Women are property

After the khap panchayats, it was the turn of the Karnataka high court to demand an amendment in the Hindu Marriage act. Both demands are based on the belief that women cannot decide what is good for themselves, and need to be guided by their elders. To be precise, the High Court sets an age limit of 21 after which women may be allowed to choose their partners, but “Parents should choose the boy for a girl aged below 21”. So For women between 18 and 21, the Karnataka High Court views them in the same way as khap panchayats, namely the property of their `parents’ or `elders’. (They are `property’ because they may be given away, not because they are to be protected, although the latter one is the argument given by both parties.)

For the specific case mentioned in the news report, the girl in question was reported missing some days before she turned 18 and she turned up after she turned 18 and got married (so that it would not be an underage marriage). It strikes me that a case of kidnapping could have been established without too much difficulty as she went away with the accused before she was 18. Surely there are statutory provisions for this in criminal law, without requiring amendments in the apparently unrelated marriage laws?

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