Madhya Pradesh Congress legislator Sajjan Singh Verma on Wednesday stirred a controversy with his remark on a woman’s minimum age for marriage, reported ANI.
“According to doctors, a girl is ready for reproduction by the age of 15,” he said at a press conference in Bhopal. “...On what basis does girls’ marriage age should be increased to 21 from 18?”
The National Commission For Protection of Child Rights issued notice to the former Madhya Pradesh minister on Wednesday evening. It has asked Verma to “provide an explanation within two days giving reasons and justifying his intention for making such discriminatory statement”.
Verma’s comments came in response to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s proposal to start a national debate on the legal age of marriage. Inaugurating an awareness programme on crime against women called “Samman” on Monday, the chief minister supported raising the minimum age for women to marry.
“I feel that the marriage age of daughters should be increased from 18 to 21 years,” Chouhan had said. “I want to make this a matter of debate, and the country and the state should reflect on this.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had said during his Independence Day speech last year that the government will set up a committee to revise the legal marriageable age for women.
Verma questioned the logic behind taking such a decision. “Is Shivraj [Chouhan] a doctor or a scientist,” he asked. “What is the logic behind this? Madhya Pradesh tops in the number of rapes against minors. Instead of taking strict action in such cases, the chief minister is playing politics full of hypocrisy.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party has demanded an apology from Verma. “Did he forget that his party’s president is a woman,” asked Madhya Pradesh BJP’s media panelist Neha Bagga, according to News18. “Priyanka Gandhi is also a woman. I urge Sonia Gandhi to direct Verma to apologise in public and sack him from the party.”
BJP spokesperson Rahul Kothari also said that Verma has insulted all the “daughters of India”.
The Congress, however, defended Verma and accused the BJP of making “an issue out of nothing”, reported NDTV. The party said the former minister had only asked if the chief minister was aware of “any valid research” to propose such a move. The chief minister makes such demands only for media attention, said state Congress spokesperson Bhupendra Gupta who was present at Verma’s press conference.