July 1, 2002


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Varsha Bhosle

Paedophilia and the Muslim Board

That was a week of virii-laden mail. I'm guessing that they constitute the Islamist/"secularist" argument against my point of view...

Well, today, there's more yet to bring on the worms: On June 24, The Hindu published a report on the recently concluded meeting of The All India Muslim Personal Law Board held in Hyderabad; I'm reproducing the entire item here since it wasn't carried by other publications, and, strangely, "AIMPLB wants exemption from Child Marriage Act" isn't to be found in the online edition of The Hindu anymore:

"The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has decided to intervene before the Supreme Court on extension of the Child Marriage Restraint Act to Muslims. The Board felt Muslims should be exempted from the purview of the Act. Briefing newsmen about the final day's deliberations of the 16th session of the Board, Secretary Muhammad Rahim Quraishi said that as per the Shariat, a girl could marry after reaching puberty.

"He said the Board President would constitute a committee comprising ulemas and legal experts to analyse the recent judgement of the Aurangabad Bench of the Bombay High Court regarding a divorce case and examine whether it had infringed on the Muslim Personal Law. The Board urged the Andhra Pradesh Government to exempt Muslims from compulsorily registering their marriages. The State Assembly has recently passed a legislation in this regard."

The Hyderabad edition of The Times of India of June 24 included a bit on the subject -- buried under copious weeping over madarsas unjustly accused of being jihad factories, Muslim genocide in Gujarat, the VHP and Babri Masjid: "The board has also asked the state government to amend the Compulsory Registration of Marriages Act to exempt the Muslim community. Qureshi said Muslims already have a systematic and fool-proof method of registration of marriages through the Wakf Board, and they need not be forced to adopt an alternative method... Similarly, the MPLB will also study a case booked under the Child Marriage (Restraint) Act, 1937, [sic] in Hyderabad."

The AIMPLB has been astute in rejecting, both, the Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, and the AP Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2002. For, the latter makes it possible to monitor infringements of the former. A brief background:

§ The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929, prescribes the minimum age of 18 years for girls and 21 years for boys for contracting marriage, and "extends to the whole of India except the State of J&K and it applies also to all citizens of India without and beyond India."

§ Registration of marriage is compulsory under the Christian Marriages Act, 1872.

§ Under the Hindu Marriages Act, there exists a provision for registration of marriages. However, it's left to the contracting parties to either solemnise the marriage before the sub-registrar or register it after performing the ceremony in conformity with Hindu beliefs.

§ Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat have already amended the Hindu Marriages Act, making registration of Hindu marriages compulsory in these states.

§ Rajasthan, MP, UP, Haryana, Orissa and Bihar, where child marriages are rampant, haven't moved towards compulsory registration. (A 1993 UNICEF survey of 5,000 women in Rajasthan found that 56% had married before the age of 15 and, of these, 17% before they were 10 years old.)

§ Andhra Pradesh passed the Compulsory Registration of Marriage Act, 2002, also to give legal status to wedlock. The Andhra Pradesh Women's Commission recommended the new law since "in number of bigamy cases the wives are losing their cases by reason of their failure to prove the first or second marriage of their husbands."

§ In September 2000, the Union government rejected the National Human Rights Commission's proposal for compulsory registration of Hindu marriages -- as had the Narasimha Rao government in 1994 and the Deve Gowda government in 1996. The "Hindu nationalist party" that upheld the Uniform Civil Code in its election manifesto, was not in favour of interfering with the personal law of Hindu individuals...

Beginning with Raja Ram Mohan Roy and I C Vidyasagar in the early 19th century, a host of Hindu social reformers, including M G Ranade, Jyotirba Phule, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Mahatma Gandhi, Veer Savarkar, B R Ambedkar, etc, began an onslaught on the dehumanising aspects of Hindu society such as Sati, child marriage, injunctions against widow remarriage and untouchability. Eventually, the Constitution rendered illegal those aspects of Hindu Personal Law that went against the concepts of equity and equality. Legislative measures like the Bombay Prevention of Hindu Bigamous Marriages Act, 1946, and a series of laws enacted in the 1950s, including the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955; the Hindu Succession Act, 1956; and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, continued the process of reforms.

Unfortunately, human nature is such that, despite the Constitution, untouchability, gender discrimination and even slavery are still in practice. Just as murder exists despite punitive criminal codes, the Constitution is no guarantor of an equitable human mind. Nevertheless, what's significant is that over a period of 150 years, social reformers succeeded in getting vile practices branded as such, and legally prohibiting those religious traditions which went against a democratic order. Today, no Hindu can dare to propagate caste discrimination even from religious platforms. And this reality was made possible not only by the emergence of Hindu reformers, but also by the average Hindu's recognising the pitfalls of religion.

Then, where does the Muslim Board leave the Indian Muslim, today? Just as the central government did not ask Hindu citizens before it turned down the NHRC's proposal of compulsory registration of marriages, the Muslim Board has assumed that Indian Muslims are solidly behind its latest scheme of further denying the Indian Constitution and further widening the communal rift. I don't think they are.

I say this with some confidence because it was a Muslim who first sent me the link to The Hindu and wrote, "If the Pinkos support the AIMPLB paedophilia variation request, I am THROUGH! And I mean I will get SERIOUSLY SHITTY. Yet again the AIMPLB does not miss an opportunity to exhibit their utter lack of any broad sense of morality or duty to the Indian Muslim community, in fact they throw themselves with customary vigour into ensuring that Indian Muslims continue to live under medieval laws while the rest of the country progresses. Mashallah AIMPLB! Well done! As usual it is women and children (combined this time), who suffer the most from this attitude. If the AIMPLB were trying to make itself irrelevant to Indian Muslim society, they are going the right way about it. As for the VHP/RSS toads who see this as yet another golden opportunity to rubbish Islam in an effort to feel more advanced and 'modern' -- I spit on them. Their communal attitudes are as medieval as the AIMPLB."

In May, the National Commission for Women launched a campaign to create awareness against child marriages; the Bal Vivah Virodh Abhyan is focused in Rajasthan, UP, MP, AP and Orissa. Shantha Reddy, speaking in Hyderabad, said, "the problem had assumed serious dimensions considering that a meagre 17% deliveries in India were done institutionally. Thirty per cent of the mothers were underaged and nearly 42% underweight." On the opposition of Muslims clerics to compulsory registration of marriages, she said that a large number of women -- including Muslims -- had demanded the UCC during the NCW's public hearings in various states...

So, how does the AIMPLB feel about paedophilia? Well, as per the Shariat, "a girl could marry after reaching puberty." Problem is, girls are technically reaching puberty faster than before; as one medic on writes, "It is true that girls are developing earlier in this modern world. Some believe this may be due to a variety of stimulants as diverse as artificial light to our high fat diets." She -- like every doctor counseling on female puberty -- says that in Stage Four, ie, between the ages of 10 and 16 years, "Underarm hair is likely to appear in this stage, as is menarche. A girl's first period (menarche) usually occurs, but may occur late in Stage Three [9 to 15 years], typically, about a year after breast buds form. Ovulation may occur, but not on a regular basis."

So, when a 12-year-old Muslim girl menstruates, should she be married off to the old Arab who pays a fat mehr...? If this not a demand to legalize paedophilia, what else is it??

In 1996, the case of Massarrath had seized the nation's conscience as a victim of "Arab marriages." In a space of two months, she was married to (and divorced from) three Arabs, all her grandfather's age. Each time, Massarrath was married by the same Qazi, who knew that she couldn't be married during the iddat period. When arrangements were being made by her father and stepmother to marry her off the fourth time, Massarrath rebelled: "It is not marriage, it's forced prostitution," she told the police. Massarrath was just 14 years old at the time of her three "marriages."

In August 2000, The Asian Age ran a story on Hyderabad's Arab marriages: "The Wakf Board has no records regarding the number of marriages. But brokers in the Old City areas here say that on an average, 20 such marriages are performed in the Old City every month... Police officials say that matters come to light only when the girl-victim comes forward to lodge a complaint. The Arabs arrive at Hyderabad on a short trip, drive straight to the homes of the brides pre-fixed by brokers, and are married soon after. The parents are paid amounts ranging between Rs 10,000 to 50,000. They take their brides to their hotel rooms and dump these hapless girls after a week or so, and then catch flight home." Which is one reason why Andhra Pradesh made the registration of marriages mandatory.

This, then, is what the Muslim Board seeks to legalize under the cover of the "immutable and unalterable" Shariat, which "contains guidelines which a Muslim must follow," as per Rafiq Zakaria...

Indeed, when the AP assembly passed the Bill in March, "noted religious scholar and president, Millat-e-Islamia, Maulana Hameeduddin Aqil Husami, took strong objection... 'This is nothing but a step towards the implementation of the Common Civil Code'." And, ulemas attending a meeting of the Tamir-e-Millat decided to educate the community about the "nefarious designs" of the AP government...

Sure, take it as god's truth that I am of and for the VHP/RSS toads who see this as yet another opportunity to rubbish Islam. Take it for granted that I'm an Islamophobe with nothing but the destruction of Muslims on her evil mind. I'm telling you, I am all of that! Even so, what have I stated that isn't a fact...? What have I said that negates the despicable intentions of the Muslim Board...? The VHP recently declared that the courts cannot intervene in matters of faith. But that is exactly what the ulema have been saying for a century -- and are saying today, too! Shall we then accept the Muslim Board's tenet as a principle that governs our existence while rejecting the VHP's...? Why...?

Exactly. Which is why Islamists and "secularists" mail me virii each time I hold a mirror up to their ugly countenance...

Varsha Bhosle

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