India child brides

Child brides such as the one who was gambled away by her father (not pictured here) are not uncommon in some parts of India, even today.

For those in the Western world, the perplexity of arranged marriage can be hard to comprehend, and even outrages many who see the tradition as hopelessly outdated. But the reality of one Indian man wagering his 13-year-old daughter’s hand in marriage to pay off a gambling bet is even more difficult and troubling to contemplate.

Bad Bet for Man’s Daughter

Local news in eastern India’s West Bengal Malda district has reported that a compulsive gambler from the area’s Krishnapur-Buritala village lost all he had while locked in a competitive bout against his neighbour Sukumar Mandal in early December. He lost so much, in fact, during the session of the Mahabharata dice game, that he felt he had no choice other than to place his daughter’s future on the table against a man twice her age.

The gambler, named Parimal Mandal, reportedly made the decision in the presence of the village panchayat member Putul Mandal, who seems to have blessed the outrageous wager. In fact, a crowd was seen to have gathered at the event and not a word of protest was uttered when Parimal used his young daughter to see the bet. Reports also state that Parimal had previously lost his land in a gambling bout, but obviously took no lessons from the loss.

Shortly after the victor had been determined, the two families started negotiations and the date of the marriage was set for January 22 of 2014, leaving little time for any kind of intervention to take place. A rushed engagement ceremony took place a little over a week after the gambling session, and was attended by villagers from the area, as well as relatives of the two families.

“I’ll do whatever is best for my daughter. What’s your business?” stated an arrogant Parimal, clearly lacking any remorse over the situation when the media got wind of the arrangement and attempted to intervene.

After the engagement, the 13-year-old girl stopped attending school, despite her recognition as a good student; she was, in fact, attending school during the bout, and was completely unaware of her father’s actions until later.

Intervention Still Possible

Yet there is, perhaps, still some hope to save the young girl from her apparent fate, as Habibpur Block development officer Arnab Roy explained that he had sent a team to the Krishnapur-Buritala village, which borders Bangladesh, to obtain further details of the incident and to try to prevent the marriage from taking place.

“In no way can this marriage take place,” stated Roy in local reports.

According to the officer, child marriage is an illegal, punishable offense, and he has informed the district social welfare officer of the occurrence, and members of child welfare dedicated NGO Childline have also been requested for support.

Arnab Roy blamed illiteracy for the families’ plans to go ahead with this arrangement, and explained that every effort would be made to make each of the families fully aware of the drawbacks and legal implications of child marriage. If “illiteracy” is how you say “creepy gambling addict” in Bengalese, then we agree.