By M.C. Linthoingambee
Marriage is not simply a walk down the road but a union of two hearts as one, and a bigger gain for two families deciding to abide as one. Where does it begin? For some, it may well begin with love acting as a magical spell that binds them to marriage while many enters into matrimony through arranged matches. In both scenarios, there are situations where the union of the two people involved gets fragmented beyond repair leading to friction, conflict, separation or divorce. I was at a wedding last night and trust me, it takes a task force to make a wedding happen without a glitch. Marriages in India are considered far more sacred than in any other places because of its large religious affiliation. Amongst the Hindus, the seven satpadi steps of the marriage ritual is like an existing law that binds a man and a woman to take on their lives together for as long as they live once they get married. There is no room for mistakes sometimes with more orthodox families believing that a woman returning home after marriage is an evil omen bringing ill forces upon the family.
Although all fairy tales muster for a happy ending after being married, most stories in the real world fail to live on to become fairy tales. The legal age for marriage in India for a male is 21 and that of a female is 18 years along with their consent. But as always, there are various ways in which this legal bar is breached that exists with marriages, child marriage being one of them. Child marriage is one of the non-tackled selfish take of the pressure of society. Some poor parents believe getting of their kids married at a young age which save them from a bigger expense is better than getting them married when they are adults. UNICEF defines child marriage as a formal marriage or union before 18 years of age. UN Women defines child marriage as a forced marriage before 18 years of age because it believes that children under age 18 are incapable of giving their consent. Even though these marriages do happen, one cannot hopefully judge that all parties were at consent in such holy matrimony. According to the UNICEF, 47% of girls are married by the age of 18 and 18% are married off by the age of 15. These practices happen in all places but India has its heavily piled up toll to prove that its statistics on child marriage is no lesser than other parts of the world. Who believes that law exist when it comes in these area? Who requires consent?
Indian Law has made child marriage illegal but even so, it still continues to persists in its actions in various regions across the nation. Records prove and shows its highest rates in the rural areas of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It causes variant affects on both boys and girls but girls are more vulnerable to such a result although numbers are beginning to decline in the recent years. Such rules of marrying young had first been traced to the times of monarch marrying young to carry on their royal lineage and their bloodlines. But today, the situation is totally different from that time and beliefs and practices which means, it is time we changed our thinking. Today there are many victims of sexual and gender abuse as a result of our general social mistakes. It only takes one step at a time to make things happen. The world that existed before us was different much not like it is today.
On given records and findings as per reliable sources, Friedman claims, “arranging and contracting the marriage of a young girl were the undisputed prerogatives of her father in ancient Israel.” Most girls were married before the age of 15, often at the start of their puberty. Most religions, over history, influenced the marriageable age. For example, Christian ecclesiastical law forbade marriage of a girl before the age of puberty. Hindu vedic scriptures mandated the age of a girl’s marriage to be adulthood which they defined as three years after the onset of puberty. Jewish scholars and rabbis strongly discouraged marriages before the onset of puberty. In contrast, some Islamic marriage practices have permitted marriage of girls below the age of 10, because Sharia law is based in part on the life and practices of Muhammad, the Prophet, as described in part in Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. The Prophet married Aisha, his third wife, and consummated the marriage before she reached the age of 10. Narrated ‘Aisha: that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death). —Sahih al-Bukhari, 7:62:64. Some Islamic scholars have suggested that it is not the chronological age that matters; marriageable age under Muslim religious law is the age when the guardians of the girl feel she has reached sexual maturity. Such determination of sexual maturity is a matter of subjective judgment, and there is a strong belief among most Muslims and scholars, based on Sharia, that marrying a girl less than 13 years old is an acceptable practice for Muslims
If customs and religions still make do of what is an unnatural act shouldn’t we break down the barrier earlier before it takes roots? It is a tough and malicious ruling to go against what has already been existing but it should be left up to the people to decide what is really good for them and if it a child who cannot makes its own decisions, we should learn to wait.