Women in Kozhikode had some harsh words to say about the government circular that seeks to legalise the marriage of Muslim girls at the age of 16. They told The Hindu that there was no justification for such an order in a country where child marriage is a crime. ‘Ridiculous, unjust, and chauvinistic’ were some of the terms used to describe the circular.
Gynaecologist and writer Khadeeja Mumtaz said the idea was laughable as a girl did not mature mentally or physically even at the age of 18, which is the legal age to marry for girls in India. A 16-year-old girl was a child, still growing. It was unjust to push her into marriage and motherhood at such a young age.
K.S. Jayasree, secretary of Sthreechethana, an NGO for women, said the order was an encroachment on children’s rights to live as children, get educated, and develop their personality. A woman should amass life skills before getting married, she said. The Muslim community in Kozhikode and Malappuram was aware of the legal age of maturity, but the order would give a negative message and promote child marriage. Dr. Jayasree demanded an immediate repeal of the circular.
However, Chairperson of the Kerala State Women’s Development Corporation P. Kulsu said the controversy was uncalled for. It was just a helping hand to legalise marriages of the past that took place when the girls were 16. These couples were facing trouble in registering their marriage in panchayats and municipalities because of the stipulation that a marriage was not valid before the girl turned 18. However, registration was necessary for travelling abroad with their husbands or claiming their property rights.