Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday reiterated his government’s commitment to stop underage marriages and motherhood and warned that thousands of husbands will be arrested in the next five-six months as it is a crime to have sexual relations with a girl below 14 years of age. Speaking at a government function, the Assam BJP leader and Chief Minister also suggested that women should embrace motherhood at the “appropriate age” as it otherwise leads to medical complications.
Sarma’s comments come in the backdrop of the state government’s move to bring stringent laws and evoke the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to check child marriages and underage motherhood.
“Thousands of husbands will be arrested in the next five-six months as it is a crime to have sexual relations with a girl below 14 years of age, even if he is her legally wed husband,” Sarma said.
The legal age for the marriage of a woman is 18 years and those who marry younger girls will also be brought to book, the Assam Chief Minister warned. “Many (men who marry girls) could face life imprisonment,” he said.
Speaking about motherhood, Sarma said, “Women should not wait too long to become mothers as it leads to complications. The appropriate age for motherhood is 22 years to 30 years”. In a lighter tone, Sarma said women who have not married yet should do it soon.
We have been speaking against early motherhood. But at the same time, women should not wait too long either as many do … God has created our bodies in a manner that there is an appropriate age for everything,” he added.”
It may be recalled that the Assam cabinet on Monday decided to book men who marry girls below 14 years of age under the POCSO Act. Those who marry girls in the age group of 14-18 years will be tried under the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006.
The decision was taken to curb the high rate of maternal and infant mortality in the state, whose primary cause is child marriage, Sarma had said after the cabinet meeting. An average of 31 per cent of the marriages in the state are in the prohibited age group, the Assam CM said.