A 13-year-old girl, whose intervention stopped a child marriage in Bengal’s Malda district, has been forced to stop attending school after facing assault threats.Beauty Khatun had gone to a wedding ceremony on January 17, where she noticed the bride was a minor. She raised her voice against the marriage and informed the administration.Her protests caused the village elders to turn their backs against her-she was even assaulted, and had to be hospitalised.But she filed a police complaint from the hospital that led to the guardians of the bride and groom and their relatives being arrested. Her courage earned her the title `Malala of Malda’, and she was awarded at her home on February 24 by the block development officer. On International Women’s Day , CM Mamata Banerjee also felicitated her for her courage.
But nearly two months after she virtually became the brand ambassador for the district’s anti-child marriage campaign, Khatun has stopped going to school because of increasing threats from local youth.She alleged on Tuesday that despite the support from the school and administration, she is being subjected to teasing and abuse in her locality . Even her neighbours, who were by her side initially, have stopped coming out in her support.
Those arrested in connection with the child marriage have been released on bail and are allegedly threatening Khatun, who is trying to cope by reading books of Nobel winner Malala Yousafzai. Khatun’s mother Jhasi Begum told TOI, “I never imagined my daughter will have to pay such a price for doing noble work.“
The Child Welfare Committee has vowed to ensure her protection, but Khatun can still not venture outside her house.CWC chairperson Chaitali Ghosh told TOI, “It is a shame for us that Beauty came to me crying, seeking protection. I’m asking the police to take strict action against the accused.“
Additional district magistrate Debatosh Mandal, too, vowed to stand by Beauty with all administrative support.