CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Indian television soap opera that shows a 10-year-old boy married to a 19-year-old woman has been pulled off air following protests from viewers who said it glorified child marriage.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said it had asked for a review of the show by an independent broadcasting authority after it received a petition questioning the influence the soap would have on viewers.
“There were numerous complaints about the content of the show and we sent it for review,” said an official in the ministry, requesting anonymity.
“The show was pushed to a late night slot with a disclaimer first and has now been taken off air.”
The last episode of the show ‘Pehredar Piya Ki’ (‘Husband’s Guard’) was aired on Friday, ending weeks of controversy over its portrayal of child marriage, which though illegal remains widespread in many parts of the country.
The legal age for marriage in India is 18 for women and 21 for men.
India has been cracking down on child marriage and campaigners said such portrayals in the media could dent progress.
The show, which went on air in July, prompted a Change.org petition urging Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani to ban it. The petition garnered nearly 50,000 signatures, just 48 hours after its launch.
The petitioner Mansi Jain questioned the influence the soap would have and said it showed the child perform marriage rituals such as putting vermillion on the older actor playing his wife.
In a statement issued on Monday, Sony Entertainment Television - a popular Hindi-language general entertainment channel in India - said it had pulled the program off air.
Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Ros Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org