December 17, 2022
“Marriage is not about age; it’s about finding the right person.” – Sophia Bush (b.1982) American actress, director and activist.
“Bara soron thera lagnlinge Mai, kazar kerge maka…” (I have crossed twelve and entered thirteen, get me married mother) is the opening line of a Konkani folk song commonly sung over drinks while awaiting dinner with guests. Unfortunately such girls (and boys) today have to wait till 18 years to be legally married. In those bygone days fathers of marriageable girls, in many cases had travel far and wide - and discard many sets of worn-out footwear - to find the right groom for their marriageable daughters. Now there are marriage brokers/match-makers who have inspired a popular song – “Match-maker, match-maker make me a match…”. But, today there is a catch or legal restraint in the form of minimum age for marriage which is reflected in the following excerpts from a report widely carried in the media.
Consent age: 94% of ‘romantic’ Pocso cases end in acquittals, says report
Bringing in focus the concern related to the “age of consent”, a news report shows that of the 7,064 Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act case judgments registered between 2016 and 2020 and made available on the e-courts of Assam, Maharashtra and West Bengal, 1,715 (24.3%) constituted “romantic” cases in which acquittal was the norm, accounting for 93.8% (1,609) of them. Convictions made for an exception and were recorded in only 106 cases (6.2%).
Based on the age-related information mentioned in FIRs, which was available in 1,120 (65.3%) of the 1,715 cases, in 799 cases (46.6%) the girl was between 16 to 18 years. In 272 cases (15.9%), the girl was between 14-16 years, while in 49 cases (2.9%) the girl was between 11-14 years.
The three-state case analyses report also highlights that in 1,329 of the 1,609 acquittals (82.6%), the girl did not testify against the accused. In 1,508 out of 1,715 cases (87.9%), the victim admitted that she was in a consensual relationship with the accused and in 1,421 (94.2%) of cases, the special courts acquitted the accused. Also, in 87 of the 106 convictions (82.1%) the court stated that the consent of a minor was immaterial for recording a conviction under the Pocso Act. In 28 cases, this was one of the principal reasons for conviction even though the girl did not testify against the accused.
“Overall, the evidence categorically points to the consideration of social realities of teenage sexuality by special courts”, says the analysis done by Enfold Proactive Health Trust. The authors cite the findings to stress on the need for an amendment to the Pocso Act and the IPC to decriminalise consensual acts involving adolescents above 16 years, while also ensuring that those between 16-18 years are protected against non-consensual acts under Pocso Act.
The findings reinforce the concerns raised by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud in his recent address at a national stakeholders consultation focussed on implementation of the Pocso Act, where he urged the legislature to take into consideration the growing concern around the “age of consent” under the Act.
The report highlights that in “romantic cases” police complaints were predominantly registered by family members of adolescent girls when the girls left their homes with their partners or to marry. Cases entailing allegations of non-consensual sexual act or indicating the presence of exploitative circumstances constituted a miniscule proportion of all “romantic” cases.
Does this call for reduction in the minimum age for marriage and what that threshold should be and why?
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response is invited in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit). Once again, welcome to reason.
The above topic-essay is all about chronological age control. What about mental age?
A father struggled to find a match for his mentally deficient son and after he found a bride patiently waited for signs of consummation of marriage - but couldn’t find any signs.
Then, one day he called his son for a one-to-one chat and asked the son: “Are you not doing that?” “Doing what?” responded the son. “Haven’t you seen what dogs are doing?” the father said. “I have seen and I will do that”. End of talk.
That night, in their exclusive bedroom the wife, who had a hint of the father/son meeting, dressed seductively and got into the bed and waited for action. The husband came in, fiddled with his underwear, raised one leg and let out a get from his private part on the bed where his wife was waiting expectantly.