- A 20-year-old Indian woman was forced to marry at the age of 14 to a man 18 years her senior
- She is now a mother of two
- Although she has grown to love her husband, she uses her experience to speak out against early marriage
A 20-year-old woman from West Bengal in India has shared her experience of being forced to marry at the age of 14 to a man 18 years older than her.
Santana Murmu, now a mother of two, took the brave step as part of a wider campaign against the practice of early marriages and having child brides.
In her story shared online, she said she pleaded with her father not to marry her off but her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Santana said she was forced to quit school and met her husband-to-be, Govind Hemram, on the same day she got married to him in July 2011.
She wrote: "The day they broke the news was also the first time I met my husband-to-be Govind. At 31, he was 18 years older than me, but he was really kind so I tried to be positive."
She moved in with Govind and his parents and lost her childhood the same night. Fortunately, she said, they were kind and treated her well.
She added that she fell pregnant the following year with her first child. At only 15, she was still too young to properly care for her daughter and her mother-in-law had to help her.
Her second birth two years later was even more painful than the first and resulted in her becoming anaemic.
She said at that point, she resolved to reach out to other women in similar situations to offer support through the Child In Need Institute (CINI)
Her newfound activism against early marriages eventually took her to New York where she spoke against the practice at the United Nations in September 2015.
Her husband, whom she has grown to love, has supported her activism. She has now enrolled for studies to be a teacher and vows that her two daughters will never be forced into early marriage.
She concluded: "I believe education can change the world and I’ve vowed my daughters will never be forced to marry. It’s time to allow all children to stay children."
Watch a documentary on child marriages below.