An eight year old girl has become the youngest person ever to be divorced in India after she was married off aged just four.
Fatima Mangre was given away by her father Anil, from the Shravasti district of Uttar Pradesh state, in an arranged a marriage with 10-year-old Arjun Bakridi.
However when the boy arrived four years later to take his new bride away, Anil said he wanted the girl to wait until she was 18 before leaving.
He said: ‘I finally realised that this practice of marrying off daughters so young was wrong and that she should have a childhood, and that it was my duty to provide that.’
However Arjun’s father Dipak was unhappy with the decision, and an argument broke out after which Anil filed for divorce.
The state government of India’s has called for an inquiry into the incident that happened last week at Nakhi village in the Shravasti district of India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
It ordered the probe after the New Delhi-based National Commission for Women (NCW) member Nirmala Samant sent a letter, demanding details of the divorce and threatening action against the parents of the girl and the boy.
She said: ‘This is a scandal, we need more details before taking action. The girl’s father must answer why he married her off at four years old and the boy’s father must answer why he agreed to such a marriage and then went to demand the girl when she is barely eight years old.
‘This is insensitive, controversial and objectionable,’ she added.
However Fatima’s father has already written to NCW, saying he should be pardoned because he stopped his daughter from being taken away by her in-laws.
The northern state of Uttar Pradesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in India, especially in he Shravasti district where Fatima was from (file picture)
‘I have already admitted my mistake. Social pressures are high in our village. But the marriage has been annulled. I have admitted it was wrong to marry her off so early,’ he said in a handwritten note.
He added: ‘I now want to make things right. I want to give my daughter a good childhood. I will do everything to protect her.’
Mr Bakridi has gone into hiding following the altercation.
According to UNICEF, over 32.9 percent of the girls are married against the national average of 22.1 percent below the legally permissible age of 18 in the state.
The Shravasti district accounts for the majority underage weddings in India where the female literacy is just 19 per cent.