NEW DELHI: The petitioners of the case that has overturned the ancient heritage and practice of child marriage operate out of a humble home-office in Noida, on the outskirts of Delhi. Vikram and Ranjana Srivastava both started their journey five years back today they are smiling.
“We could see that there was a clear conflict of law, it was basically to protect people who are marrying girl children between the age of 15-18 years. This legal reform will create the social environment that will open up many debates across the country. Crime is a crime, even if it is one child, should the (earlier) law stand?” said Vikram, advocate and founder of Independent Thought, non-governmental organization which filed the petition in 2013.
The office cum home which is located in the residential area of Noida sector 20, is divided into three rooms, not to spacious the main office has around four computer systems for the members to work on the different cases and public litigation that the Ngo is working on. The two shelves are lined with legal journals and in separate shelf there are books and magazines published on girl children topics.
Two white boards are stuck on the wall with to do lit and the PILs that which are coming up for hearing in the court, there is also mention of book, t-shirts and mugs to be printed for distribution. While once a person is inside you feel the heat of the day as phones are constantly ringing and members updating and sending messages through Facebook to other members in other offices but Vikram and Ranjana remain calm and composed looking at the his laptop placed in front of him for further cases regarding reforms related to girl children.
“We should use law as a tool for social change, we have been working on the front of legal reforms for girls, after this decision the behavior across the country will slowly change. Everyone in the society has to reform to see the change” said Ranjana , Secretary of Independent Thought, who joins in the conversation.
The petitioners further believe that this judgment will further strengthen the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. In terms of saving the girl child this decision will bring the change, but now we hope the government also bring girls upto 18 years also for compulsory education under the Right To Education (RTE).
“If we get the fight going on saving and educating the girls children then within 10 years the there will be perceptible change in the country” said Vikram who added that one has to sacrifice a certain part of his family life in such cases.
Although exact figures are yet not present, as per the National Family Health Survey (2005) 46 percent of women in India between the ages of 18-29 years were married before the age of 18 years and there is an estimated 23 million child brides in the country currently.