In one of the Khap Mahapanchayat gathered in Jind, Haryana has opined against the Government’s recent marriage bill which seeks to extend valid age for a girl’s marriage from 18 to 21. The panchayat was called to discuss the Bill. The Khap leaders argued that 18 is the ideal age for the marriage of daughters as they are legally adult at this age with even voting rights conferred to them.
A Khap is an organisation of clan within the Jat community or a group of related clans of Jats, found mostly in northern India, especially among the Jats of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. A Khap Panchayat or an assembly of community elders is traditionally a show of indomitable united strength of a community with inherent rules which cannot be broken.
The marriage bill has been sent to the Parliamentary Standing Committee after several opposition parties raised several objections over the proposed changes. Khap elders were also found on the other side of the agreement on current format of the Prohibition of Child Marriage (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and decided to voice their views before the committee.
Significantly, the Khap leaders favoured the age of 21 for girls’ court marriages registrations to avoid “elopement or love marriages”. The underlying sentiment was many girls just wait for turning 18 so that they can seek police protection to move for court marriages. One elder said; ” Girls are quite mature by 21 and they won’t make any foolish decision, and nobody would be able to misguide them for elopement.
It was argued from another point of view, howsoever archaic it may sound, that if the marriage registration age is fixed at 21, man who marry a girl against her parents will, will be harassed with cases of kidnapping and cases of honour killings will increase.
Not affiliated with any political group in formal manner, the Khaps sway where it is considered beneficial to communities and can make or break quite a political party’s fortunes significantly. With the kind of social influence they wield, Khaps are wooed extensively by political parties of all hues.