An Indian bride’s demand: I’ll only marry you if you pledge to sponsor girls’ education

The guests were assembled. The wedding feast was ready. The groom was bedecked with flowers, the bride’s hands decorated with henna.

And then the bride called a halt to proceedings.

Poonam Kumar would only go ahead with the wedding, she said, if her husband-to-be, Sandeep, pledged to pay for the education of 11 impoverished girls.

Sanjay Ramphal, a local social worker who worked with Ms Kumar and who was present at the wedding, said that the guests were shocked when she announced that she would only go ahead with the proceedings if her intended agreed to her demand.

“But, when she elaborated and told the people present that she wanted her husband to sponsor the education of 11 girls, we were all happy,” Mr Ramphal told the Times of India. The groom agreed to her demand.

Ms Kumar’s additional wedding vow follows the launch earlier this year of the Indian government’s “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” (save the girl, educate the girl) campaign. In 2011, the level of female foeticide and infanticide in India rose to such an extent that there were only 918 girls for every 1,000 boys.

But the northern Indian state of Haryana, where the Kumar wedding took place, has the worst sex ratio in the country, with just 830 girls for every 1,000 boys under the age of 6. Female literacy in the state stands at 66.7 per cent, compared with 85.4 per cent among boys.

However, Ms Kumar’s demand was based on the fact that her husband runs a coaching centre, and therefore was likely to recognise the value of education.

“I will have to be an equal partner in ensuring that the pledge is fulfilled,” the postgraduate student added.

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