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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Akshaya Tritiya: Hotbed of child marriages

On the auspicious day of 'Akshaya Tritiya', thousands of child brides become victims of early marriage in India.

"I am one of those unfortunate Hindu women whose hard lot is to suffer the unnameable miseries entailed by the custom of early marriage. This wicked practice of child marriage has destroyed the happiness of my life. It comes between me and the things which I prize above all others - study and mental cultivation. Without the least fault of mine, I am doomed to seclusion; every aspiration of mine to rise above my ignorant sisters is looked down upon with suspicion and is interpreted in the most uncharitable manner..."

- Extract from a letter written by a woman named Rukhmabai to The Times of India on June 26, 1885, reproduced in Child Marriage in India: Socio-legal and Human Rights Dimensions, by Jaya Sagade (Oxford University Press, 2005). 


This is not just the case of one Rukhmabai. There are hundreds of thousands of Rukhmabais who fall victim to early marriage. In fact, UNICEF's State of the World's Children 2012 report says that more than 40 per cent of the world's child marriages happen in India.

More than 60 million women across the world now aged between 20 and 24 years were married before they turned 18. Even though the extent of early marriage varies from countries and regions, the highest rate is found in West Africa, followed by South Asia.

"About half the girls in early marriage live in Southeast Asia," the WHO said in the Geneva meet last month.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the chair of The Elders, who was in Bihar, India, in February 2012, said that child marriage is "a practice that robs millions of girls of their childhood, their rights and their dignity. I find it astounding that this issue does not receive far greater attention. Together, we and our partners commit to working together to end it."

The numbers are different in urban versus rural areas. According to the Union health ministry's Family Welfare Statistics 2011, "for every woman aged below 18 getting married in urban centres, three women are getting married in rural areas". Read more...

How number 13 became unlucky in my life

The Number 13 is considered to be unlucky by many and don’t know how many films have come on this unlucky number and its effects. I used to laugh when people used to tell me how unlucky the number 13 is and can be till I myself went through certain incidents.

Before what others say and think about the number, let me tell you how this number changed the very course of my life. In a way, it ruined my studies and changed the very way of looking the number.

Two months ago we shifted the house and went to an apartment. We didn’t give much attention when we were given a flat on the 13thfloor. When people in the apartment started asking me if the 13thfloor was lucky or unlucky, I was taken aback, but with a smile kept on telling them that so far it was lucky as there were no problems associated with it.

I was supposed to visit India and went to book my flight tickets. I wanted to return on 15th, but the agent booked it on 13th as most of the seats on 15th were already booked!

On the day I started from Doha, unfortunately, the door got locked from inside and the apartment staff had to struggle to open the door of our flat. I blamed myself for being very careless and didn’t pay much attention towards the incident.

I reached the airport and unfortunately, my seat number was 13! I had to change my flight at Sharjah and I was waiting at the airport. I wanted to use the wash room and requested the guy sitting next to me to look after my luggage and left the place. Within two minutes I returned to the place where I was sitting and the guy had disappeared with my luggage. I was totally shocked, I asked other passengers sitting and they too didn’t know when the guy disappeared with my bag! I requested the police to search the CCTV cameras and catch the guy, as the bag had my laptop, the same laptop which had my four years of research. The cops promised me to look for the guy, took my number and made me to board the flight. No need to say that the cops never searched the CCTV cameras and caught the thief. I lost all my research material and all the dreams and hopes of completing the research were shattered in a moment. Then also, I took the blame on myself and thought it was my fault to trust a guy sitting next to me. I had a wrong notion that thefts won’t happen at airports, as there would be CCTV cameras everywhere. But I was wrong, extremely wrong.

I reached India and came to know that I was expecting. After getting the scanning report everybody became happy that I was pregnant and even I tried to console myself that whatever happens is for good. When I went for the second scanning after 10 days, there was yet another shocking news. The G-sac which was very slow in growing and docs were also surprised at it. They prescribed all the required medicines, but in vain. So they started wondering what should be done next.

Meanwhile, I cancelled my return ticket which was booked on this 13th. Even before the docs could decide what could be done further, I suffered a miscarriage on 13th. And I couldn’t help myself from sitting back and thinking about the number 13 and its effect on my life. After all these, I asked my hubby to change the flat to another floor and he shifted to 15th floor.

After all these, how can I think the number 13 is not unlucky? Now let me show what others think about this number. As far as I have seen and known many westerners consider 13 as a devil number, very inauspicious and very unlucky. Not many apartments and hotels will have 13thfloor or 13th room or house in the building! 
The number has different meanings and interpretations in different religions and parts of the world.
In Hindi, the number 13 is called 'Terah', means 'yours'. It represents your karmas. In the spiritual context, it could also mean that everything belongs to one God/Creator, including the soul present in every human being.

The number 13 brings the test, the suffering and the death according to the tarot cards. It symbolises the death to the matter or to oneself and the birth to the spirit: the passage on a higher level of existence. (In Tarot, no. 13 card is named as Death, but it mostly means death of a struggling period and new beginning s. In some Tarot decks, the thirteenth mystery of the Tarot does not have a name. It marks the uncertainty, the hesitation, the fickleness or again a transformation, the end of something (the death) and a renewal, a rupture, that is to say a very important change.)

In ancient cultures, the number 13 represented femininity, because it corresponded to the number of lunar (menstrual) cycles in a year (13x28 = 364 days). The theory is that, as the solar calendar triumphed over the lunar, the number 13 became anathema.

But coming back to it as the sign of bad luck, it is believed that it brings bad luck and misfortune. This belief dates back to Biblical ages. Judas who betrayed Jesus is said to be the 13thdisciple. Also, the 13th chapter of the Revelation is reserved to the anti-christ and to the beast. It is also the day when Christ is said to have died on the Cross.

According to a legend, a year which contained 13 full moons instead of 12 posed problems for the monks who were in charge of the calendars. This was considered a very unfortunate circumstance, especially by the monks who were in charge of the calendar of 13 months for that year and it upset the regular arrangement of church festivals. For this reason, 13 came to be considered an unlucky number.

However, in a typical century, there will be about 37 years which have 13 full moons compared with 63 years with 12 full moons, and typically every third or fourth year would have 13 full moons, making it a reasonably common occurrence, unlikely to tax monks any more than leap years.

There are certain superstitions associated with the number. To see a black cat on Friday 13 leads to misfortune. It is preferable not to go out on that day, but if one leaves by a door, it is always necessary to enter by the same door. The superstition of Friday 13 was also revivified in this era of the computer by some viruses introduced into the computer systems appearing only on Friday 13.

But on the other hand, there are some fortune tellers who predict a better future on Friday 13. In France, as soon as there is a Friday 13 to the calendar, the National Lottery organises a special drawing because some choose that day to bet money.

The number 13 in the Coperos religion (small culture in Brazil) is like a God number.

Thirteen is the name of a custom and cruiser motorcycle magazine that is published in New Zealand. The name Thirteen refers to the letter "M", as it is the 13th letter in alphabet.

So, I think I’m not the only one to think that the number 13 is unlucky.