Dalit leaders term 'sick' Khap idea to marry girls at age 16

A war of words has erupted between Dalit and Khap panchayat leaders in Haryana over the latters' suggestion that marriageable age for girls should be reduced to 16, as this will help in curbing the increasing instances of rapes in the state.

"It reveals the sick mindset of the Khaps. In case of rapes, not the age, but the criminal's mind that matters. How will reduction in marriageable age help in reducing rapes? It reveals the sick mindset of the leaders who make these suggestions," said Dhanik Samaj leader Jongi Ram Khundia.

Earlier, Haryana's Khap Mahapanchayat spokesperson Sube Singh had said: "I believe this (spate of rapes) is happening because our youth are being badly influenced by cinema and television. I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don't need to go elsewhere. This way, rapes will not occur."

Rejecting the statement, in which Singh has also blamed girls for rape cases, the Dalit leaders have demanded that provisions of SC/ST Act be levied against him. "The deteriorating law and order situation is squarely responsible for rapes in Haryana. People who have made such suggestions should be prosecuted under the SC/ST Act," Khundia said.

"There is a major drawback in our democratic system, whereby, 49 donkeys are more powerful than 51 horses, Khundia added, referring to the political scenario in the country.

"As far as the government's move to introduce fast track courts for dealing with such cases of atrocities on women, particularly Dalits, is concerned, it will definitely help in ensuring safety and security of the victims. Taking up rape cases in fast track courts will ensure a speedy trial and the victims' families will also feel more secure," said Haryana Chamar Mahasabha leader SP Chalia.

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