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A woman has the right to make her life decisions and the recent Gujarat High Court decision affirms the fact, which parents and society at large have never wanted to accept.
“‘Permit her to live her own life,” the Gujarat High Court directed the parents of an 18-year-old, in the course of delivering a recent judgement.
Most young women, even today, are married off young, and a large majority aren’t allowed to have a say in the process of choosing their partner. It is ironic that in a country where marriage is considered a lifetime commitment, marrying a stranger is celebrated, appreciated, and encouraged.
In the present case petitioner Vijaykumar Rameskumar Panchal had requested the court to call his daughter Divyaben in front of the court, and hand over her custody to him under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
The 18-year-old Divyaben had left her parental home and gone to live with the grandfather of the 19-year-old boy, Hasmukhbhai Jagdishbhai Maheriya, whom she had started liking, and intended to marry once he turned 21 and became eligible for marriage under the Hindu Marriage Act.
The girl agreed before the court to go back with her parents, but clearly stated that she wanted to continue her relationship with Hasmukhbhai, and insisted that her parents must allow her to continue speaking with him over the phone. She also insisted that her parents must ensure that she gets married to him, and be able to live a happy married life with him.
The parents agreed in court to her conditions, and also that they will allow her to go to college as usual, and would not harass their daughter in any manner.
The court then directed the Police personnel to drop Divyaben at her parental home. It also ordered that a lady officer from the office of the Social Welfare Department of Ahmedabad District must visit her there regularly, and file a report of her well being with the Court, at least for the next one year.
A furore was caused because a girl wanted to date a boy of her liking, and eventually planned to marry him. Many would argue that she was only 18 years of age, and her parents were only being protective about her. But is it so?
When we are worried or protective about someone dear to us, won’t we discuss the issue with them if it is worrying us, and advise them on how best they can go ahead?. But here we see that the parents have a desire to control the life of the girl.
This is a common enough scenario in our country, and is definitely unhealthy. While it might not have been a wise move for the girl to leave her parental home like this, she might have had no other way to make sure of her freedom of choice.
Remember the famous analogy of chairs that Sharukh Khan gives in the movie Dear Zindagi to explain dating? And how multiple relationships an individual may have does not make a person ‘impure’?
It is saddening that even in 2021, a court has to direct parents to allow their daughter to live her life. It is high time we as a society did away with the taboo associated with the concept of dating. People wanting to meet and know each other and taking their time to decide whether they are ready for a committed relationship does not ‘tarnish’ our ‘great culture’. Neither does taking the time to decide if it can culminate in marriage. In fact the experiences would only make one wise.
Of course there is that other issue of the ‘purity’ and ‘virginity’ of girls and women, so dear to patriarchy. This brings us to the second reason that parents, especially parents of girls, get all protective and controlling about them, to ensure that she is ‘pure’, otherwise how would they get her married? It’s time we stopped equating women with dabbas of ghee and let them just be human.
The present judgement which pertains to upholding a girl’s right to marry someone she chooses also has a stronger underlying message: to let women exercise the right over their lives.
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