The demand by some khap panchayats that girls should be married off when they turn 16 should be seen as one of the many preventive steps that need to be taken for checking rape, the most heinous crime against women. It is obvious that the fear of severe punishment alone cannot deter rapists.
Every Indian must abide by the law prohibiting girls’ marriage before 18 years of age. But there is scope for changes to the law. We have the Law Commission recommendation that the marriageable age for men be reduced to 18 from 21. Why not take the suggestion of khap panchayats as a demand for an amendment to the marriage laws? Our classical songs often refer to the 16-year-old bride.
A. Hameed Yousuf,
The editorial “The rape of reason” (Oct. 15) has exposed the former Haryana Chief Minister, Om Prakash Chautala. Although he claimed he was misquoted as supporting the regressive view of some khap panchayat leaders that the marriageable age of girls be lowered from 18 to 16, it is clear that his aim is to keep his vote bank intact. The estimate of four U.N. agencies that more than 40 per cent of the world’s child marriages take place in India is graphically illustrated at the U.N. headquarters in New York, tarnishing our image.
It has become fashionable among the khap leaders to issue fatwa-like statements. They are from influential upper castes. Whatever decision they take is meant only for the benefit of a particular caste. The administration is either unwilling to take action or is under pressure to ignore them.
Mr. Chautala’s statement will not particularly harm him politically because a sizeable section of Haryana’s population believes in getting rid of the ‘unwanted’ girl child. Even in cities like Delhi, girls are looked upon as a burden and most parents want to get rid of them.
Keywords: khap panchayats