I am a daughter of Sanatan Dharma, and I stand firm in the face of the atrocity that is child marriage and rebuke it without regret. This is not just an issue of age and maturity, but once again, of power.
The policing of women and girls’ bodies by Hindu men has been a plague to this system of belief for hundreds of years. Despite the worship of female deities who are warriors, nurturers and the like, there exists a patriarchal supposition that women and girls must be strictly policed; we are the responsibility of fathers, then husbands, then sons. A single woman on her own is a being to be despised, shunned, hated, feared or conquered. Thus, marriage is seen as the institution that can keep a woman ‘in line’. The fact of child marriages stems from poverty and misconceptions of the ‘evil’ that is female sexuality. Our Hindu ancestors married off their daughters early because they could not afford to ‘mind’ them, because ‘tradition’ dictated such, or because if they didn’t it was believed she would ‘behave bad’ (promiscuity implied).
However, this Sanatan Dharma has survived thousands of years because it has evolved, embracing and synthesizing forms of knowledge to create a system of belief and way of life that is most pleasing to God, helpful to the environment, protecting of animals, and peaceful to all humanity. This is why it is difficult for me to truly understand how ‘big, hard-back men’, versed in the laws of Dharma, understanding of the progress of the world, can sit from their thrones of ignorance and declare that child marriages are ‘okay’, because ‘we doing it long time…we forefathers used to do it’. Many of our forefathers used to drink puncheon and beat up their wives too, does that mean alcoholism and domestic violence are okay and should be continued?
It just goes to show how much it worries these men that women and girls are no longer filling the roles this patriarchal system has been pinning onto them. They sit on aasans and preach that our girls, we, should be like Sita…docile, obedient, domesticated. They want us to sit quietly while they police our bodies and our minds, forcing us into roles of subservience. So when we began to emerge in the last fifty years: teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers… we showed them that we are not Sitas, but Kalis. Strong, independent, passionate, and powerful. We began to threaten their patriarchy: we use our bodies as we see fit, we practice an independence that they cannot accept, we are doing everything that removes us from their realms of power.
I see this support for an archaic abuse of power the last straw these old men are desperately grasping at to prove their authority. They need to feel empowered by policing women and girls. This is not just an issue of age and maturity, this is an issue of power…the power to do with Hindu girls as they see fit, because we ‘belong’ to them. This is the same kind of ideology that makes a man think he can pick up two little girls in his Navarra and do with them as he pleases. It is not about age or maturity, it is about power.
It is about time Hindu women stand up and say a resounding NO to the actions and policies of this patriarchal system, and this absurd, abusive and archaic law.
PS. If we have to debate the maturity of a 12 year old CHILD in terms of age of consent, performance of sexuality, and the responsibility of the INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE, then we are a backward society and severely need to re-think and re-position ourselves! Tsk tsk tsk!