Former Madhya Pradesh minister and Congress legislator Sajjan Singh Verma said on Wednesday that girls are capable of bearing children at 17 years of age and there was no need to raise the legal age for marriage.
His comments drew a sharp reaction from the BJP which demanded his apology. As Verma's remarks caused uproar, the Congress said the BJP was bent on making an issue out of nothing..
Verma's statement came in response to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s recent proposal of a national-level debate on parity in the legal age of marriage for both the sexes.
“Doctors say any girl is physically capable to reproduce after 17 years. Has he (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) become a bigger physician now?” Verma, a former AICC secretary, told reporters. The former minister also accused the BJP government in the state of "failing to protect minor girls".
A staunch Kamal Nath loyalist, Verma further said girls should go to their 'sasural' (in laws home) and be happy after they turn 18. "He (Chouhan) does not want women to go to their 'sasural' and be happy in his bid to become the first chief minister to propose raising the minimum age of marriage to 21 years. What is the logic behind this?" the MLA said.
"Madhya Pradesh tops in the number of rapes against minors. Instead of taking strict action in such cases, the chief minister is playing politics full of hypocrisy," he said.
On Monday, Chouhan sought a debate on whether a woman's current legal age for marriage (18 years) be raised at par with men (21 years), while launching the state government ‘Samman’ campaign. Linking the issue to various crimes against women, the chief minister said there was need to create a respectful and conducive environment for the women and children in society.
Reacting to Verma's remarks, Madhya Pradesh BJP's media panelist Neha Bagga said the MLA had insulted daughters of India. "Did he forget that his party's president is a woman? Priyanka Gandhi is also a woman? I urge Sonia Gandhi to direct Verma to apologise in public and sack him from the party," she said.
On the other hand, state Congress spokesman Bhupendra Gupta, who was present with Verma during the press conference, said the former minister was only referring to doctors in his comments.
"The BJP wanted to make an issue out of nothing. Verma has only asked if the CM knows about any valid research behind his demand for a debate on increasing the legal marriage age of women to 21-years," Gupta said, adding that the CM makes such demands only to hog limelight in media.
(With inputs from PTI)