Religious statesman Zed urges Indonesia to take child marriage issue seriously

In view of the recent marriage of a 13-year old girl in Bali (Indonesia), distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed has urged Indonesia to seriously work towards halting the practice of child marriages.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stressed that it was 21st century and the practice of child marriage should immediately end. Girls needed to be educated and empowered and communities should also be enlightened on this issue.

Rajan Zed urged President Dr. H. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and other political, religious, traditional and village leaders of Indonesia to come out openly against this practice. A strong political will and some serious and durable systemic reforms were urgently needed in this direction, Zed added.

According to reports, a pregnant sixth grade Hindu girl aged 13 years was married to a 39 years old father of two (with a son of the same age as father’s bride) in Bali few days back.

Zed argued that child marriages robbed the girls of their childhood, denied girls the rights to health, shortened their education, trapped them in poverty cycles, denied their say in choosing partners, and might result in complications at childbirth. Women were an asset for the world and it was unacceptable to consider them a liability.

Rajan Zed pointed out that Indonesia should raise the legal age for marriage to 21 as it might help to lower the country’s maternal mortality rates, lower divorce rates and improve education.

Zed urged Hindus also to do serious soul searching on the treatment of women. Quoting scriptures, Zed pointed out that ancient Manusmriti said: “Where women are revered, there the gods are pleased; where they are not, no rite will yield any fruit.” Number of Rig-Veda (oldest existing scripture of mankind) hymns were said to be composed by women, and Aditi, who was sometimes referred as “mother of the gods”, found mention in Rig-Veda as a goddess. Men and women were equal in the eyes of God, Zed noted.

According to reports, about 10 million girls in the world were married before 18 years of age. In Indonesia, about 22% percent were married by 18, reports add.

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