Thursday, July 25, 2013

59. Rapes: An Unpalatable View

Rapes: An Unpalatable View

More than half a century ago when I was in the school, some of my class mates who either lived in  nearby  villages or because of distance, in a hostel, were married. The trademark was a shiny wrist watch. Sociologists agree that one of the reasons for child marriage in India is the lack of safety in the villages for young unmarried maidens, especially during the time of morning outings. Biologists say that man’s libido is at its peak at 18. In many gang rapes, the most violent acts have often been committed by a juvenile.

India is not like the western country where the sexual mores a little more liberal. Also there is  more free mixing of the sexes there than in India.

So is the Sharda Act the real villain? Do we have to do a rethink on the age of marriage which has now been increased?

In India the minimum legal age at marriage is 18(F)/21(M). Age of consent is 18. Statutory Rape is 15. The bill to reduce the age of consent to 16 has been vigorously opposed. Compared to India, the legal minimum age for marriage in Indonesia is 16/19, Iran 13/15, South Africa 12/14 and Turkey 14/15.  For  European countries, France 15/18, Germany 14/18, Russia 16/18, Spain 14. In the various states of US age of consent is 14 to 18 and age at marriage 16 to 18 years. In Australia the age of consent is 16, and age at marriage 18, although it can be reduced to 16 with one parent’s approval and a court order. In Britain age of consent is 16. No minimum age has been prescribed for marriage (female), and married couple allowed to have sex so long as female has reached puberty.

The average age of marriage in India and Pakistan where marriages are generally arranged by parents it 17 years, many brides are married as early as 15. My mother was married at 16, and so was my uncle’s daughter. Marriage for girls above 20 was looked at suspicion or was the result of loss of breadwinner in the family.

In spite of the marriage age fixed at 18/21 in India, how many parents or couples with ‘illegal’ marriages been actually prosecuted. News comes of mass marriages of one community or the other, sometimes even presided   over by political dignitaries, with charges of child marriages.

Looking to world figures, I think India has been a little hasty in pegging the age at marriage at 18/21. When The age of majority is 18, and voting age 16, are we justified in keeping  marriage age to be 18/21.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

58.The Deluge in Uttarakhand


My friend Rameshwar showed me this passage from Jim Corbett’s ‘The Pilgrim Road’ included in ‘The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag’. It is worthwhile quoting the para here:

‘Three days journey up the left bank of the Ganges and you  have reached the ancient capital of Garhwal, Shreenagar, an historic, religious, and trading centre  of considerable imporatance and of great beauty, nestling in a wide, open valley surrounded by high mountains. It was here, in the year 1805, that the forebears of the Garhwali soldiers who have fought so gallantly in two world wars made their last and unsuccessful stand against the Gurkha invaders, and it is a matter of great regret to the people of Garhwal that their ancient city of Sreenagar, together with the palaces of their kings, was swept away to the last stone, by the bursting of the Gohna Lake dam in 1894. This dam, caused by a landslide in the valley of the Birehi Ganga, a tributary of the Ganges, was 11,000’ wide at the base, 2000’ wide at the summit, and 900’ high, and when it burst, ten billion cubic feet of water were  released in the short space of six hours. So well was the bursting of the dam timed that, though the flood devastated the valley of the Ganges right down to Hardwar and swept away every bridge, only one family was lost, the members of which had returned to the danger-zone after having been forcibly removed from it.’

Were the Britishers more humane and better administrators than the Indians?

Not that the warning was not there. The Commandant of a Training Centre evacuated the entire School before it was washed away the next morning. Did he have some information that the District Administration did not have?  The  overflowing of Vasukital glacier lake hs an uncanny resemblance to the  bursting of the Gohna Lake dam. June 15 was enough of a warning before the real disaster in the morning of June 16. True, the weatherman’s warning often becomes a routine, but it was there. But it is easy to have a hindsight.