Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Court letting minors elope and marry

Sometimes the Indian legal system does things which make you wonder. Over the last few years, there have been a series of judgments that have changed the concept of age of marriage and age of consent of sex. My generic understanding, and I would think that of the public is the following:
A female cannot get married until the age of 18, and a male cannot get married until the age of 21. Linked, and yet somewhat separate is the age of consent for having willing sex, which is 18 for both. So a boy of 19 can have a sexual relationship and not yet get married. The corollary to that is the age restrictions, which is that a boy or girl under the age of 18 is considered to be not of the age of consent, and hence not qualified to agree to sex. Put another way, if a boy or girl under the age of 18 has sex, then the law would believe that even if they had agreed, because it is considered that such agreement could have been under an influence and hence invalid, a rape has occurred.
This is also a concept that a lot of parents will agree with, because except for those sections where child marriage is considered natural, parents would want their child to develop into an adult, have a certain amount of education, and then get into a romantic or sexual relationship with or without marriage.
However, over a period of time, this concept has been slowly eroded in court decisions, where the move seems to be that if a person has willingly agreed for a relationship, then the court should also consider those views. So, an example, read about this judgment:

It is not an offence for a girl under 18 to fall in love or desire to marry her beloved, a city court recently held while acquitting a man charged with kidnapping and raping a minor.
Additional sessions judge Kamini Lau held: "...The 17-year-old prosecutrix (the girl) has a right to protect her feelings from the onslaught of her parents and the society. If she had run away to save herself from such an onslaught with her love, this in the view of the court is no offence."

At a certain level, this case should seem to be fine, after all, if a couple in love run away and get married, then the parents will try all measures including levelling rape and other charges so as to penalize the boy and get their girl back. However, at a broader level, the force of such judgments will eventually change the logic currently used and allow all such relationships, including undesirable ones, to flourish.
An example is a case where a family pushes their 16 year old girl to marry a 22 year old boy, because they feel that she is now of age, and anyhow she does not have a future other than to be in a happy marriage. In such cases, if the girl agrees in court that she loved the boy and married him (under any influence), then these precedents can be quoted. It defeats the efforts that are being made to ensure that the girl has a chance to reach adulthood, and be able to take her own decisions.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

If you like these writings, you can subscribe to this feed to get new postsSite Feed Site Feed

posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 12:01 AM