When a neighbour came knocking on Saidul’s door offering an arranged marriage for his 16-year-old daughter, it seemed like a good opportunity. Life in Kuldia village, in the Indian state of West Bengal, is tough. Saidul and his wife work as farm labourers. Like many parents, they want more for their children. The marriage to a businessman in Delhi, Saidul reasoned, would be a ticket out of poverty for his daughter Rabia. “I thought she would be happy, and would get at least two meals per day,” he says.
With the wedding agreed to, plans progressed. However, as the date approached, Saidul attended a Safe Village Program, an educational intervention run by the My Choices Foundation, which aims to raise awareness about human trafficking. There, he discovered that thousands of teenage girls go missing from villages just like Kuldia every year, that child marriage has devastating mental and physical consequences for girls and boys, that sex traffickers target illiterate and poor families knowing that they’re more susceptible. And he discovered that it’s illegal for girls under the age of 18 to be married.