A socially accepted custom in Rajasthan forces rural women of tribal communities into a string of marriages in return for the ‘bride price’ the ‘owner’ of the bride receives from the new groom. No, we’re not talking about the obnoxious practice of wife-sharing prevalent in Western culture, but an ancient tradition that has established its malevolent roots in Rajasthan’s patriarchal society.
Women Vulnerable to Nata Pratha Silently Plead for Justice
The long-established ‘Nata Pratha’ is prevalent in rural Rajasthan inhabited by scheduled/backward castes and tribes. It allows a woman to marry another man as many times as she wants. This may sound revolutionary at first, except that, it’s not the women who wants it. It’s generally the ex-husbands who dissolves the marriage and pass on their wives to others or the poor fathers who do it for money.
The plight of women doesn’t end here. Sometimes, the women is forced to live with other men without being wed. The ‘bride price’ paid to the husbands or family is used for purchasing resources, feeding mouths and sometimes, buying new wives.
Several women from remote villages in Chittorgarh, Alwar, Bhilwara and Tonk are forced to participate in cynical and heart-wrenching merry-go-round of relationships under the tag of time-honoured label of ‘Nata’.
The Evils of Nata Hamper Child Growth, claims Vaaghdhara
When a woman is passed on to another man, they’ve to abandon the kids resulting from the first marriage. The poor kids are often neglected when a new woman marries their father. These children are most vulnerable to psychological, social and physical torture. This fact came to light during a state level conference held in Jaipur this Friday.
A Rajasthan-based NGO Vaaghdhara (in Banswara) conducted a study on the tribal children belonging to Aspur and Sabla blocks (Dungarpur). Vaaghdhara works in collaboration with UNICEF. Their findings was compiled in a detailed report that says–
“2% of total 35 lakh tribal children in Rajasthan within the age group of 4 to 14 years are affected by the evils of Nata practice”.
The reports says:
- Many mothers who voluntarily or forcefully participated in Nata marriage never tried to maintain contact with their children. Most of the times, they weren’t allowed to talk to them.
- About 38% children resulting from Nata marriages were abandoned and subjected to extreme physical and sexual torture.
- Around 13% children experienced social humiliation in schools and 6% of them were tortured physically, countless times.
- Sadly, even the society was apathetic to them. 50% of these children were regarded as social stigma. They neither have friends nor received proper education. This impacted their behaviour, confidence level and mental growth.
Rajasthan Government Attempts to Make a Change
The chairperson of RSCPCR (Rajasthan State Commission for Protection of Child Rights), Manan Chaturvedi shed light on the status of tribal kids. The said children require social recognition, family care and government’s attention. Lack of affection, love and emotional support negatively affects their development. In such cases, they switch to crimes or turn out to be psychopaths/sociopaths.
She demanded the government to protect the rights of children affected by Nata Pratha to ensure their smooth development. Highlighting the pain of tribal women, Chaturvedi pointed out the problems experienced by tribal communities. She requested the government to make provisions for education.
The best way of eliminating the Nata system is to recognize, realize and solve this problem through awareness. That’s exactly what the Rajasthan government intends to do.