Married as minors

August 4, 2011

A year ago I traveled to Rajasthan, a state in northwestern India, to photograph child marriages. Minors in India continue to be forced into matrimony despite a ban by the central government. In fact, several children below the legal age tie the knot in mass ceremonies during the Hindu festival of Akshaya Tritiya, considered one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar.

Almost a year later, I was asked to go back to Rajasthan and photograph a child couple whose marriage I had documented earlier. The couple were 14-year-old Kishan Gopal and his 12-year-old wife Krishna. With the help of a few friends, I tracked down the village and the groom’s house. I wasn’t sure if the parents and the couple would allow me to photograph them again. With a lot of apprehension, I reached the house of the child groom.

Kishan recognized me the moment he saw me and that put an end to my apprehension. Kishan’s wife, Krishna had gone to her parents’ house in another village and Kishan was supposed to fetch her the next day. Not one to miss the opportunity, early the next morning I landed at Kishan’s house to accompany him on his journey.

When we arrived, Krishna and her family welcomed us warmly. They were happy to see Kishan but happier still to see the pictures from the wedding, which I’d carried for them. The family didn’t have any pictures of the wedding, as there is an unofficial ban on the photography of child marriages by the government.

At first, the couple were very shy to speak to each other in front of me or others in the house. But after some time they went into a small room in the house where Krishna lifted the veil of her sari for the first time to reveal her face.

That’s when the couple finally got comfortable in my presence and even started cracking jokes. I left them alone after taking a few pictures.

From going to the corn fields to getting fodder for the cattle to cleaning the porch of her house, Kishan followed his wife everywhere in the hope of speaking to her whenever there wasn’t anyone around.

After completing the household chores and visiting her relatives, Krishna changed into a bright red sari and started playing on an improvised swing tied to the branch of a tree in her courtyard.

When I was leaving, I thanked the family for having me over and invited the child couple to Mumbai.

On my way back, all I thought about was Kishan and Krishna and their future together. I wondered if things will change for their children or will they too be married off as minors.

5 comments

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Implicitly judging this couple, and these people, by Western standards is misleading and narrow minded. How about comparing the success of this young couple with the average first time wedded American couple? Looking at objectively verifiable measurements such as divorce and separation rates between the two groups. Does it seem possible that this couple may end up happier and more successful than their Western counterparts? The West has largely abandoned marriage and all durable male / female bonding. How is that working out? How about in Rajasthan?

Posted by txgadfly | Report as abusive

Emergency! send law and order republicans and feminist over there quick! we need to arrest that boy, put him in jail for 25 years, then once he’s out make him register his whereabouts so we know his movements and can control where he lives! we’ll also need to notify the pulic who and where is is of course.

Posted by Dave1968 | Report as abusive

Where are the groups assigned by the police to watch over these proceedings? Where are the social workers, the politicians, outraged religious organizations, and the just plain “concerned?”

Only the hundreds or more family members and friends in a country that knew civilization when western man was still swinging from the trees.
“Watching over” by the family is a whole lot less intrusive and more humanizing than our organized and chaotic means to maintain social order.

I can’t really comment on whether the practices of another country are agreeable or safe, “bad,” or loathsome.

What I see is a people happy and joyful, Their two children taking part in ceremonies
that seem designed to carry on some sacred traditions that lead to continuity and trust among people of faith.
Isn’t that good enough?

This story is well done with no bias shown by the photographer.

Posted by rexer975 | Report as abusive

Ok. Child marriage is prohibited. Accepted. But what if the rich, influential younger lot indulges in sex, alcohol and other social misdemeanours?

Posted by ashfaqueismail | Report as abusive

Danish – How can I send assistance to this young couple. I would love to see them get the right education they need to lift their family out of poverty. I’d like to send assistance for the baby. EVERY BABY deserves a good and comfortable life. They are just children themselves. Please post information on how to DIRECTLY help this couple.

Posted by MAPK | Report as abusive