Published On:14 December 2012
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

Dole to Muslim girls to promote child marriage?

By Arvind Singh Bisht

Lucknow: Teen marriage has always been a hot button topic. The issue is debated endlessly but doesn't change the fact that teen marriages are still very much prevalent and quite common among poor Muslims. Considering this, the Akhilesh Yadav government's latest decision to give Rs 30,000 for education or marriage of class X pass poor Muslim girls, whose father's annual income is less than Rs 36,000 is now open to political debate.

The government has earmarked Rs 250 crore for the scheme in the supplementary budget for the current financial year passed on Tuesday. The budget literature categorically states that the poor Muslim girls, whose fathers' net annual worth is not more than Rs 36,000 will be eligible for grants for pursuing their education beyond Class X, or marriage.

Calling it blatant appeasement of Muslims by the ruling Samajwadi Party, the BJP says that it would divide the society on communal line. Calling upon the people to rise against it, BJP leader Hukum Singh said that the criteria for giving such a grant should be economic and not community. Terming it as only a 'glitter without purpose' for cheap popularity, he said the scheme would only increase the incidence of child marriages among poor Muslims and lose its basic purpose of promoting education among them.

Contrary to this, the Samajwadi Party takes a different view. Parliamentary affairs minister Mohammed Azam Khan says: "The decision has been taken in the backdrop of the Sachar Committee's report, according to which Muslims are even worse than dalits on the parameters like income, poverty, education, health and general lifestyle." Poverty is a curse in Muslim community and in such a situation a grant of Rs 30,000 is a great help to a poor father, if he wants to get her girl married after class X, Azam says.

However, his argument makes no defence against checking child marriages, which are rampant among Muslim communities. A class X pass student is normally in the age group of 15 to 16.And going by the policy, the grant will be available for the marriage of any such girl if her father wishes so. But curiously, this is illegal under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, according to which the marriageable age of a girl is 18 years and 21 for boys.

An effective mechanism to check the teen marriages could have been the mandatory registration of marriages. But the state government has so far been skirting the issue, predictably under pressure of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, which is against it. The arguments given against the marriage registration is that Muslims marriages are governed by the Shariat and it does not allow it.

"Emphasis should be given on increasing economic opportunities for Muslims rather than indulging in short-term measures," says Tahira Hasan, a social activist. She said that the Akhilesh Yadav should revisit the scheme and increase the eligibility for such a grant after intermediate. This will serve the purpose of promoting the education as well as helping the poor Muslims for the good, Tahira points out.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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