The Khap Panchayat of Jind Haryana surprised everyone with its landmark ruling on 20th December. According to the new ruling, people should not have a 3rd child after the birth of two girls, and not more than Re. 1 of dowry should be taken by the groom’s family. Now, this is extremely confusing for all as Khap Panchayats are infamous for their usual absurd rulings regarding Gender and religion.
What exactly is Khap Panchayat?
“Khap” is a clan or a group of clans found mainly among the Jats of UP and Haryana. Khap Panchayat is an assembly of Khap elders. Khap Panchayat is not affiliated with the formally elected government bodies. It is important to note that Khap Panchayats only represent the interests of their respective Khaps and are different that the local democratic bodies also termed as Panchayat. Khap Panchayats do not have formal powers or official authority but they can exert considerable social influence on the communities they represent. Khap Panchayats have been known for their many questionable and scandalous affairs like– the ‘Manoj-Babli honor killing’ case.
This is not the first time Khap Panchayats have shown a progressive attitude. Previously in April 2014, Haryana’s Khap Panchayat had given a significant ruling. It had allowed inter-caste marriages with permission from the parents of the bride and the groom. But we shouldn’t be blinded by a couple of overtly modern ruling by the Khap Panchayats. Recently, in August 2015, a Khap Panchayat in Baghpat district, ordered two sisters to be raped as a punishment for their brother’s inter-caste marriage. Be it good or bad, many blindly follow the rulings of Khap Panchayats.
Now, let’s look at some significant aspects of the recent ruling of Jind Khap Panchayat. Sadly, the states of Haryana and UP are known for a skewed sex ratio. Many cases of female foeticide, honor killings, sexual violence have been noted in this region.
With this background, it is truly surprising to hear of a progressive decision from the Khap Panchayat. According to this ruling, a couple cannot have a third child after having two girls. This can be good news for people worrying about India’s population explosion. It also signifies a social acceptance of having only daughters. On the other hand, I don’t see how it can help to stop female foeticide. If no more than two children are allowed, couples might want to make sure both or, at least, one of them is male. This might even increase the rate of female foeticides.
Social preference to the male child is still strong. Hence, the second part of the ruling becomes important here. Dowry of only Re. 1 can be taken by the groom’s family. Now, one of the major reasons why boys are preferred over girls is dowry. Indians, in both rural and urban areas, believe in spending an astronomical amount of money on their daughters’ wedding ceremonies. This is supposed to be a matter of social reputation and honor and as we all know Indians are very touchy about their honor. Thus, keeping dowry to a minimum amount is the next best thing to discarding the dowry culture altogether.
Some other aspects of this ruling state that not more that 21 people should be gathered at a baraat and mourning period after the death of a family member should be reduced to 7.
This progressive ruling is definitely a positive step for the society. Many such steps are needed in future to achieve the goal of a truly developed society.