Haryana's Sarva Khap Jat Panchayat, which has been at the forefront of
demanding reservations for Jats in government jobs, will now discuss the
bizarre suggestion that the marriage age for girls be lowered to curb
rising incidents of rape in the state.
The supreme council is an
umbrella body of khap panchayats across the state. Khaps have no legal
sanction but often function like kangaroo courts and issue social
diktats that are enforced in the villages.
A meeting today in Sonipat, about 40 kms from Delhi, to discuss the reservation
issue will focus instead on the marriage age issue and how the
government could be compelled to get the bar lowered in Haryana, where
at least 15 rapes have been reported in the past month.
meeting aims at knowing the views of various khap panchayats about the
issue of lowering the marriageable age to prevent rape incidents in the
state. Representatives of around 100 khaps across the state will attend
the meeting to share their opinion and to present their proposals on the
issue," Sube Singh Samain, spokesperson of the Sarva Khap Jat
Panchayat, said on Friday.
Sube Singh had hit the national headlines last
week with his suggestion that lowering the marriage age for women would
prevent rape. He found backing from Indian National Lok Dal leader and
former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala who said: "I am with
the khaps on this issue. This will protect women."
Also on the agenda today, besides age and reservations for Jats, is the rising incident of heinous crimes in Haryana.
role of khap panchayats in checking crime will also be discussed in
length at the meeting," Sube Singh said, adding that the khaps wished to
play a vital role in controlling crime.
"The meeting was earlier
convened to talk about stepping up the Jat reservation movement but the
issue of lowering the marriage age will now also be prominently
discussed to draw up a consensus among the khaps in this regard," said
Randhir Singh, chief of the Sarva Khap Panchayat
Meham Chaubisi (which represents 24 villages of Meham sub-division in
Rohtak), said that the government should not only remove the existing
restriction on the marriageable age but leave the decision on this on a
Under the law, girls below 18 years and boys below 21 years cannot legally get married.
the parents decide when they want to marry off their wards. Girls can
be married off a couple of years earlier than the stipulated age of 18
years if they have physically grown up," Randhir Singh said.
The view has been met with outrage.
Sangwan, national vice president of the Janwadi Mahila Samiti, said:
"There is no direct relation between rape and the marriageable age.
Hence the suggestion cannot be described as appropriate. Besides other
precautionary measures, bringing about a change in the mentality of the
people is also required to check crimes against women."
Dagar, district president of the Haryana Janhit Congress' youth wing,
said: "The suggestion is entirely wrong and it will give a boost to
social evils. The government should make some serious efforts for the
security and safety of women in the state."