Cutting across political and religious lines, political leaders and women campaigners in Kerala have come out strongly against some Muslim outfits' move to approach the Supreme Court seeking to get marriageable age of girls in the community lowered from 18.
Dubbing this as a backward step which would harm the interests of the community in general and women in particular, they said this move is a conscious attempt by vested interests to restrict the freedom of women by 'sabotaging' their education and social advancement and economic self-reliance.
Nine Muslim religious outits had met in Kozhikode last week and resolved to approach the Apex Court seeking the exemption, arguing that setting a minimum age limit went against Muslim Personal Law. It was attended by representatives of various organisations, including the forum of Islam scholars Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulama, Kerala Naduvathul Mujahideen (KNM), Naduvathul Mujahideen Kerala, Jamaat-e-Islami, Kerala state Jemeyyathul Ulama and Muslim Service Society.
Significantly, the outfits launched the move close on the heels of the controversy sparked by the marriage and divorce of a 17-year-old girl by a UAE national.
Also, it is significant that the Social Welfare Department had made an aborted move to issue a circular, seeking to validate the marriage of Muslim girls above 16 years of age.
The controversial circular was withdrawn after most political and social organisations came out strongly against it, alleging that such an order was issued to appease orthodox sections in the community.
Reacting to the present development, leader of Congress' women's outfit Shanimol Usman said any such move without considering the social, mental and physical factors of women would not be acceptable. "There is no reference about marriage age in Holy Quran. But it strongly advocates that community men are responsible to follow laws prevailing in various countries," she told PTI.
"It is a fact that nobody can demand a change in the existing marriageable age by quoting Quran. Misinterpretations and misquoting of Quran can create problems," she said.