Karnataka is the only state in India to declare in 2017 that every child marriage is to be treated as invalid. Although it is the first state in the country to end child marriage, it had the opposite effect and 75 of such marriages were reported in 2018. There were only 29 cases reported in 2013.

This medieval custom is mostly rampant in the rural areas, where underage girls are married off before even reaching their 18th birthday. There are a few who do resist and one such girl was Rekha V from the Kotturu village.

Abandoned by her father when she was only four months old, her mother had to work as a maid to support the family. Rekha was an ambitious schoolgirl who wanted to study hard and forge her own path in life.

However, when she had turned 16, her mother decided that a married life would be more suitable for her and chose the girl's maternal uncle to be her husband. Rekha initially opposed the idea but eventually gave in after being continuously pressured by the village elders to accept the proposal.

The headstrong girl, however, fled from her village to Bengaluru two years later with the help of a friend. Because she was a good student in her old school, she was able to immediately secure a place in a computer training centre.

After getting in touch with the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) for financial help, the organisation helped her with get accommodation through an NGO trust. The trust also helped her to secure a place in a Pre-University College in Gollahalli. Not wanting to waste a good opportunity, the plucky student set to task and recently scored 90% in a board examination.

She plans to major in Political Science and Economics in the future. When asked if she had any advice for other girls, she said, "No force in the world can stop a girl from following her dreams. All you have to do is be brave and courageous, stand up against injustice and fight your own battles. Set your priorities and work hard every single day, till you accomplish them all."

Photo Source: The Better India