“I want to study further and become a teacher…”
Santadevi Meghwal belongs to the state of Rajasthan in India and she became a child bride at the age of 11 months. Child marriages deny girl children many basic rights and they are left vulnerable due to possible abuse, violence and exploitation of all kinds. In a way, the child is forcibly pushed into adulthood at a tender age. Santadevi came to know about her marriage when she turned 16 and but now wants to break away from it. However, she is being restrained by a potential 16 lakh ($25,000 USD) fine if she does not fulfill the obligation of marriage forced upon her (by parental agreement) at just 11 months old.
The #FreeSantadevi campaign is collecting pictures of people around the world holding up signs in the streets in solidarity with Santadevi and the cause of ending the pernicious practice of child marriages. These photographs are being used to send a strong message to the Government of India, the judicial system as well as to the leaders across the World. The message being that here are the wonderful people who are standing in support and in awe of a brave and resilient woman. A woman, who has boldly spoken out against regressive cultural customs and practices. A woman, who refuses to stay shackled by social dictates and by this very action, is risking her only life to break free. A woman, who is facing social pressure and ostracization yet she realizes the greater cost in not raising her voice against patriarchal traditions.
Why a pictorial campaign?
Pictures are symbolic and are often used as important tools in visual storytelling. They are helpful in spreading a message and can lead to greater engagement of the public with the message. Powerful images sometimes capture a person’s interest and hold it longer than say (an otherwise well meaning and heartfelt) paragraph written by concerned people and activists.
In the present digital age, it is quite easy to make your voice heard by taking pictures and circulating them through social media. You do not need to be very articulate and well versed in gender based discourses and debates (Although that certainly helps!) to make a change. The internet has made it possible for a single picture to reach out to more like minded and concerned people than ever before.
Therefore, the Price of Silence, along with its accomplices,is looking for your valuable support. The campaign requires pictures from people who recognize the various forms of restrictive gender based norms in a patriarchal society.
This initiative is one of the ways to break the androcentric walls that have created power hierarchies, systemic injustices and a misogynistic global culture that leads to gross human rights violations. Let us all come together as a humanity and redefine these very structures to cause a paradigm shift that is both sustainable and effective in the long run.Please do join us in action by sending your photos with the #FreeSantadevi and/or #Breakfree tags to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, you can take action by signing this petition.
Publications that have covered the campaign:
About the author:
Aindrila Chaudhuri is a gender and sexuality activist from India. She is an engineer and identifies as a sex positive feminist.