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The Adult Indian Woman

Posted: June 27, 2011

If one were to go by reports like this one on a magistrate ruling that a 21-year old woman be returned to her parents, there is no such thing as the Adult Indian Woman. While 18 may be the legal age for attaining majority, every now and then, one comes across cases like this where courts pass orders giving parents custody of unwilling adult daughters.

The unfortunate thing is that many Indians will support this. Arguments come up like, is a 21-year old really ready to make the right decision for herself and so on. That is besides the point. No doubt, there are plenty of 21 year olds who will land up in relationships and marriages that they will regret later. Just as there are 21 year olds who will make choices that work for them. Parents can advise, help, approve or disapprove – but no one can or should force an adult to get married or move back home against their wishes. In this case I linked to above, it appears that this 21 year old had already been married to someone in Rajasthan, and she doesn’t want to join that husband either.

Which of course begs the question of whether at all she had consented to that marriage, or was forced into it. And force need not be physical – force can be emotional (I will kill myself etc) or the absence of real choices. Not preparing or letting a young woman face the world on her own by withholding education or knowledge is also a kind of force – it forces them to abide by parents’ diktats.

The question is, if our learned judges themselves will not recognise the validity of the adult Indian woman, what hope do we have? In this case, luckily the higher courts came to her rescue, but not every woman whose liberty is infringed upon is lucky enough to get there.

Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas

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