Thiruvananthapuram: Child marriages are prevalent among
Muslims in Kerala, and the custom can be combated only by creating
awareness, the state's women's commission chairperson said
"We are doing a lot of awareness
programme to change the mindset of the people and that's all what
we can do. We do get help from the NCW (National Commission for
Women) to this effect and we will continue our efforts," Kerala
Women's Commission chairperson D. Sreedevi said.
She said that precise figures were not available, though the state
administration has identified the regions where the practice was
"This is happening in districts of Kasargode, Malappuram and
Kannur. Even though we have not done any survey to this effect and
do not have the actual numbers, it is for certain that this is
happening," she said.
Girija Vyas, chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW),
said the commission has been going around the country to find out
people's views on the issue, and will submit a report to the
Supreme Court on the ideal age for marriage.
"We are of the view that the present age of 18 for women and 21
for men should stay, but then we will insist in our report that
registration of marriages be made mandatory," said Vyas, who was
attending a conference here.
"We chose Kerala to have a dialogue because in this state the rate
of child marriages is the least. We will submit our report in
three months," she added.
"According to Muslim law, the marriage of a minor is valid," said
Community leaders, however, said instances of child marriages
might have been common in the past, especially in north Kerala,
but such marriages were merely a ritual since the bride and the
groom do not live together till they attain maturity.
Saifudeen Haji, state secretary of the Muslim Jamath Coordination,
explained: "Look, what happens now, is that if a minor's parents
want to marry off their daughter, they conduct the 'nikaah'. This
ceremony is attended by the boy's and girl's relatives, two
witnesses and a person well versed in Muslim rituals."
"After this ceremony, the girl and the boy are technically husband
and wife, but they don't live together. The marriage is solemnised
only after the girl turns 18. Maybe this is being interpreted as a
Muslims constitute 24 percent of Kerala's population of 3.2 crore,
according to government figures.