ASIA/INDIA - No more child brides: Supreme Court’s verdict on women's rights

Saturday, 21 October 2017 politics   civil society   women   human rights   freedom of conscience   hinduism   violence   justice  

New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - "The attitude of the Baratiya Janata Party (BJP) government and the Sangh Parivar on the issue of women indicates a tacit approval of discrimination against women": says to Agenzia Fides Father Jacob Peenicaparambil, CMI (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate), while in India the debate on the status of women in society has reopened.
With a ruling of October 11, the Supreme Court annulled a 77-year-old law, stating that a man is
committing rape if he engages in sexual intercourse with his wife who is under 18 years of age. The Court established a 10-year jail sentence to life imprisonment, according to the code of child protection for sexual offenses. Although prohibited by law, sexual intercourse with someone under the age of 18 was considered, by the Penal Code, for married couples. The exception has now been canceled because it "violates Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution", established the verdict.
The sentence is revolutionary and can be a deterrent for weddings with girls, a practice that is already forbidden in India (with a law of 2006), which is still widely spread: according to estimates by the Supreme Court, there are 23 million girl brides in the country, which means that one marriage out of five violates the law. According to a recent survey conducted by the National Health Survey, in fact, 39.1% of women aged 20 to 24 were married before 18 years of age. The phenomenon of child marriage varies from state to state.
The Supreme Court has asked the central government to adopt "proactive measures to ban child marriage", expressing concern for thousands of younger girls who get married in "mass marriage" ceremonies traditionally organized during the Hindu religious celebration of Akshaya Tritiya, in spring.
But the government appears to have a different position and has filed a petition which, although claims "taking note of the Indian socio-economic reality", calls for "an exception to protect the marriage institution".
The “Sangh Parivar”, a forum that welcomes many Hindu extremist and nationalist organizations, "is committed to safeguarding Indian culture polluted by Western influence rather than defending women in India", notes to Fides Fr. Peenicaparambil. "Why did Sangh Parivar, who launched a violent movement for the protection of cows at a national level, did not initiate such a mobilization against child marriage or atrocities on Dalits?", asks the Carmelite, noting that "this is a silent approval of discrimination against women, as indicated in the sacred Hindu texts of the Manusmriti", which justify marriage with minors.
"Women in India cannot expect justice and freedom from a government led and controlled by the ideology of Hindutva. The liberation of women requires liberation from the ideology of Hindutva, which is exclusive and discriminatory towards women and Dalits", continues the priest.
"If the BJP were really interested in promoting women, it should approve the bill promoting women's rights which has been blocked in Parliament for 21 years and publicly condemn the disgraceful statements against women contained in the Manumriti Code", concludes the Carmelite to Fides. (PN-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 21/10/2017)


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