By Sujata B. Shakeel and Anindita D. Choudhury in
REMEMBER 14-YEAR-OLD Amina, who was rescued by an airhostess on a Hyderabad- Delhi flight? The girl had been married off to a 60- year- old Arab, who was taking her to
The airhostess alerted the police and Amina was rescued. That was in 1991. Seventeen years on, little has changed. Young girls barely into puberty are being married off under the plea of poverty, tradition or merely because they are seen as a “burden” on their families.
Sometimes even the courts uphold the marriage as legitimate because it falls under the purview of certain personal laws. Early this week, the Delhi High Court upheld the provisions of the Muslim Personal Law, to allow Afsana, a minor girl, to “decide her own fate and future”.
“The marriage of a Muslim girl after reaching puberty but before turning 18 is valid because the personal laws to which she is subject permits it,” a division bench of justices Vikramjit Sen and V. K. Shali said. The bench said though there is law against child marriages, as per the Muslim Personal Law, a girl could choose her life partner. But can a13- year- old girl —a girl who has a lot of growing up to do — decide who she wants to marry? Would she have the mental make- up to switch from playing dolls to playing mother? And most importantly, would her marriage be a proper marriage, even if it is performed as per the rituals of her faith, even if the laws of the land consider it as a violation of the rights of the child?
“It is rape,” says Ranjana Kumari, president of Women Power Connect, a women’s rights organisation. “Notwithstanding the fact that the girl has attained puberty, it amounts to violation of the child’s rights and is against the spirit of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, which prohibits the marriage of girls below 18 and boys below 21.” She says though the court has upheld the Muslim Personal Law, it is in contradiction to the law of the land. “Does it mean that if a girl attains puberty at nine, she should be married off? What happens to her childhood, her body, her mental emotional and physical growth?”
Shantha Sinha, chairperson, National Council for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), says: “We can’t change the personal law, but there should be a universal law which goes beyond religions.” Zoya Hassan, professor, department of political science, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), agrees. “There is a minimum age for marriage and that should be followed irrespective of religion. The most important thing is that there should be compulsory registration of marriages. Once you do that, you also ensure that no one below the minimum age gets married,” she says. That’s often not the case.
‘We need a universal law against child marriages.’
About 70 per cent of
Why? “It does not make child marriages void,” says Sudha Sundararaman, general secretary, All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA). “All child marriages are illegal. In 2006, the amendment to the 1929 Act gave the option to girls below 18 and boys below 21, to go to court and get their marriage annulled. But the marriage remains legal if the child does not come forward with objection,” she says.
It’s a matter of Capital shame
By Rohit Wadhwaney in
SOMEWHERE IN the maze of the
Child marriages are rampant in Delhi
The situation is the same at Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Colony, a stone’s throw from
Source: Mail Today, New Delhi