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DIVORCE, INDIA STYLE: Eight-year-old girl divorces 14-year-old husband

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Married when she was just four years of age, Fatima Mangre refused to go away with her betrothed, 14-year-old husband Arjun Bakridi when she turned eight years old. Fatima's father belatedly realized it was wrong and reneged on her daughter's arranged marriage.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - In either case, Fatima has become the youngest person ever to be divorced in India after being married off at the age of four.

Given away by her father Anil, from the Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh state, Fatima was in an arranged marriage with the-then 10-year-old. Papa Anil said he wanted the girl to wait until she was 18 before leaving home.

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"I finally realized that this practice of marrying off daughters so young was wrong and that she should have a childhood, and that it was my duty to provide that," he said.

Arjun's father, Dipak was reportedly unhappy with the decision, and an argument broke out after which Anil filed for divorce.

The Indian government has since called for an inquiry into the incident. New Delhi-based National Commission for Women (NCW) member Nirmala Samant sent a letter, demanding details of the divorce. She also threatened action against the parents of the girl and the boy.

"This is a scandal, we need more details before taking action. The girl's father must answer why he married her off at four years old and the boy's father must answer why he agreed to such a marriage and then went to demand the girl when she is barely eight years old.

"This is insensitive, controversial and objectionable," she added.
 
Fatima's father has already written to NCW, saying he should be pardoned because he stopped his daughter from being taken away by her in-laws.

"I have already admitted my mistake. Social pressures are high in our village. But the marriage has been annulled. I have admitted it was wrong to marry her off so early," he said in a handwritten note.

"I now want to make things right. I want to give my daughter a good childhood. I will do everything to protect her."

Over 32.9 percent of the girls are married against the national average of 22.1 percent below the legally permissible age of 18 in the state,according to UNICEF. The Shravasti district accounts for the majority underage weddings in India where the female literacy is just 19 per cent.

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