Laado Society aims to eradicate superstitions and evil traditions prevalent in society since ages by:
- Initiating drives for bringing about legal reforms in Parliament and Legislative Assemblies of the states.
- Starting campaigns to spread awareness among public regarding pros and cons of existing and proposed laws and legal procedures.
- Undertaking awareness campaigns and organizing seminars of legal experts by collaborating with police and lawyers with an aim to control and curb crimes in the society.
- Working to make available all legal advice and assistance for all sections of society – children, youth, women and elderly.
Helping Child Widows
Child Marriages generate Child Widows
When a mature bride, having seen all joys of family and household becomes a widow, the social orthodoxy abruptly changes her lifestyle. She is often subjected to multitude of restrictions that makes her life insipid and colorless. It is like denying the basic right to live a meaningful life. Now imagine the status of a small girl who has been burdened with forced widowhood. When an innocent little girl, who only loves to play and finds her world in her mother’s lap or seeks comfort in loving company of her father, is made to don the colorless widowhood, it is society’s cruelest offense towards her. The civilized world can only imagine the agonies these little widows face throughout their lives.
The child widows are never married again. Rather they are sometimes married off to a widower of any age or a married man staying as single under Nata. Nata is an undignified marital relationship and an age old evil. Even after this so called marriage, there never is any improvement in the lot of these girls. In most cases, these small girls are made to look after the kids of the man from his previous marriage and beget more children themselves. Poverty has resulted in child marriages, which in turn have resulted in more and more child widows. There are thousands of child widows in Rajasthan, who are leading traumatized lives, facing atrocities of their societies that play a butcher’s role in their lives.
What shall Laado Society do?
Laado Society has always kept tab on all major newspapers and magazines and has collected and preserved news and articles related to issues and problems being faced by women. The Society has come to a disturbing conclusion that there is virtually no region of the state where women have not been victimized through various evil customs and traditions. Each region has its own peculiar social malpractices, but everywhere only the women and children are being traumatized. The magazine, India Today has been of great help to Laado Society in its pursuit to alleviate the agonies and traumas of children and women. The dreadful stories in the magazine incited the Society to carry out its campaigns against all social evils. The foremost in the efforts put in by Laado Society, has been towards improving the lot of child widows and prevention of more child girls turning widows. This endeavour has been titled as “There won’t be any child widows, if there won’t be any child marriage”. Laado is committed for accomplishment of this mission.
The issues of child widows have never been taken up by any organization, nor has anybody spoken of improving their deplorable situation, prior to Laado’s intervention in this direction. Laado is the first organization that brought in light, the sad and unfortunate stories of thousands of child widows in the state. The Society is committed to educate the child widows and make them financially independent. For this noble endeavour, the Society has chosen the districts of Ajmer and Bhilwara to initiate the ground work. Laado has made Suman Taili, its brand ambassador. The Society shall bear all expenses of Suman till she turns fully educated and self reliant. By adopting Suman, Laado Society has initiated its grand mission. Further, if Suman’s family joins hands with Laado in doing away with evil Nata custom, it will leave no stone unturned to get Suman remarried. Laado shall also put in all possible efforts to make nata custom prohibited under the law. Apart from this, Laado shall undertake a survey throughout Rajasthan to assess the actual numbers of child widows and their social status and present its findings before the state government.
What is Nata custom?
The custom of Nata is prevalent in backward societies of Rajasthan. When a girl is made to stay with a boy under Nata, that arrangement is very much different from a marriage. Nata custom does not have the status of a marriage. This arrangement is only for sustenance of a girl, in a so-called protective company of a male. In such an arrangement, the male can leave the girl whenever he feels to do so. There are also monetary transactions in society. When a girl’s association with a male under Nata is broken, she is allowed to go with another male. In cases of widows, the male getting the girl pays money to family of that girl’s deceased husband. In case of broken Nata relationships, the male often sells the girls to other males and buys another girl for himself. In many cases, even fathers of young girls sell them many times serially to many males for money. Representatives of village panchayats and police officials have often played a role of promoters of Nata custom, as they also have their shares in the transacted booty.
Every girl must become literate and self dependent
Even in present modern times, hundreds of child marriages are organized in rural parts of Rajasthan on Akha Teej festival. Although, these marriages do not enjoy legal sanctity, but this evil tradition is always celebrated with huge fanfare. Every year, thousands of innocent boys and girls are married off, despite the Sharada Act in the state. Little girls are more vulnerable to dire consequences of child marriages than the boys. They are deprived of the development as a person. Their education is discontinued. Their physical and psychological growth is severely hampered. Child marriages are the main reason, why there is hardly any reduction in maternal mortality rate in the state. The number of child widows has also risen due to these juvenile marriages. Such widows again suffer when they are made to follow Nata custom.
According to UNICEF’s ‘State of the world’s children – 2009’ report, 47% of all Indian females who belong to age group 20-24, were married off before they were 18, the legal age of marriage for females. 56% belong to rural areas whereas 29% are from cities. The report also revealed that of all child marriages that are held worldwide, 40% are being held in India alone. Of these, Rajasthan has the maximum share of child marriages. The 2009 Census shows number of marriages in age group 0-9 years as Nil in Rajasthan, but the fact is far from it. According to the 2001 report of Registrar General of India, 40.8% of girls in Rajasthan were married off before attaining the age of 18. Similar situation exists in some other states as well. In Bihar, this figure is 39.6%, in Madhya Pradesh, 34.1%, in Jharkhand, 32.9% and in Andhra Pradesh, the figure is 32.3%. The Census of 2001 showed that around 3, 00,000 girls become mothers before reaching their 15th year. A female die every 7th minute due to complications in pregnancies.
The child marriages are not only adverse for girls’ health; they also deprive them of their basic right, which is the right to education. Conversely, the lack of proper education has kept the evil of child marriage still alive in societies.
According to Census 2011, female literacy rate is 52.66% as compared to male literacy rate of 80.51%. This amply reflects the adverse effect of child marriages on education of women, who are forced to discontinue studying early in their lives. The gap in male and female literacy rates is 27.85%, which needs to be bridged. According to Reproductive Child Health Project (RCHP) 1998-99, Bundi district has registered the maximum number of child marriages in Rajasthan at 80.6%, followed by Tonk (78.3%), Bhilwara (76.2%), Jhalawar (74.2%), Dausa (71.6%), Udaipur (69.6%), Churu (68.0%), Nagaur (67.2%), Banswara (65.8%), Bikaner (63.7%) and Ajmer (62.5%). A look at female literacy rates in these districts shows a correlation of sorts between child marriages and female literacy rates in these districts. As per Census 2001, the female literacy rates in these districts are: Bundi (37.79%), Tonk (32.15%), Bhilwara (33.48%), Jhalawar (40.02%), Dausa (42.32%), Udaipur (43.26%), Churu (53.35%), Nagaur (39.67%), Banswara (28.43%), Bikaner (42.03%) and Ajmer (48.96%).
The main aim of the project undertaken by Laado in Rajasthan is to have an exact count of child marriages in the state and to design policies and compile suggestions to safeguard the future of small girls from the evil effects of child marriages. There is still a dearth of data on child marriages and their repercussions on society. There is a serious need of a detailed research in this sector. The project by Laado is expected to provide ample qualitative and quantitative data on Nata & Antaa-Santaa customs, which have a strong connection with child marriages in Rajasthan, and exact number of child widows who are the main sufferers of such marriages. The child marriages comprise the main reasons behind high maternal and infant mortality rates in the state. There is hardly any factual record available on this social ailment. Whatever data we have with us, is only a vague approximation. With this project, it is proposed to have an exact number of juvenile brides in each district of Rajasthan and prepare a case study on all victimized girls in the state. By undertaking this project, it is aimed to grant protection to all girls who have been traumatized due to Nata custom that makes them sell like commodities in market. Such victimized girls never avail of the basic rights when they are grownups, especially the rights associated to the property and those related to the status of a wife. The project by Laado shall endeavour to connect all rural girls with modern education system and to make them self-supporting in every respect.
Enabling women to be independent and self-reliant
Laado Society shall make all efforts
- To prevent the neglect of women in social orders and promote their dignity, honour self-confidence and self-reliance.
- To cooperate in all government programmes to train women in self-defense against crimes.
- To educate women about their rights and to make them aware of all laws pertaining to domestic violence.
- To make women aware of all government programmes towards women welfare and empowerment and to bring them closer to the benefits of all government run schemes.
- To undertake awareness programmes for tribal women, relating poverty alleviation and family planning and to make available to them, all medical facilities.
- To provide temporary or permanent residential facilities to all needy women.
- To undertake campaign for prevention of female foeticide. To make women aware of the legal procedures and provide legal assistance to them.
- To improve the standards of girl education and to grant scholarships to all deserving female students.
- To organize self-employment camps for women and to connect them to all employment schemes and opportunities.
- To undertake programmes to inculcate moral and cultural responsibilities amongst women for their better lives.