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Early Marriage

 

“This write up is India specific!!”

 

Who doesn’t know the story of the 15 year old girl from England who gave birth to a child and her parents had the audacity to try and milk that situation by claiming it was from her relationship with a 13 year old boy? But then there are other cases where girls younger in age than 14 have become pregnant and given birth. But the question is, is such a scenario possible in India?

 

The answer is, “Not any time in the near future.”

 

In India if a 14 year old girl becomes pregnant (we are taking the pregnancy to be without a marriage and out of a fling) most likely she and the boy responsible will be killed either by the relatives of the girl or by the community. If that doesn’t happen then the only other thing that happens in such cases is the termination of pregnancy, even if illegally. There will be no parents in India who would do or try to do what the parents of the girl mentioned in the first paragraph did. India is a very orthodox society.

 

The neighbours will definitely come to know of what happenend with the girl and will always talk about it in hushed voices and behind the back but none of them will ever bad mouth about the girl to anyone. Pre-martial sex is considered immoral in India and the girls in such situation are subjected to social scorn by those who know of the event. However, as long as the girl is not getting married to someone who is related to a person who knows the girl’s history, they will never talk about her past to anyone. In fact if someone contacts them to check out the girl’s background, they will only have the nicest of things to say about her. “Kanya Dan” or marriage of the girl child is considered an auspicious act and the duty of community. Everybody tries their best to make sure every man who lives in a community, his daughter gets married happily.

 

Now how does this discussion relate to the topic that I am writing about? Before I answer this question let me answer another question first.

 

What is the difference between an “Early Marriage” and a “Child Marriage”? While “Child Marriage” involves the marrying off or betrothel of kids below the age of pubery, “Early Marriage” means the marrying of individuals who are atleast the legal age to give consent for sex. “Child Marriage” is wrong simply because the children involved neither know the meaning of what is happening nor do they have any say in that. On the other hand, “Early Marriage” is just like a regular “Arranged Marriage” which happens for the majority of Indians, the only difference being that it is solemnised when the individuals are still very young and hence cannot be considered free to make their choice.

 

Now let me link the case of “Early Marriage” to the present topic, but before I say a single word let me mention that the legal age of consent for sex in India is 16 years (Except Manipur where it is 14) without marriage and 15 years (13 in Manipur) if the boy and girl are married, whereas the legal age to get married is 18 for girls and 21 for boys.

 

Considering the rapid rate at which the Indian society is getting modernised and its’ age old system of joint families is disappearing, a big chunk of society is extremely worried about the dilution of cultural values and degradation of morality in society. Girls hooking up with boys and the two genders induldging in pre-martial sexual activity is considered not just bad by the society but the offenders can even be killed in some parts of India. This is where the concept of “Early Marriage” comes in, not as a societal dictat but rather a solution.

 

Western society is different from Asian cultures in general and Indian society in particular in the fact that while in Western Culture the assence of life is freedom, in Asia and India the stress is always on discipline. While pre-martial sex, un-wed mothers and underage sex might have got the social acceptance in the West, India is still ages different from such a society. And I don’t consider it to be a bad thing.

 

I consider my ancestors to be very intelligent people who knew the importance of sex and the power of sex drive. That is why they invented the idea of “Early Marriage” so that young boys and girls can get what they want and keep their minds clear and society clean and morally uplifted. Infidelity and promiscuity were not a problem and the relationship between the two sexes was a socially respected bond of matrimony.

 

How and when the things degenrated and the social brilliance of “Early Marriage” degenerated into the evil called “Child Marriage” is difficult to answer for me as I don’t have access to historical facts. But the solution became a problem. And problems only need to be solved. That is exactly what was done and the marriage age was set to the high figures mentioned above.

 

That the decision was influenced by the modern and forward oriented societies of the West is a humble acceptance of the facts. But that unfortunately was a shortsighted approach considering the Indian settings. Every thing that happens and works for the Western society will not work in Indian settings by default. Our ancestors were not idiots who created certain customs over centuries and then refined them. What they did worked well for the Indian settings and peace was maintained in the society.

 

In most western societies boys and girls over the age of 16 are free to have sex with each other without the need of getting married, girls aged 14 can become un-wed mothers and still be accepted by their families, and people can live in with partners for decades and raise two kids before they think of finally getting wedded officially. But does any of that work in Indian society?

 

“Early Marriage” is the alternative approach. If a 16 year old girl and 16 year old boy can consent for sex in India then their parents should be given the right to find a suitable match for them and get them married. That will make their relationship socially acceptable and there won’t be feelings of unease and insecurity in the society vis a vis the moral and cultural degradation. Besides it will keep the heads of young boys and girls in place. Moreover, they are going to have an arranged marriage most likely anyways. Legallising “Early Marriage” will mean more options will become available in the matrimonial market and the chances of boys and girls finding a better match will improve.

 

Besides who says the dropping of marriage age to 16 will mean everybody will get married at an early age? How many get married at the age of 18 and 21 now? People who are intelligent and advanced enough they will still marry their kids at a later age. It will only make legal the well meaning acts of those who want their kids to get married early. They will have better choice for their beloved kids and let us not forget, their intention to marry their kids early is not to get rid of their duty but only the protection of Indian culture.

 

Everything is not bad about Indian society and was not bad about the cultural and social norms established by our ancestors. If somethings had gone wrong the need was to rectify and redesign it, not remove it.

 

Take care,

Amanpreet Singh Rai

(Fatal Urge Carefree Kiss)

 

 

 

 

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