Hyderabad: City-based activists slammed the Centre for reportedly considering reducing the legal age of marriage for men from 21 to 18. They dubbed it as an attempt of the BJP-led government to increase the Hindu population, as part of its designs for a ‘Hindu Rashtra’. They also want the marriageable age of women to be raised from the existing 18 to 21, rather than keeping it 18 for both genders.
A round-table conference on the subject was organised by child rights’ organisation, Balala Hakkula Sangham, in Hyderabad on Tuesday. The panel included a law professor, doctors, activists and students.
It may be recalled that in November 2018, the Law Commission had suggested a common marriage age for both genders at 18 years, at which both men and women attain majority. Around a week ago, it was reported that the Union women and child development ministry had discussed amending the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act and suggested lowering the age of marriage for men to 18.
G. Vinod Kumar, Osmania University Law College HoD, said, “When there is no equality for women on any front, it is puzzling that the government is working on reducing the marriage age for men instead of empowering women directly. Why can’t it act on passing the women’s reservation bill in Parliament, which would guarantee 33 per cent of parliamentary seats for women?”
He claimed that the proposal on the age for marriage is part of the BJP-led government’s designs to establish a Hindu Rashtra.
After Kumar’s talk, the discussion moved in an unclear direction. Dayakar Reddy, owner of a school in Saidabad, talked about adolescents getting attracted to each other, and how this was not love.
He recalled how a girl studying in the sixth standard in his school had become attracted to a boy in the ninth standard. He claimed such young boys and girls couldn’t distinguish between love and attraction.
It wasn’t clear how this anecdote related to a discussion about marriage between consenting and legal-age adults. “People need to be mature when they get married. For this, the marriage age should be raised and not lowered,” he said.
Indira Shoban, an activist and Congress leader, made the point that changing the age for males would encourage the number of child marriages. “When men need to be 21, the women can generally be expected to be over 18. If men can get married at 18, they will continue to seek brides younger than themselves, and they will be minors in that case,” she pointed out.
Paediatrician, Dr Sudharshan Reddy, said, “When men or women get married before they attain physical and emotional maturity, there could be a number of issues. The child could be malnourished and so on.”
Dr Reddy said marriages should be “between men and women, and not boys and girls”. He wanted the marriageable age for both genders to be even higher than 21....