Saturday, April 19, 2008

A ticklish situation - but not the correct action

A very simple case, but leads to a major moral dilemma. A girl, 15 years old, gets pregnant with the child of her boyfriend, hides this from her parents until it becomes impossible to conceal. When the father of the bride filed a complaint, the relatives of both sides decided to settle the complaint by getting the 15 year old girl and the 19 year old boy married off, and guess who helped in getting this done ? The police, who are supposed to help in enforcing the law that does not allow marriage below the age of 18 and 21 respectively for a girl and a boy.
There is always a certain amount of questions that one may have in such a case - after all, there is always a certain amount of problem in going by a purely legal framework where the boy could be prosecuted for statutory rape and sent to jail. Such a situation would be problematic in the case where the relation was voluntary and a child is involved.

CHENNAI: When a 15-year-old girl could no longer hide her pregnancy after she got too intimate with her teenager boyfriend and the girl's parents panicked, the Tamil Nadu police decided to play matchmaker, despite the girl not being of a marriageable age. The minor girl, who had been in love with her neighbour Deepan (19), had conceived around seven months ago. She had not told anything about the relationship to her parents, but they had got suspicious a few days ago as the girl could not hide her pregnancy.
However, the move to marry off the the underage couple has not gone down well with women's activists and legal experts either. "In the eye of the law, the marriage is not valid. Even if the girl had given her consent, it is not legally valid. Whoever arranged the marriage could be prosecuted," said Madras High Court lawyer Eswaradas.

It looks like the police took the easy way out by settling for this decision. There is a reason why the law is in place, and such actions by the police end up in weakening the law. Children of this age are not fully mature as yet, and would most likely have ended up taking this decision to marry to fight off social pressures and the pressure of the police.
For a 15 year old girl and now mother, the law recognizes that she is not capable enough of being responsible for her actions and to push her into the role of a 15 year married mother means that her life is now set. It is very much possible that both of these young people would regret this decision later, and the consequences could be pretty much problematic. In addition, given that the boy wanted to have a DNA test to prove that he was responsible, he would already be having second thoughts.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 9:49 PM