A tribal girl was beaten, forcibly had her head shaved, and paraded for refusing a panchayat order to marry a person her family had arranged for her without her consent in Palamu district, Jharkhand. The girl was garlanded with shoes and left in a forest all night.
On receiving information, the police recovered the girl from the forest and got her admitted to Raja Medini Rai Medical College and Hospital in Palamu. The doctors found several injuries on her body. The police have registered a case and are conducting raids to nab the accused.
Tribal Girl Abused For Refusing Marriage
The girl was a resident of Jogidih village and had no parents. She had three sisters and a brother who was disabled after an illness. One of her sisters had arranged the girl’s marriage to a man from Manika, Latehar district, without her consent. Despite the girl’s refusal to marry him, her family carried on with the wedding preparations. Having no other choice, the girl ran away on April 20 and took shelter in a temple in Chhatarpur block.
Her cousins somehow managed to reach out to her on May 10 and take her home. She was again forced to get married, and when she refused this time too, her cousins called for a panchayat in the village on Sunday. She was asked if she had a "love affair" with someone.
When the girl remained silent, she was beaten with sticks by the villagers, including her cousins and sisters-in-law. One of her sisters-in-law forcibly shaved the girl’s head with scissors and garlanded her with shoes after applying "tika" on her forehead. She was then paraded around the village and left in a forest that came under the Tarhasi police station area. People from another village who went to the forest to feed their cattle found the girl in the forest and informed the police, after which she was rescued.
Why Is Women's Consent Dismissed?
Is a woman refusing to marry a heinous crime enough to publicly assault and humiliate her? Is she a puppet for her family and society to steer her life however they like? Why does society forget that women are independent beings with agency over their lives?
A family is supposed to be a woman's nest—a safe spot to which she can always fly back. But are all women bestowed with understanding and supportive families, especially when it comes to their marriage? It's unbelievable that incidents like this are still happening in certain remote parts of the country. It reflects how certain pockets of our society are still stuck behind while we assume that we are moving forward.
However, being forced into marriage is not only an issue that tribal and rural women face; women everywhere, regardless of social or economic status, face undue marriage pressure from their families and get punished in different ways when they refuse. For instance, while a tribal girl is harassed like in the above incident, an urban girl would probably have her gadgets and vehicle confiscated because she refused to marry a man of her family’s choice. Another family would threaten to hurt themselves or her if she refused to marry a man of their choice.
At the end of the day, society expects women to forgo their agency over their lives and submit themselves to patriarchal norms. Women who dare fight against oppression are harassed in some way by their own families. But how can a girl’s own family be so heartless? Didn’t they ever love her, or do social norms have such a strong influence as to shatter that love?
Views expressed by the author are their own