Author's Diction~Vipin Behari Goyal: Too Young For Nuptial Tie

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Too Young For Nuptial Tie

Will Child Marriage be Again in Vogue? 

There is no difference in many advance and backward countries of the world so far as the law related to marriage and divorce is concerned. Just like every state in US can make its own law to decide the age of marriage, In India every religion is entitled to adhere to Personal Law.

The Personal Law deals with marriage, divorce, maintenance, inheritance and adoption laws. Despite repeated commands by the Supreme Court the Government in power is avoiding Uniform Civil Code. The main reason is minority status of all other religions in India except Hindu. Minority constitutes a vote bank to whom no political party in power wants to displease.

right age for marriageThe Gujarat High Court has decided that a Muslim girl can marry when she attains puberty or 15 years of age.

Almost every girl attains puberty when she is still legally minor. How a Muslim minor girl deservs to be married when girls of other religions are restricted?

According to a ReportThe onset of puberty varies among individuals. Puberty usually occurs in girls between the ages of 10 and 14, while in boys it generally occurs later, between the ages of 12 and 16. In some African-American girls, puberty begin earlier, at about age 9, meaning that puberty occurs from ages 9 to 14."

"Adolescent girls reach puberty today at earlier ages than were ever recorded previously. Nutritional and other environmental influences may be responsible for this change. For example, the average age of the onset of menstrual periods in girls was 15 in 1900. By the 1990s, this average had dropped to 12 and a half years of age.”

On one hand the age of attaining puberty has declined and on the other hand, there is a sharp rise in the cases of child abuse. In US 3 million cases of child abuse are reported every year out of which 49% or physical or sexual abuse. In India 53% of children face one or more forms of sexual abuse. If we include unreported cases the number is unbelievably high.

You may ask in what kind of society we are living? In India child marriage, which once was very common is now seen as a social stigma. There is a law prohibiting child marriage.

The prevalent practice is that after marriage the bride was not sent with the bridegroom and lived with her parents till she attained puberty and was emotionally mature to adjust to new life. The actual departure of the bride took place after a small ceremony of Gauna associated with the consummation of marriage.

This system remained in vogue for many centuries. It had certain logical advantages

1. Economy -  The women were assets in most of agrarian communities. They were generally more laborious and methodical than their male counterparts. Girls were best in taking care of cattle and milking animals. Cows and goats had more productivity when tended by girls.

The parents of the girl tried to postpone Gauna, even after she attained puberty. Though they kept a close watch on her activities and when they found her taking an interest in the boys of her age or eager to meet her bridegroom on one pretext or another, they thought it was high time she may be delivered to her rightful owner.

A lively story Empty Cocoon explains issues related to marriage and sex in rural India.

2. Auspicious Day - The ceremony of marriage has to take place on auspicious days. The astrologers and fortune tellers used to charge money for deciding the day. The Akha Teej is one such day when marriage can be performed even without consulting a priest or astrologer.

3. Advantages of Bulk Marriages - The marriages occurred in bulk on such days. Often all brothers and sisters of one family got married on the same date. It saved a lot of money. A huge feast to all the members of the community was most expensive affair in a marriage. That feast had to be given only once if all children were married on the same day.

4. Family Bondage - A marriage was seen as bonding between two families. In ancient time wedding in royal families was solemnised for strengthening the kingdom. By early marriage the clan was expanded to take care of any kind of emergencies in both the families.

5. Advance Booking - Now a days, in case of arranged marriage, it has become a Herculean task for the parents to search a suitable boy/girl. Most of the suitable bachelors are thronged and have a variety of options to  choose from depending on their taste and temperament.

The basic choice is between money and beauty as envisaged by Daniel Defoe in Moll Flanders. Moll says “ I have the money and I want the beauty, but as Times go now, the first will do without the last.”

Child marriage was used as an instrument to curb the desire of child abuse and sustain a sane society. In The Old Man and The Nymph a young girl who is a divine spirit brings a new ray of hope in the life of worn out old man. Such symbiotic relationships are exceptions, and society silently approves such discrepancies in which male is major beneficiary.

Child marriage is circumvent way of committing child abuse.

Poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, competition, consumerism and insecurity are some of the reasons of manic depression in youth of the world. The manic depressive youth finds an outlet in the child abuse. The elimination of  socio-economic causes is no more in the hands of society.

A male chauvinist may opine that any girl out of cradle is old enough to get married. The age difference between spouse is important biological and social issue. Is mature older husband more suitable for innocent, emotional girl? Please give your opinion about "ideal age difference" to expand the article.

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© Vipin Behari Goyal
Advocate, Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, India 

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