Marriageable age?

When the chaudharies of khap panchayat of Haryana recently said that one of the causes of assaults on women is late marriage hence marriage should be solemnized in early age, the champions of the “cause” of women mounted their diatribe on them; and the chaudharies too kept mum. And when, last month, the lady president of Indian Psychiatric Society Dr. Indira Sharma, in her presidential address, made the same statement, the champions including some members of her Society made much hue and cry against her as well. Khap chaudharies of Haryana were simple persons; they were not highly educated and perhaps they were aware of it; there they kept mum at the aggression of educated persons. Common people also understood that the villagers of khap panchayat can’t understand such a serious issue. But Indira Sharma was neither a chaudhary of Haryana nor an uneducated villager; she had formed this opinion after much deliberation, and her professional acumen was also behind it. Therefore, she stuck to her opinion (The Times of India, 9 February). Dr. Indira is also Head of the Psychiatric Department of Banaras Hindu University. Her subject is human psychology.

These different opinions
This discussion on the age of marriage is in the backdrop of an incident of sexual assault on a 23-year-old female student in Delhi on 16 December last. Among the six barbarians was a 16-year-old boy whom the Indian law considers juvenile. Another aspect of this is the proposal advanced by the khap panchayat, Dr. Indira Sharma and many conscientious individuals and circles like them. They are of the view that marriage should be solemnized soon after the age of puberty otherwise problems are bound to come. On the other hand, the idea of keeping population under control is lurking behind the government stand on fixing 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys as the minimum age for marriage. Those who are making much hue and cry on the views of the khap panchayat and Indira Sharma say that there is no relation between the age of marriage and sexual assaults. And it is these people who say that sexual assaults should not be linked with women’s lifestyle, dress and stepping out of their homes, and that young girls should not be told anything in this regard.

What looks apparent
An analysis of the entire scenario reveals the insincerity of the Indian society, especially of those sections which create furor on sexual excesses but do not support the need of searching the causes. Rather they get agitated at the very mention of causes. And if the trend, tendency and thinking of the society is deliberated upon more intensively, a sad reality comes to light that the sexual morality of Indian society is changing fast. Some recent court verdicts show it. Recent evidence is the proposal of Justice Verma Committee that the condition for a sexual act with “mutual consent” should be lessened from 18 years to 16 years. It means this is not necessary for the couples to be married. When the national society is not sincere on a serious issue like sexual crimes, there is no hope for any positive result however loud you raise a voice against it. Then is there no need that some far-sighted group comes to the fore to tell the citizens of the country that the issue of sexual crimes should not be taken separately. This is in fact part of the collective moral rot of the country. 

13/03/13 khabar-O-Nazar by Parwaaz Rahmani, sehrozaDAWAT, translated by: Abu Yusuf


  1. The question here is, should we criminalize the act of children above 16 years if they have indulged in sexual acts with consent? In quite a few communities marriages take place at a very early stage even before 16 years of age and such marriages are not void (they are voidable). However, if such a married couple get attracted and have sex while the wife is less than 18 years and above 16 years, the husband can be prosecuted for the offence of "rape", even if it was with wife's consent! Nobody says that the moment the girl is above 16, she should be free to have sex. Society and parents can educate their children and counsel them according to their own culture and religion and morality and consequences of indulging in sex early. The only question is should we criminalize?? Khap panchayats will use this provision to break couples who have married according to their own choice! Until six months ago, age of consent was 16 years and the ordinance made it to 18 years. Nobody had a problem then (six months ago!) what happened in these six months that we are predicting immoral behaviour by young people?

  2. Another issue being discussed is that if the age of mutual consent is kept at 16, then why the marriageable age for women is kept at 18. The issue here is of early motherhood. Many girls become mothers immediately after marriage. For that matter even age of 18 for motherhood is low. Therefore there is bound to be a difference between marriageable age & age of mutual consent for sex.

  3. Keeping the age of consent at 16 is not a license for sex...biologically speaking it is not healthy, but the Indian Government has done it keeping in view because of the persecution by draconian institutions such as Khap Panchayats...as I have said earlier unless there is sex education in schools many would not be able to make a mature choice with regard to their sexuality...

  4. Today the torch-bearers of the Society are Perverts who clamour for Liberalism that suits their Perversions... Moral Acts are offensive to them so they play deaf at such Calls of Reforms.