- The issue unfolded at an awareness drive about crimes against women
- Mr Verma said girls should go to their in-laws home and be happy after 18
- Women are now allowed to get married at 18, three years earlier than men
The Madhya Pradesh Congress landed in controversy today after a former minister's regressive comment on a woman's minimum age for marriage. "When girls can reproduce at 15 years, why raise their marriageable age from 18 to 21 years," Sajjan Singh Verma -- former PWD minister and Kamal Nath loyalist -- had questioned, setting off BJP demands for an apology and his sacking from the party.
But the Congress tried to brush off the matter, with state Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta claiming the BJP "wanted to make an issue out of nothing".
The issue unfolded after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, while inaugurating "Samman" -- a fortnight-long public awareness drive about crimes against women -- called for a national debate on raising the minimum age of marriage.
Women are currently allowed to get married at 18, three years earlier than the 21-year minimum age limit for men. The Chief Minister had contended that the minimum age for women should also be made 21 years.
Arguing that women are able to reproduce at the age of 15 years, Mr Verma said, "This is not my finding. As per doctors' report, girls are suitable for child bearing at 15 years of age. Owing to it only, a girl is considered mature enough for marriage at minimum 18 years of age," Mr Verma had said.
The former minister went on to add, "Girls should go to their 'sasural' (in-laws' home) and be happy after they turn 18".
Making light of the Chief Minister's statement, Mr Verma then said, "Is he (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) a scientist or a great doctor that he is batting for increasing the minimum marriageable age for girls from 18 years to 21 years?."
"Sajjan Singh Verma has insulted all the daughters not only in Madhya Pradesh, but across the country," said BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari said.
"It seems Verma has forgotten that the national president of his party Sonia Gandhi and the young national general secretary of his party Priyanka Gandhi Vadra are both women. I request the Congress national president Sonia Gandhi to ask Sajjan Singh Verma to publicly apologize to women and then fire him from the party," he added.
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has issued notice to Mr Verma, ordering him to "provide an explanation within two days giving reasons and justifying his intention for making such discriminatory statement against minor girls and law."
The Congress said the former minister had only asked if the Chief Minister knows of "any valid research" to base his demand for a debate on increasing the legal marriage age of women to 21-years. The Chief Minister makes such demands only for media attention, said Bhupendra Gupta, accompanied by Mr Verma, at a press conference.