I’ve written here about violence against women. I’ve noted that men can be abused too but it hasn’t been my story to tell. Recently, something has come to my attention and when I had the opportunity to share it, I knew I needed to–just like I needed to share my story.
In Nepal, the location of that recent horrible earthquake, the legal age of marriage is 18 but that isn’t how it oftentimes happens, especially in rural areas. We’ve all heard about child brides and been horrified. I know I have. I didn’t realize, ignorantly so, that there are such things as child grooms.
Imagine a seven year old boy. He has been forced to marry at nine years old. On his wedding night, he struggles to untie his dhoti. In fear and panic, he urinates. Three years later, when he is 12, his wife moves in. They are expected to make a child. At 12, he is not physically or mentally ready to make a child.
This is a true story. His name is Parshurman Harijan and now works with CARE to stop this from happening. On his wedding day, he felt ashamed and sullied. At 12, when he was expected to make a child, he “was overwhelmed.”
In most places around the world where child marriages are an epidemic, men marry young girls. But in the Nepal district of Kapilbastu, young boys marry young girls. I never knew this. With Father’s day just passing, and as I consider the men in my life, I cannot imagine the shame and hurt and wreckage this causes both the child grooms and the child brides. That’s why I am happy to share the work that CARE is doing. This isn’t a fundraiser. This is about awareness. Please check CARE out.
Parshurman divorced. He remarried at 14 and now with his wife has a son. He is a part of the solution of bringing awareness.
Another story caught my eye because so often it is easy to read these stories and think: why? how? Mathura married his wife at 12. His wife was 10. In order to support his family, he had to drop out of school. He liked school and he was a good student. But his family came first. So in eighth grade, he traded school for the paddy fields. To this day, he wonders what life would have been like if he was able to continue to school. He lives with his parents, wife, son, daughter, brothers, and two oxen. He says life is full of hardship and “we are not happy.”
So you read this story and you think: why? how? here are some explanations. Mathura’s father says that he did not want to marry his son off at such a young age. His own marriage at the age of ten left him in poverty and he did not want to the cycle to continue. But the pressure he felt from his friends and neighbors was incredibly intense. They told him that if he waited too long to marry his son off he would “make a mistake” with another girl. Mathura’s mother worried about the stigma of not marrying off her son as well. She also needed help with the daily chores. All day long Mathura’s mother and wife do everything from cook to sweep cow dung.
Other parents believe that early marriage brings blessings in the hindu religion. A married son can bring more money to the family. It can be a way to control sexuality or avoid a “love marriage.” The dowry prices are lower at younger ages. These are some of the many reasons of why and how this happens in Nepal.
Parshurman, the boy who divorced and remarried, has hopes that his grandchildren will not endure this because of the work he is doing with CARE. CARE is a global humanitarian organization that fights poverty by empowering girls and women. They recognize that can start with the men. Once child grooms are now allying with CARE to raise awareness about this. In the wake of Father’s day, this is important.
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