New Delhi: While dealing with a plea filed by a minor rape survivor’s father, for the medical termination of her pregnancy, the Gujarat high court on June 7 said that underage girls in the past would have given birth to at least one child by the time they were 17 years old.
Bar and Bench has reported that a single-judge bench of Justice Samir Dave invoked the Manusmriti, an ancient legal text that has been decried for espousing casteist and misogynist ideas, in making these observations.
The advocate for the minor survivor, Sikander Saiyed, pointed out that she was 16 years and 11 months old and had been pregnant for seven months. The pregnancy would have an adverse impact on her health, he said.
Justice Dave responded saying that women have been accustomed to such a practice.
“Because we are living in 21st century…Go and ask your mother or great grand mother. They will tell you that in the past, 14 to 16 years was the normal age for girls to get married. By the time they (girls) attain 17 years, they would deliver at least one child,” Justice Dave said, according to Bar and Bench.
Saiyed, according to the report, agreed to this point and added that in Islam too “the age to get married for girls is 13.”
Justice Dave then said that girls mature before boys, and cited the Manusmriti.
“See the point is girls get matured even before boys do. Four to five months here or there wouldn’t make much difference. It is there in Manusmriti, I know you won’t read that but still read it for this once,” he said.
The court ordered the medical superintendent at the Rajkot Civil Hospital to form a panel, examine the survivor and submit its report on the permissibility of terminating the foetus before the next hearing on June 15.
Last year in August, Delhi high court Justice Prathiba M. Singh had courted controversy by saying at a lecture that Indian scriptures like Manusmriti give a very respectable position to women. The Wire had noted then that while the Manusmriti states that “women must be honoured and adorned”, it also says that “a woman must never seek to live independently”.