Marriage in the Interest of Nambutiri Women: Elizabeth Kuruvila

[Below is an intervention made by Elizabeth Kuruvila who represented ‘Women’ in the Travancore Legislative Council during the debate on the Travancore Nambutiri Bill in 1930, in response to an Amendment moved by Jathavedan Nambutiripad which stipulated that if the Karanavan of a Nambutiri joint family d]id not marry off a female member, then a younger male member of the family could take the initiative to do so. This intervention shows how crucial the role of members representing Women could be in exposing the pitfalls of legislation allegedly in the interest of women (among others). Elizabeth Kuruvila supports the Amendment, but with important changes.]

[Proceedings of the Travancore Legislative Council, 1928-31 Vol, XVI no 8, , pp. 777-78.]


Mrs Elizabeth Kuruvila (Nominated) : Sir, I wish to support this amendment. It seems to me that the Namputiri Bill has been introduced in order to further the interests of the Namputiri community and to bring about some progress in that community. I think that every Clause that stands for the betterment of the conditions of the members of the community should be supported by all the members of this house. Members who opposed this amendment, opposed it chiefly on the grounds that the introduction of the Clause before the House would cause some upheaval in the community itself. I think that any new step that stands for the progress of any community is bound to cause upheaval among certain number of people. On that ground alone, I do not think such Clauses should be objected to.

The main thing that we should look at in such matters is whether this Clause really helps the men and women of that community. It seems to me that the Clause, as it stands, with the amendment, ” the 18th year of age” and “with her consent” after the words “the right to get her married” will not be more of a hindrance to the women than are the existing customs. On the other hand, it will only help the cause of the community. It is true we cannot eliminate all the difficulties that may come about, if this amendment is adopted. It was suggested by one of the members that even with the adoption of the new Clause that a girl might be given in marriage to a man who is older than herself by getting her consent through other women in the Illam. I do not see why the opinion obtained through other women should be objected to. At the same time it is open to the girl who has been forced into marriage to refuse that marriage at the moment of the marriage. I think the difficulty can be got over in that way. The Clause as it stands can only help the women of that community. I would have liked to see it go very much further. But since that is not possible now, I do not propose anything further…



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