MAHOTTARI, Dec 8: Sound of traditional musical instruments blared out of a small house at ward number 1 of Matihani VDC early in the morning. It was occasionally punctuated by thunderous laughter of those indulged in drunken reveling.
Any wedding party is a pleasant sight - even at otherwise gloomy, impoverished locality of the Doms, the most oppressed community in the Tarai.
Twelve-year-old groom Roshan Mallik with his 11-year-old bride Bina Kumari after their wedding in Matihani of Mahottari on Saturday on the occasion of Bivaha Panchami. Child marriage is rampant in the backward Dom community in the district although the minimum marriageable age for groom and bride according to the Muluki Ain is 22 and 18 respectively.
But the real irony of the situation was that they were celebrating marriage of 11-year-old Bina Kumari Dom with Roshan Dom, who is just a year older.
Before the children could fully understand what the elders were up to, the priest pronounced them husband and wife.
Notwithstanding the effort of the government and various rights organizations to eradicate child marriage in the country, the social ill continues unabated among the Dom communities in the district.
When asked why were they marrying off their children, the parents argued that early marriage will help them take up responsibility early in their life.
“We don´t know what the future holds for them. They might land up with wrong people. So it is better if they get married and settle down early in their life and take up family responsibility,” said one of the parents.
So ignorant are some of these people that they are completely unaware that child marriage is a punishable offense.
To make the matter worse, marriage is a pretty expensive affair, too - especially for the bride´s family, owing to the Dowry system that pervades the region.
Bina´s family had offered a bicycle, few gold ornaments, Rs 25,500 as dowry, besides spending Rs 300,000 for the wedding reception.
“Most of the money was spent on food, musical band, and the transportation of the wedding party,” said Bina´s father Jhagaru Dom. As per the law of the land, a woman must reach the age of 18 and man must be 22 years for marriage.
MAHESH KUMAR DAS