child marriage/ or underage marriage is illegal according to Indian law. However, it still remains a popular practice in many parts of rural India, especially in Rajasthan. An ActionAid India report titled Eliminating Child Marriage in India: Progress and Prospects reveals India is home to nearly 103 million Indians who are married before they were 18. Seven states (Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh) account for 70 per cent of child marriages in the country.

Sushila, aided by an activist, searched through her husband’s Facebook account. They found messages that proved their marriage took place when she was underage.

“Many of his friends had posted congratulatory messages on his Facebook page,” said Kriti Bharti, Managing Trustee of Saarthi Trust, a child rights non-profit organisation.

“The court accepted the evidence and declared the marriage invalid,” she said of the ruling.

Child brides in Rajasthan often stay with their parents after the wedding ceremony until are legally adults. They start living with their husbands once they are 18 years old. A ritual known as Gauna is a northern India.

Bishnoi informed her parents were forcing her to move to her husband’s house and consummate the marriage.

“I wanted to study but my family and my in-laws wanted me to live with a drunkard,” Bishnoi told AFP.

“It was about life and death, and I chose to live.”

She ran away from home to a shelter where she met Kriti Bharti. She helped her begin legal proceedings to dissolve the union.

On Wednesday, the apex court of India passed a landmark verdict. It upheld age of consent for women at 18, thus criminalizing sexual intercourse with one’s wife, who is between 15 and 18 years, as rape.

Also Read: Karnataka Child Marriage Bill Gets Prez Nod