Living in suburban parts of the country we seldom witness social evils like child marriage being practiced around us. This however, is far from the reality. Even today India is among one of the ten countries that have the highest number of child brides in the world and it is estimated that almost 47% of the girls in India are married before they turn eighteen, which is the legal age for marriage of girls. Although a large percentage of the boys in the country also fall victim to child marriages, the numbers are much higher for girls reiterating the social disadvantage they are subjected to.
Policies and laws like the Child Marriages Prohibition Act (2006) lay down a strong legal framework to battle the issue however, these cannot improve the current situation unless people are educated and aware about provisions and laws that make child marriage a punishable offense. In a recent case of child marriage in Darrang, Assam the youth of the district took matters in their own hands and sought to save a girl from the clutches of this social evil. The group of youngsters spread the word using Facebook and WhatsApp urging people to come out in opposition of this event and also got in touch with the Balya Bibah Birodhi Mancha (Forum Against Child Marriage) through the same. In response to the messages, a number of people including members of the All Assam Minority Student’s Union (AASMU) and local leaders assembled to oppose the marriage and stopped the same. This gradually cascaded to pages on Facebook and groups on Whatsapp that act as forums to address similar problems and help people in distress. The same group of youngsters along with members of the AASMU have taken it upon themselves to continue fighting for the cause and have stopped over 250 child marriages in the state by conducting awareness programmes and counseling the parents.
This incident goes to show the real potential of social media and the impact it can have if it is put to use positively. Platforms like Facebook that reach out to millions of people all across the world serve as an opportunity for every individual to make a difference and constitute a positive change in the world. If a message sent by a group of youngsters in Assam could ultimately save the lives of over 250 underage children, the impact of each one of us can make is unimaginable. As an organization committed to resolving gender disparities and regressive practices in the society, we urge everybody not only to use the digital space and social media as a tool for social change but also to speak up against practices like child marriage and join us in our pursuit.