[Spoken by Rasaraja Dasa, Bhaktivedanta Institute]
When I was living in the States, someone asked me, "Is it true that in India they have child marriages?"
I said, "Yes, my mother got married when she was eleven."
He said, "Isn't that barbaric?"
Now, this would put most Indians on the defensive. If you are a pseudo-intellectual following one of these shallow Westernized Indian writers, you may even vigorously agree! However, by this time I had just started reading Srila Prabhhupada's books, and could thus come up with a good response. Already in the late 70s they had separate resting rooms in the high schools of Detroit for pregnant shcoolgirls. So, I asked him in turn, "Is it true that in America even young girls, 11 or 13 years old, get pregnant?"
He said, "Yes."
Then I asked him, "So which is more barabaric, child marriages or child pregnancy?" The answer was obvious to him.
Indians busy imitating the West want to give up child marriage, but now they will have to accept extra-marital child pregnancies. That is already happening. What else can we expect when we let boys and girls mingle unrestrictedly?
Anyway, the point is, as much as every Tom, Dick, and Harry is ready to criticize Vedic tradition, let them also try to comprehend its deep spiritual dimension. Whether it should be adopted in all its details is antoher question. The first thing is to understand and follow the underlying spiritual principles. In this case, the underlying principle is chastity. Exactly how that principle is adhered to can be adjusted accoding to the changed circumstances in modern times. But that principle itself should not be abandoned.
(from "Glimpses of Traditional Indian Life," by HH Bhakti Vikas Swami, p 174)