Kriti Bharti is an Indian children rights activist who also works as a rehabilitation psychologist. She is the first Indian child annuler who made child marriage null and void in India by fighting for the child brides and grooms in courts to win their lives back. Saarthi Trust, a non-profit organization, was also founded by her in 2011, and she works as a director in this venture. This organisation saves the child marriage victims and ensures the welfare of these children. Since the establishment of this non-profit venture, 41 child marriages were contested in court and declared void and cancelled 1400 child marriages from happening.
Kriti Bharti was born as Kriti Chopra on Wednesday, 19 August 1987 (age 34 years; as of 2021) in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. Her Zodiac sign is Taurus. Bharti earned a Doctorate in Psychology at the Jai Narain Vyas University in Jodhpur. In a conversation with Gulf News, she narrated her educational qualifications,
With regular 15 to 16 hours study, I cleared my class X exams, followed by class XII and then did my graduation, post graduation and doctorate in psychology from Jai Narayan Vyas University in Jodhpur.”
Hair Colour: Black
Eye Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Her father’s name is not known. Her mother’s name is Indu Chopra.
She is the single child of her parents.
During her college days, Bharti started attending various NGOs along with providing counselling as a psychiatrist. A nine years old girl was her first patient who was a rape victim. At that moment, she recalled in an interview with Icy Tales,
I felt it was pointless to provide momentary relief by counseling her for two hours. I wanted to provide permanent freedom and change her life. This incident took me to the justice system. So, from counseling, I made it to the justice system. Thus, I emphasize these two things: justice and rehabilitation.“
While working with the non-profit organisations, Bharti was able to interact with various street children that were the victims of child labour, marriage and poverty. After seven months of working with NGOs, she observed that the focal issue among the homeless children was child marriage. She also noticed that this ritual of child marriage is prevalent in rural areas of India; however, it was illegal in the Indian judiciary system. Rajasthan was regarded as the epicentre of child marriage and that was Bharti’s hometown. In 2009, a report was issued by UNICEF that stated that 40 per cent of the child marriages in the world happened in India, and 56 per cent of the Indian women in rural areas of India were got married before the age of 18 years.
Bharti worked with several NGOs before starting up her own venture Saarthi Trust. In an interview, she stated that all these NGOs were only spreading awareness about child marriage and its adverse effects; but no one was helping the child on the grassroots level. She stated,
I wanted to work at the grassroots level and help the victims come out of the condition, help them see a new life, and mark a new beginning. That’s when I founded Saarthi Trust.”
She further added that her approach was simple,
To narrow it down, we prevent, annul, rehabilitate, and spread awareness. “Dushman ko maarna hai tho, chaaron tharaf se gherna hota hai.”
The core areas of working of Saarthi Trust:
- To stop child marriages on the spot
- Annul child marriages if they have already happened
- Rehabilitate the victims as some families refuse to accept their children after marriage annulation
- Conducting Orientation Camps to elucidate the harmful consequences of child marriage to the villagers
- Organising oath-taking ceremonies with the villagers to pledge that they would not perform child marriages
- Approaching the children and their families through local media including newspapers, social media and radio
The major areas that Bharti and her organisation covers to prevent child marriages in India include Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar. As a consequence of her campaigns, Bharti said in a conversation with a media person,
Young girls have begun to raise voices against this unlawful practice in these states. Earlier, girls were not aware of the way to come out of the grave situation, but now they themselves have understood the exploitation.”
Bharti helped a woman named Laxmi Sargara in 2012 to nullify her child marriage that paved the way for Bharti to work continuously and personally on discussing the harmful effects of child marriages to the local villages and schools of Rajasthan, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar. She also focussed on teaching women empowerment. This Saarthi trust has a helpline number for the underage brides and grooms to prevent themselves from child marriages by reporting their cases immediately over the phone. After a complaint filed at her organisation, Bharti personally meets and talk to the elders of the family to convince them to stop child marriages. Upon failing to convince the family members of the children, Bharti and her venture seek legal remedies for the same. Bharti received several rape and death threats during her activism career. Hindu leaders in Rajasthan threatened her to chop her nose and gang-rape her while she was preventing child marriage. She said in an interview with Los Angeles Times,
Child marriage is like a disease: It’s important to prevent it, but when so many are infected, you have to find a way to cure them.”
The CBSE Board of school education has also included the prevention of child marriage in their curriculum. In 2020, on Akha Teej in the month of April, Bharti prevented three child marriages and as a result, this incident went for the Limca Book of Records. She explained her future visions in a conversation with Icy Tales, a media house,
Another thing is to start a rehabilitation center for orphans and specially-abled children. All these need monetary support and we have almost zero supporters. We have girls who are in 10th grade, pursuing Medical, engineering, and B.Ed. They have different expenses but zero sponsors. Well, I’m a psychologist, I earn by conducting sessions and use that money to provide the resources.”
- Kriti Bharti’s father left her mother when Bharti was in her mother’s womb. The relatives and family members also advised her mother to abort the child and wed again as it was considered a disgrace by them to deliver a baby to an abandoned mother. However, Bharti’s mother averted all the allegations and bits of advice and gave birth to the child and raised it alone.
- During the pregnancy, her mother faced a lot of complications that ultimately led the child to be born seven months prematurely. While growing up, Bharti was also abused by her relatives physically and mentally. They considered her as a curse. Even at the age of ten, Bharti was slowly poisoned by her relatives; however, she managed to escape death. This slow poison paralysed and bedridden her. Later, she underwent several treatments and therapies including reiki healing, a Japanese touch therapy. After two years, she was able to recover from paralysis.
- After recovering from paralysis, Kriti Bharti changed her surname from Chopra to “Bharti” (Daughter of India). She did it to release her from any caste system and religion of India. In an interview with Icy Tales, she said,
I do not want to be labeled on the basis of my caste. I am Bharath ki Beti.”
- In an interview with Icy Tales, Kriti Bharti explained why child marriages in India still prevailed. She said,
There’s something called Jati Panchayat in Rajasthan or as they say Khap Panchayats in Haryana. They are not legal bodies. Sarpanch is the eldest one of the community, there is no minimum qualification to be the head. Their age is the qualification.”
She further added,
This body punishes people who disagree with child marriages and tell them they’re going against the age-old tradition and society. They penalize the families with enormous amounts of up to 10-20 Lakhs without taking into account the family’s income state. Along with this, they distance them entirely from society.”
- In 2021, Hershey (a chocolate manufacturing brand) launched a bar of chocolate special edition in honour of Kriti Bharti.
- Kriti Bharti is the recipient of several national and international honours including the Change Maker Award by Girls’ Night Bright, International Award in London, Global Award, Marwar Ratna, Mewar Ratna, Yugantar award.
- Kriti is a public speaker. She is often invited by various national and international public conferences to speak on ceasing child marriages and women empowerment.
- Several Indian newspaper articles also share the fights of Bharti against child marriage.