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Make panel looking into women’s marriage age gender inclusive: Oppn

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Opposition parties and women’s organisations have demanded that the parliamentary standing committee assigned to examine the landmark bill, which seeks to raise the legal age of marriage for women to 21, be made more gender inclusive to consider more views from women. As of now, the 31-member committee has just one woman member in TMC MP Sushmita Dev.

The first meeting of the standing committee on women, children, education, youth and sports headed by BJP RS MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe is scheduled to be held on Wednesday. The committee, which is also examining the contentious anti-doping bill, has three months to give its suggestion on the marriage bill. Sahasrabuddhe told ET that the panel would reach out to all concerned stakeholders and even MPs and seek suggestions from people.

The MPs to the parliamentary committee are nominated by political parties, who in turn have nominated the male members.

TMC MP Sushmita Dev, the lone female member of the committee that has 16 MPs from the BJP, said, it would be better to have more MPs on the panel. “I urge all parties to put more women in this committee like Mamata Banerjee did, as it has the WCD ministry. More issues related to women will keep coming up.”

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote to the Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu saying it was “disheartening to note that a bill so pertinent to women and the Indian society will be deliberated upon in a committee where the representation is highly skewed.”

Congress MP Gita Koda from Jharkhand said it was extremely important that women from SC/ST communities be made part of the committee. “This is an exceptional move that will have a long-lasting impact on our society. The tribal society has many concerns over the marriageable age. Early marriages impact the girls, often leading to malnutrition and problems in maternal health. These concerns and the logistical and societal issues can only be explained by women.”

The bill seeks to increase the legal age for women to marry to 21 years, as is the provision for men, and seeks to amend seven personal laws including the Indian Christian Marriage Act; the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act; the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act; the Special Marriage Act; the Hindu Marriage Act; and the Foreign Marriage Act.

Congress spokesperson Shama Mohamed asked why the BJP that has a brute majority in both houses has not increased women’s representation in the parliament by clearing the women’s reservation bill. “As for the committee, it is unfair to have a bill strongly opposed by so many parties examined by almost an all-male committee. This is a bill pertaining to the health of women and children of this country. Surely, women must have a say on this. But the government only wants to use women as puppets.”

VCK general secretary and Villupuram MP D Ravikumar said it was often easy to bulldoze dissent in a parliamentary committee as what happened in the data protection bill. He said it was clear that the government wanted to bring the uniform civil code through this bill and did not want to consider views from different sections of the society.

“This is their way of showing authoritarianism using the system. There is genuine data and reports that have shown how newer amendments to laws such as POCSO have only ended up in judgements that are punishing young people in consensual relationships. Increasing the age of marriage for girls will lead to similar consequences. What we have left is to take the judicial route or go to the public sphere,” he told ET.

The Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) Rajya Sabha MP Abdul Wahab said it was not just about the Muslims again, but about poor people in all communities. “Only women will be able to put across how families see unmarried girls. When a poor family finds a match when a girl is 18 or 19, will it be fair to tell them to wait for two more years? Even a reasonably developed state such as Kerala does not have the infrastructure to train, educate and give jobs to all girls after class 12. These concerns can be examined closely.”

CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem said there were no consultations with the political parties or women groups even before the bill was introduced. “Sending it to a committee is itself an eyewash because they don’t want to get into the details of the issue. At least there should have been more women to make the panel representative.”

Organisations working in the area of women’s health have also responded with similar demands. Poonam Muttreja, executive director of the non-profit Population Foundation of India said, “While the lack of women in the standing committee reflects the inadequate representation of women in the Indian political system, a greater effort could have been made to include more women Members of Parliament. As the Nationalist Congress Party MP Supriya Sule has stated, the chairman of the committee has the power to invite people before the panel. We hope that the chairman will invite not only more women MPs, but also more members who have been raising and working on gender issues.”

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Usama Younus

Usama Younus is the owner and super admin of the site he's is an expert in news editing, tech and entertainment magazine management, and articles editing E.T.C.

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