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‘Marry girls young, avoid rape’

To curb the increasing incidents of rape in Haryana, the local village leaders have come up with a solution. They have suggested that the marriageable age for girls be lowered to 16 years. According to Indian law, girls cannot get married before they turn 18. This shocking statement has come a day after a teenaged girl from a lower caste immolated herself after being allegedly raped in Jind district in Haryana, India’s state notorious for being unsafe for women.

A “Khap” panchayat is a body of elders which controls social norms and traditions in a village. Khap panchayats are prevalent in the states of Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan. According to the website of Azad India foundation, an NGO working for rural welfare, “the question of rights for women does not exist anywhere in the territories ruled by Khap panchayats.”

“Boys and girls should be married by the time they turn 16, so that they do not stray. This will decrease the incidents of rape,” Indian news websites have quoted Sube Singh, Khap panchayat spokesperson saying. Sube Singh maintained that youngsters get easily attracted to the opposite sex in their teenage years and that the vulgarity being shown on TV and cinema is largely responsible for this.  Another Khap member has said, “As soon as the children attain puberty, it is natural for them to have sexual desires, but when these are not fulfilled, they stray, so there should not be any minimum age limit for marriage.” Om Prakash Mann, head of the Jat Mahasabha, a caste-based organization in Northern India, was the first to raise this demand and it found takers in the Khap Panchayat.

Women’s groups in India have expressed their anger over the comments of Khap members. The All India Democratic women’s association (AIDWA) has condemned the demand of Khap leaders. In a statement, the AIDWA said that Khap leaders exhibit a total lack of understanding about rape being used as a tool of violent aggression in a male-dominant and caste-ridden society. The statement said, “It should be noted that some of the recent rape cases reported from Haryana are of upper caste men raping Dalit girls of the same village.”

Psychologists have argued that lowering the age can no way provide a solution to the problem of crime against women. These incidents are an outcome of a bias in society against women, which are being witnessed in different manifestations.

Expressing her concern, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) chairperson Shanta Sinha has sought explanation from the state government. She said the recent incidents have emphasized the need to focus on several issues, including the skewed sex ratio in the northern state. The sex ratio in Haryana is 830 women for every 1000 men.

There has been a spate of rape cases in Haryana in the last four weeks. In 2011, a total of 733 rape cases were registered in Haryana. Until August this year, the state has witnessed 455 reported cases of rape- an average of two women raped each day. In the last four weeks, 10 cases of rape have been reported. In more than half of these cases, the victims were gang-raped.

Author: Ronaq Zahoor

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


08.10.2012 | 14:35