Underage marriage among Muslims in Kerala ignites debate
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He cites the example of romantic affairs, which he says Islam does not allow. "If a minor girl elopes or falls in love, we have no option but marriage. The government stand makes such marriages illegal and the parents liable to face criminal cases," he says, adding it is against the rights of minorities as enshrined in the Constitution.
The Muslim League is part to the coordination committee but its girls' wing, Haritha, is against underage marriage. "Let girls take the decision. The clerics have not heard the girls before pushing their agenda,'' says Haritha general secretary Fathima Thahiliya.
Mundupara says the views of youth organisations and political parties are irrelevant. "We have the support of the community and the majority of mahallu committees."
Trends show many lower- and lower-middle-class Muslim families tend to marry off their daughters during or soon after class XII — around age 17 or just over the legal limit. The grooms are often semi-skilled youths who have migrated to the Middle East.
"If your daughter is not good at studies and waits to reach 18 or 20, grooms may treat them as unwanted and they may never get a proposal," says Muhammed Kareem, who had married off his daughter during her class XII exam. "Hence we are forced to marry off daughters during or soon after XII, but we register minor marriages only after they reach 18 to avoid legal issues."
A higher secondary teacher at a Muslim school in Malappuram says a good number of his girls would have been married by the end of XII. He cites a positive: more and more brides are returning to class.
Among those who take up higher studies, the trend is to marry young, if not while underage. "When Muslim girls join MBBS, there won't be anyone married. But the majority of them get married by the fourth or fifth year of the course," says Dr Sadasivan Pillai, dean of a medical college run by Muslim Educational Society in Perinthalmanna.