Going in line with the RTI (Right to Information) and RTE (Right to Education), RTM (Right to Marriage) ‘irrespective of caste, class and religion’ should also be made a right duly enshrined in the Constitution. This is advocated not on the grounds of modernity but for bringing about a socio-cultural transformation in our society which is still today engrossed in the deep rooted beliefs of caste and class prejudices.
Today’s caste based rigid patriarchic system seldom allows for freedom of marriage based on individual’s personal and the ‘right’ choice. This right choice, however, may not be the best choice, but the young couples should be free enough to exercise their will of who they want to stay with for the rest of their lives irrespective of caste, class and religion.
Here, only duty of the modern liberal democratic state should be to allow individuals to exercise their freedom of choice and their will in the best possible manner. In this regard, suggestion of the National Commission for Women of making ‘Right to Marriage’ a fundamental right is a welcome step.
All the cases of honour killing and the draconian law being administered by Khap Panchayats entail to be completely prohibited. These incidents are reflective of the deep rooted social malaise in our society. The debate about reforming the Hindu Marriage Act for accommodating the demands of the Khap Panchayats seems to be completely irrational. When on the one hand we are trudging towards a highly liberated world economy and talk about the establishment of a World State, our minds need to be decolonized of the prejudices based on caste, class and gender. Freedom to exercise our choice of marriage is a concern of human rights and in fact, is fundamental to our basic existence.
In the name of the protecting the honour of the family, no one has got the ‘right to kill’ the other person. If we are talking about the concept of the ‘Law of the Father’, it takes us to the system of traditional patriarchy prevalent in feudal societies. In fact, it reminds us of the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ which had no scope for justice and rationality.
The matter becomes worse in case of disabled women who is traumatized, victimized and socially constricted. Their disability is considered as a blot on their feminity and sexuality. Thus, they are easily vulnerable to physical and domestic violence after marriage. They are forced to marry a person who is hardly a suitable match for them because of their physical impairment.
Rise in the cases of honour killing and alleged suicides in the name of brotherhood and honour exemplifies the weakness and inability of our democratically elected bodies at the local level and inefficiency of our police and judicial system. Generally, the verdicts of the Khap Panchayat are gender biased where more concessions and liberal punishments are given to the male culprits as compared to their female counterparts who are punished stringently.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), “Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry……Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.” This by logic implies that nobody should force a person to marry; neither the intending couple should be stigmatized, compelled or traumatized for marrying someone of their choice. The UDHR further states that, “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”. This, if understood properly calls for the obligation of the government of the country to protect the family and its members.
Thus, in the modern liberal mass democracies where the ideals of justice, equality, liberty, rationality enjoys a pre-eminent position, the law makers must ponder over making the ‘Right to Marriage’ irrespective of caste, class and religion a fundamental right.
The author Rahul Roshan, is a postgraduate student of development studies at Central University of Bihar.)