Assam politician Badruddin Ajmal, who is also the President of AIUDF, has advised the Hindu community to embrace the Muslim formula of marrying girls early at the age of 18-20. Why? So that families can gain more children from women who are fertile at an early age.
In the controversial statement, Ajmal clearly compared women with fertile lands which if sowed and manured at the right time will produce good crops.
This is not the first time that a politician has compared womanhood with pregnancy. Last year, Former PWD minister and senior Congress MLA from Madhya Pradesh Sajjan Singh Verma made a controversial comment on increasing the marriageable age of women. Opposing his political rival’s claim that women’s marriageable age should be increased from 18 to 21, Verma said, “Why increase a woman’s marriageable age when they can reproduce at the age of 15?”
How long will leaders of our country reduce womanhood into baby-making opportunities? Until when women will be valued for their individualities and not just their wombs? When will society understand that women exist not just to marry and produce children but to excel in life?
In our society, it is very common for girls to get married at an early age. The explanation that people give to support this is that women who are married at an early age are fit for producing healthy children. A woman who wants to marry late is always reminded of the fact that she won’t be able to produce a child at a later age. It is assumed that a woman’s primary duty is to marry and produce kids and so parents do not wait for their daughters to grow up or have an education. They get their daughters married as soon as they reach the minimum marriageable age and become fertile.
But dear society, is pregnancy the only purpose of marriage? Should women get married according to their choice or the ability to produce children?
And where does the idea that women are fit for pregnancy at a younger age come from? Senior Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Suruchi Desai told SheThePeople that the physical growth of a girl completes when she turns 21 and only after that she is physically and mentally in a better zone to marry or conceive.
She further added, “A girl’s biological clock is best between 25-30 years. If she conceives at this age, chances of medical complications are minimal, the spacing between children is comfortably possible and her health is also not compromised.”
According to the National Family Health Survey of 2015-16, in rural areas, 1 in every 10 women who had no schooling started bearing their first child at the age of 15 to 19 years. This led to a rise in the maternal and infant mortality rate due to complications in pregnancy and a lack of awareness about child care. Pregnancy-related complications are the number one cause of death among girls between 15 to 19 years of age. The number of women and girls who died due to issues during pregnancy and childbirth in the year 2017 was as high as 35,000.
Even if women were fit for reproduction at an early age, it still doesn’t justify the idea of marrying women only to get children. This idea not only reduces women into baby-making machines but also distorts the meaning of marriage. Marriage is a bond that ties two people on the basis of love and understanding. It doesn’t legitimise a woman’s duty to serve families and society by increasing progeny.
More than marriage and pregnancy, society needs to focus on the education and employment of women. The focus should be on empowering girls for their personal benefit rather than using them for the needs of society and family. If a family really needs a child, it can try other methods of pregnancy rather than forcing a woman to conceive when she is not ready- physically or mentally. A woman’s life is complete when she gets what she wants not when she is imposed with something she is not ready for.
So let us remember that a woman’s existence is not limited to marriage and pregnancy. Her health, education and individuality should be prioritised over her duty to take the progeny further. Even if women themselves want to bear children at an early age, it is not feasible. They need to wait until their body is completely ready for it.
Views expressed by author are their own.
Suggested Reading: How Indian Brides Are Finally Putting Their Foot Down
We request you to support our award-winning journalism by making a financial contribution towards our efforts. Your funds will ensure we can continue to bring you amazing stories of women, and the impact they are making and spotlight half the country's population because they deserve it.