LUCKNOW, May 28 -- When 12-year-old Mamta of Shravasti had her first period, her parents decided to stop sending her to school and started her marriage preparations.

Mamata was married to a boy of neighbouring Bhinga village around 4 years back. Her parents started preparations for her 'gauna' (ceremonial shifting of a girl to her husband's house from her parents' place ) post puberty, without even thinking about the health hazards and special care required for the girl who was taken off school and made busy with household chores.

"Jitni jaldi ghar bas jaaye, uske liye utna achcha hai. (The sooner she is settled, the better for her)," said her father Braj Prasad, a daily wager for whom puberty is a divine signal to get a girl married.