Kerala move on marriage registration sparks row

Govt forced to reconsider circular after protest

A circular by the Kerala Government calling for registration of marriages involving Muslim girls above 16 has sparked a controversy in the state, with politicians and activists opposing it on the grounds that the government is attempting to legalise under-aged marriages.

The circular was issued by the state local-self government (LSG) two weeks ago asking local bodies to register marriages between Muslim women above 16 and men below 21, provided the marriages were certified by religious regulatory bodies. However, the government is forced to have a rethink on the circular following opposition from all quarters, including from within the Muslim community.

The LSG department and Chief Minister Oommen Chandy have been trying to explain that the circular would be applied in retrospect, legalising the marriages that have already taken place.

The idea of the circular was to help under-aged couple who were married before and could not obtain marriage certificates from the local bodies, a hurdle for those trying to secure documents for migration to other countries. 

Despite insistence that the government do not intend to recognise such marriages in future, political heavyweights like CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan joined the progressive groups in condemning the circular.

Nationalist Organisations, including the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, moved the high court to quash it, which they claimed is against the spirit of the prevention of child marriage act, 2006.

Responding to the high court petition by organisations, the advocate general has sought two weeks for the government to issue an amended circular.

Confusion over the circular had earlier prompted the chief minister to declare that the government would issue a clarification. Reports suggest that the amended circular may regularise under-aged marriages happening before a cut-off date.

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