Children in countries all over the world are considered to be the engineers of the nation's future and the fate of the land is connected to the fate of its children. But imagine a scenario where the fate of children is already decided, and the future they hoped for is snatched away from them, in many cases... by marrying them off even before they know what it means.

Representational image | Source: Reuters

Did you know that under the 2006 Prohibition of Child Marriage Act of India , it is illegal for girls under 18 and boys under 21 to marry? It is serious enough a crime that those convicted of involvement face up to two years in jail and fines of up to Rs 2,00,000. Figures from Unicef show that 47% of girls in India were married before they turned 18. Child marriages are still the norm in rural areas.

Representational image | Source: Reuters

Santa Devi Meghwal was just 11 months old when she was married off to Sanvalram who was 9-years-old at that time. She knew that on turning 16 she would have to move in with her husband and his family, and one day got fed up of being teased by friends about her fate being sealed, according to a report in the Indian Express .

Representational image | Source: Reuters

As Santa grew older her in-laws insisted on taking her with them, but not one to be treated like "a parcel to be picked up" , Santa made excuses to avoid going. But the fight was not easy and came with a price as the village elders imposed a Rs 1600000 fine on her parents, who moved to then Jodhpur.

Representational image | Source: Reuters

After the pressure from her in-laws got too much and upon being threatened of being taken forcibly, Santa contacted a child rights campaigner from Jodhpur's Saarthi trust . After a long battle, the court ordered annulment of Santa's marriage and gave hope to her and many other girls in India facing the same problems.

Although the highest number of child brides are in South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa, one in every three child brides is found in India . Girls are affected much more by child marriage, as compared to boys . The practice is still rampant in rural areas, despite laws against child marriage which clearly have not been enforced properly.

Representational image | Source: Reuters

In an absurd bid to defend the practice, the village Sarpanch said, "Child marriage is unfortunate, but then different communities have different rituals and practices. Once it happened, she could have stayed in it. What good there is in breaking away?”

Santa, who wants to be a teacher, cannot go back to her village despite the marriage being annulled owing to the volatile environment in the area and a clear failure by the administration to ensure the rule of law.