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.

No comments: