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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June 2005, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Indian girl, 14, wins a divorce
By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

A 14-year-old girl in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has won a battle to have her two-year marriage to a teenage boy annulled.

It is thought the first time in the state's history a child bride has successfully fought the centuries-old tradition of marrying girls off young.

Village elders agreed to grant Chenigall Suseela, who had threatened to commit suicide, the annulment.

Suseela said that she wanted to go back to school.

Her parents admitted they should not have married her off without her consent.

Dogged fight

Suseela, a low-caste girl from the state's Ranga Reddy district, is now free to resume her education.

She had been married two years ago to a 15-year-old boy from a neighbouring village.

But six months ago she went to the police seeking help against her husband, who she alleged had mistreated her.

Dalit women
Dalits are not known for their successes in human rights

But her demand for a separation was opposed by the elders on both sides, who said that local Hindu customs forbade divorce, even if the husband and wife were minors.

But Suseela put up a dogged fight.

She threatened to commit suicide if she was forced to return to her husband's house.

The climax came in the second week of June when elders of the two villages met in the presence of the bride, groom and their families.

They formally pronounced them "divorced".

A document signed by both parties - attested to by a police officer and other activists - asked the husband to return valuables including gold and money that were given to him as dowry.

A non-governmental organisation, the MV Foundation, was involved in helping the girl win the right to divorce.

It has now taken the responsibility of sending her to a local school.

The case has been seen as significant for two reasons.

Firstly, because Suseela belongs to a low caste group of Hindus known as Dalits, who traditionally have low literacy rates and are not renowned for successes in human rights battles.

And secondly, because the incident occurred in the underdeveloped Telangana region, where the practice of child marriage is rampant despite being illegal.

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