August 11, 2017

Outcry over Indian TV soap story about boy of 10 that 'glorifies' child marriage

The show Pehredar Piya Ki was launched last month on Sony Entertainment Television

Photo credit: Twitter

Scenes showing the young boy married to a woman aged 19 are being screened in prime time and have been condemned by campaigners.

A television soap opera that shows a 10-year-old boy married to a 19-year-old woman has outraged Indian viewers who want to ban the "bizarre show" for glorifying child marriage.

The show Pehredar Piya Ki ("Husband's Guard") was launched last month on Sony Entertainment Television - a popular Hindi general entertainment channel in India - and is aired every weekday night in the prime 8.30 pm slot.

By today, a Change.org petition urging information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani to ban the show had garnered more than 110,000 signatures, just three days after its launch.

The petitioner Mansi Jain questioned the influence the soap would have on viewers and said it showed the child perform marriage rituals such as putting vermillion on the older actor playing his wife.

"This soap is encouraging, glorifying and promoting child marriages and will negatively affect the entire society," Asha Bajpai, professor of law at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"And what about the 10-year-old boy playing the husband's role? What kind of values are we inculcating in him at this young, impressionable age?"

The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men. But child marriage, though illegal, remains widespread in parts of the country.

A Change.org petition has been started. urging the government to ban the show

Photo credit: Twitter

Along with Niger, Guinea, South Sudan, Chad and Burkina Faso, India has one the world's highest rates of child marriage, despite moves to toughen penalties against the crime.

The Child Marriage Prohibition Act imposes a $1500 fine and two years in prison for parents caught marrying off their underage children.

Child marriage in India

  • Almost a third of the child brides in the world are in India
  • There are an average of 150 child marriages every minute in India
  • Ending child marriage could avoid 55,000 infant deaths

Source: ActionAid India

India has been cracking down on child marriages and campaigners said such shows could dent progress.

The show's actors have defended the story on social media, saying the soap is purely entertainment and does not promote child marriage.

Sony Entertainment Television officials remained unavailable for comment on the story. On its website, however, Sony boasts a record of riveting drama.

"With our prudent story telling, we continue to rule the roost with stories that are relevant, engaging and entertaining."

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