Marriages are sold to Indian women in a glossy cover…?

I have blogged about “How important is it for a girl to get married?” and was following the comments in this very interesting discussion on, “Marriage : An over-rated institution?”

Desi Girl argues,

Marriages are sold to women in a glossy cover, remember once a woman got married she got to wear good clothes and jewelry that was forbidden for single women.

It gave her a free license to talk about sex and sleep with a man who everyone assumed would love her.

For all these benefits all she had to do was cook, clean, make babies and keep every one happy.

Yes in lieu of her services she is provided a roof over her head, food and protection from other predatory men.

We also know women could be killed if they tried having relationships or children without getting married (they can still be killed for this). If they had children they were not allowed to put them in schools or open bank accounts for them.

So basically the society made it difficult for women to stay unmarried.

Once there was no choice, there was desperation.

“From the careers they choose, the clothes they wear, the way they walk, talk, everything they do, is done keeping in mind the only future they have – Getting Married (and Staying Married).”

It was also decided that the bride must ‘relocate’ upon getting married. (She couldn’t disagree because nobody asked her).

…it is the daughter in law who agrees to enter into matrimony who has to establish herself and win hearts. Once mutual trust is established her in-laws are going to go out of the way to pamper her.”

Pamper her so much that remaining in touch with her family becomes ‘freedom’.

“…in-laws give the new bride time to adjust and allow her freedom to remain in touch …instead of treating her as an acquired property.”

When being treated as ‘acquired property’ is an option, freedom becomes immoral.

“…if we take Indian marriages in general, whose freedom is curtailed and whose isn’t? Will your (a man’s) in-laws ever tell you what clothes are appropriate or what your working hours should be?”

Marriage gives special privileges to women?

“Hindu married women are covered head to toe in “marriage symbols” (men don’t bother to show their status), … women fast, pray etc etc for this male figure who continues to stay in his own house, being mama’s little boy, doesn’t have to sacrifice career for kids.. …what do women get in return?
And lets not get started on the dowry angle…?”

Once ‘sacrifice’ became a ‘custom’, no more ‘pampering’ was required.

“…about a woman going to stay with in-laws. That very idea should change. Married couple should stay wherever they choose: by themselves, in HER house or HIS house with mutual understanding..
Since none of these things (and many more) are not even given a thought to as of now, marriage is indeed over-rated.”

My question:

If Indian society saw marriage as an option, and not as the only goal in a woman’s life, do you think some of our social problems (like female feticide, dowry, domestic violence or fear of social stigma in case of sexual crimes) might become easier to deal with?

__________________________________

Edited to add:

I would love to read what you feel, please consider yourself tagged! Do let me know if you write a post in response to this question.

Here is what some other bloggers feel,

1. Phoenixritu – Marriage: The great Indian scam.

2. Ruchira – Yes I am single. So?

3. Pixie – My answer to IHM’s question

4. Shilpa Deshpande – Marriage

5. Sandhya – Marriage: Obligatory or Voluntary?

6. Shail – Is marriage an overrated institution?

7. Alankrita – Greener Pastures.

8. Richa – On marriage and such.

9. Siddhesh ‘Ravan’ Kabe – Oh for the love of marriages!

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This is the root of the problem. Do you agree?

She couldn’t have been more than 50, born not before 1961. (She wasn’t sure).

Your brother is ten years older than you? That’s a lot of age difference!”

“There were four daughters in between, Dadaji didn’t ‘keep’ them… Ma used to say, if he was alive when I was born, I wouldn’t have lived either.”

[55 words fiction. Not really fiction.]

Do you think Indian (or Chinese) parents can start valuing their female babies, just because they are told that’s the right thing to do?

I found this article while looking for something else, sums up what I believe. Do you agree with what it says?

The strongest son preference is evident in societies which are rigidly patrilineal and patrilocal.

Patri-lineality implies that group membership and productive assets are passed on through the male line.

Patrilocality implies that it is normative for a woman to take up residence with her husband’s family after marriage often outside her parental village.

In these societies, in which both inheritance and marriage rules are heavily weighted in favor of men, women have little economic independence or autonomy.

Furthermore, since daughters move away from their birth homes after marriage, parents can have little expectation of subsequent physical or emotional sustenance from them since they are not living in close proximity.

Even if women are educated and employed, the fruits of their labor are monopolized by their husband’s family, and parents cannot claim a share of their daughters earnings. On the other hand, a son is expected to provide his parents with economic security and insurance. He is also expected to bring in a daughter in law who will take care of his parents physical needs in their old age.

In these societies, women also gain in prestige and status if they bear sons to continue the family line, so both women and men have a strong interest in producing sons.

In some patrilineal societies, there are additional norms which increase the burden to parents of raising daughters. Religious beliefs and social customs such as dowry and purdah serve as further instruments of patriarchal control, and reinforce son preference.

Furthermore, family honor often depends on the purity of patriarchal descent, which requires ensuring women’s sexual purity. This often entails secluding women from outside activities which implies reduced income-earning opportunities and marrying them off at young ages, before they have had a chance to develop into independent people.

In contrast, where kinship rules and norms make fewer distinctions between males and females, women have greater voice in the household and in public spaces, and face fewer constraints in becoming independent economic and social actors. In these societies, women are not constrained from providing old-age support to parents, and are valued accordingly. [Link]

So there is only one way Indian parents will begin to value their girl children. They should find them as much worth having as male children. Patrilocality and Patrilineality will have to go. All children should have equal rights and responsibilities, they should move to their own homes when they marry, and parents of both should be able to see them as support in their old age.

This is happening of course, but very slowly.

Guardian’s attempt to stop woman from marrying genuine suitor a crime …soon.

A news article says that one in every 16 women above 32 in Saudi Arabia is  forced to stay unmarried.

“There are a variety of reasons behind this phenomenon including unemployment, a housing shortage and obsolete social traditions.

Al-Fouzan urged men to find wives closer to their age. “This would help reduce the number of unmarried women,” he said. [Link, “Four Million single women in Saudi Arabia by 2015“]

A group of young Saudi men have launched a campaign to convince Saudi men of the unappreciated virtues of polygamy.

Eman Al Nafjan, a Saudi blogger who often writes about women’s issues, said…

“… they want to convince the men to marry older women… The men want virgins, not older women or divorcees. The problem is that we have a lot of women in their late 20s or 30s who are not married and which men are not interested in, while the young ladies don’t want to be the second wife as their first marriage.”

Saudi men see polygamy as their right and prefer to marry young girls. Dowry – given by the husband to the bride’s father, makes it easier for richer, often older men to marry young women. Girls are often forced into such marriages.

Some academics are suggesting that suicide, especially among the young, is increasing. “…80 percent of these cases involved girls or young women. Causes included domestic abuse, favoritism expressed by parents toward male siblings, forced marriage and preventing marriage…”

The HRC is also seeking to include forced marriage as a human trafficking crime. A common motive for forced marriage is a father’s attempt to strengthen bonds between families or friends, often in exchange for a dowry that the father steals from his daughter.

*
In some cases women, especially employed women, are prevented from getting married by their fathers, who deny them permission, out of concern of losing the household income. From the comments that follow this article it seems girls supporting their families is appreciated although Saudi girls are not allowed to drive and they can’t buy a car with their hard earned money, without a male guardian’s permission.
Once married whatever they earn, they might have to hand over to their husband who might otherwise ‘boot’ them out of their home. [link]
*
*

“…the rising number of Saudi men marrying non-Saudi women is also contributing to the rise of single Saudi women.” Under current Saudi rules, Saudi women are not allowed to marry foreign men unless under exceptional circumstances. (This too is likely to change).

“…more and more young Saudi women are well educated, financially independent and exposed to different ways of thinking about themselves, relationships and their roles in society… this leads many young Saudi women to refuse the advances of men seeking to take a second, third or fourth wife.

Some women seek out foreign men, in the hopes that they will not end up in a polygamous marriage.

*

All Saudi women are not unaware of injustice in the situation, they do object, question, and even write about it. Are young men finding ways to rebel too?

Last month, the HRC announced its effort to include the crime of adhl in the Kingdom’s official definition of human trafficking, which would codify a punishment of up to 15 years in prison and a fine of up to SR1 million to any guardian found guilty of preventing a woman’s right to marry a man otherwise deemed acceptable by Shariah.

Along with these changes, would it not be simpler if everybody had control over their own income? And some day, also over their own lives?

Let us not for a minute forget that we women still walk across minefields…

Starry sent me a link to this article from ‘The Hindu’ warning women against treating their legal rights and equality (that they have been so magnanimously granted) as their rights. (Author : Lakshmi Visweswaran)

My response in red.

Having struggled hard to obtain legal means to break free from male dominance and depravity, are we women today at the point of endangering those very means?

It’s not ‘we women‘ against ‘them men‘. Patriarchy is the problem, not ‘Male dominance and depravity‘. Although Patriarchy appears to empower men, it actually allows a few men and women to control the lives of most others.

I myself am a strong believer in the equality of men and women and the right of every woman to lead a life of respect and self-dignity.

Why just women? Everybody, including men and children deserve ‘to lead a life of respect and dignity‘.

Yet, we cannot forget that we live in what is even today a male-dominated society.

The so called ‘Male Dominated’ society does not create happy male members either.  Patriarchy allows a few to control the personal lives of many, for their personal gain, and generally with excuses like ‘family honor’ or ‘has always been done this way’. Patriarchy does not respect individual rights or happiness of those it does not empower, which is why it has failed to protect basic human rights of baby girls, female fetuses, girl children, senior citizens without male children, victims of sexual abuse and rape, victims of domestic violence, widows and single women etc.

Women have had to struggle and fight male egoism at every step to get even a few benefits like the above legal provisions on our statute.

The society struggles against set norms that have become a habit (customs). Those who benefit from the biases are resisting the changes. E.g. Khap Panchyat and those who get caregivers through the Joint Family System.  It’s much more than ‘male egoism’.

The bill seeking 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies was passed in the Rajya Sabha this year, after almost 14 years of its introduction, and it is anybody’s guess when it will be implemented.

A lot of men support the bill, if only to bring their female relatives (along with their male relatives) into politics… (my views…)

A shield

The modern Indian woman with her new-found economic, social and political independence is no doubt kicking to break free from the fetters of subjugation and subordination which have haunted her since time immemorial.

Many Indian women have no idea that they are as equal as anybody else, they  believe abuse is a part of a woman’s life. Some other Indian women  have every opportunity to grow and they knows their rights. Many other Indian women are ‘allowed education’ but warned against ‘forgetting their limits’ or thinking they are ‘too equal’ – it’s possible that this Indian woman gives the impression that she is ‘kicking to break free from the fetters…’. Her inevitable though slow successes seems to worry those who fear change.

In this uphill task, she has to learn to use the law as a shield to protect herself and not as a weapon to attack. A handful of women are forgetting that any relationship, whether marital or otherwise, is not about who has the upper hand but about who complements the other and how.

Most of the Indian society has always been about ‘upper hand‘ and ‘control’. A handful of women today are able to see they need not accept that as a rule.

Unfortunately today, aggressiveness has somehow become synonymous with “assertiveness” so much so that there are women who do not hesitate to file an FIR with the police or knock on the doors of the courts at the drop of a hat.

Most women do not knock of the doors of the court even when they have every reason to. Their families and the societies warns them against being seen as aggressive.

A heated discussion or disagreement, a refusal by the husband to allow his wife to wear western clothes or go out with friends, some chiding by the in-laws could all easily be labelled as cruelty by some women and, with enough stoking by unscrupulous advocates, this snowballs into a legal battle which leaves nothing but a bitter taste and an empty purse.

Until recently, a refusal to allow his wife to wear western clothes/meet her friends  was seen as a husband’s and his family’s right. If husbands and their families do not accept that they can’t control an equal citizen’s life, even if she happens to be the lowest in the Patriarchal hierarchy, perhaps they need some counseling along with/before police custody.

Still a minority

No doubt, such women still form a minority, yet no one can overlook the harm they may inadvertently be causing to a large number of Indian women, who genuinely need the law to help them find a way out of their miserable and pathetic situations; also, many a time it is an escape route from what has become to them a living hell.

A law being misused is not a reason for depriving victims of a legal recourse. This is a much needed law. A society that still thinks a wife should not mind if her husband does not allow her to wear Western clothes or to meet her friends, needs such laws even more urgently.

With more and more cases of abuse of women-centric legal provisions, the day may not be far off when the same men who conceded our reasonable demands start re-thinking.

It’s not men verses women. Nobody needed to ‘concede’ “our” demands. Law-making is not about magnanimity. If a wrong was being done, if unfair advantage was being taken, it was time to put an end to it. The society will take time to accept women as decision makers in their own lives. The law – unlike unwritten customs, can be reviewed, challenged or made stronger through legal processes. As of now social norms seem to undo a lot of good that laws begin to do.

With the joint family concept having become a thing of the past and with family ties getting weaker by the day, the need is for the establishment of several more counselling centres in colleges, offices, hospitals and even in courts.

The slow end of Joint Family is the beginning of the end of Patriarchy. It is a much needed change. The end of Joint Family will also be the beginning of respect for  female children – the unwanted liability, the paraya dhan in the Joint Family. It might also bring relief to the parents and families of girl children – they may find they can hope to see their children living with respect, self confidence, dignity, equality, love and safety.

These must be manned by trained professionals who have in-depth knowledge of human psychology and behavioural patterns. People, especially youngsters, must be encouraged to seek the help of such centres.

People of all ages might need counseling.  The damage that the Joint Family system or Patriarchy has done to the society will be more difficult for the older generation to understand, because this is the only way of life that they might have seen.

In fact, all family disputes should be taken up only after it has been certified by a counsellor that the case is beyond counselling.

No ‘certified counsellors’ should be allowed to become the middle men between a citizen and their right to justice. There is also a risk of the counselors being bribed.

Parents, family members and close friends can mediate and help the couple identify their actual problems and assist them in solving their issues amicably.

This is exactly what was being done for centuries. Girls were being sent back to adjust and many die adjusting even today. The law was made to protect women from such families and in laws. Patriarchy does not value it’s female members and through centuries the counselling they received has amounted to asking them to ‘Please adjust‘.

Advocates also have a major role, for they can make women see the futility of their case and advise them accordingly, instead of stoking the embers into inferno.

Why should advocates make women think they have no hope? Why should it be  assumed that what women are complaining against is not important? Taking a woman’s case seriously is not ‘stoking embers into inferno’ – it is making sure that she is not made into an inferno.

Compromises

Lastly, women themselves have the power to make or break their future.

Unfortunately they don’t. When they try to help themselves they are warned against the ‘unknown devils’ and lawyers who might stoke the embers of their unreasonable demands into infernos – the only way to be taken seriously is to agree to sacrifice their happiness.

The modern Indian woman should not forget that every form of relationship calls for some give and take.

Indian women are taught that the ‘give is for daughter in law’ (only future, no options, sacrifice, serve, adjust, honor etc), and the ‘take is for the husbands and their families’ (dowry, ladke wale, can divorce and remarry etc).

Small compromises or adjustments need not be misunderstood as signs of suppression.

Examples of small compromises? Eating when everyone has eaten? Taking permission to work, having children and taking decisions for these children, meeting friends, wearing salwar kameez or jeans, walking without covering one’s head…?

No woman should ever suffer cruelty or harassment of any form silently.

But having to take permission to work, study, dress comfortably, save or earn, meet friends & birth family  – is not harassment.

Yet, before rushing to court, let her ponder over and see if it is indeed her rights that have been trampled upon or it is just her ego that has taken a beating.

Being ‘disallowed’ from working, having female children, meeting friends, wearing jeans, eating with the family, spending what they earn, visiting their parents etc should be seen as a trampling of ego?

And being beaten (only if they didn’t ask for it) should be seen as a trampling of rights?

Women have traditionally been discouraged from having anything that might pass off as ego.

For, let us not for a minute forget that we women still walk across a minefield and if we do not tread carefully, there is every chance of the mines blowing up not just our lives but also the future of women.

The only minefields women need to fear are the minefields of old habits and social conditioning. And the way to avoid these mine fields is by boldly  knocking at the court’s doors if they in their own judgment (which is as good as any other adult family or community member) feel they are unhappy.There are some who fear that empowerment of women might mean a change in the system and those who comfortable with an old system (Known Devil Syndrome) assume any change can only be bad.

Eleven questions the family elders ask women in unhappy marriages.

And answers by Anonymous Confused Wife.

1) So what’s new here? It’s an age old issue.

Once upon a time that’s exactly what people said about child-marriage or widow burning.

This is important to me because it’s an issue to ME. NOW.

It’s an age-old issue and yet the only solutions anyone can come up with are “slog it out” or “leave, he’ll never change” or “Please adjust”. Doesn’t that say something about how great a job we’ve done by pushing all such issues under the rug?

2) The husband seems to be a nice chap in every other respect. Only his being a “mama’s boy” seems to be the irritant.

That’s not the same as saying he doesn’t drink tea instead of coffee. “Every other respect” gets affected by his being a mama’s boy.

[IHM: A ‘mama’s boy‘ may be defined as a husband who expects his wife to see him and his family as her world, but who does not think she should expect to be his first priority. He might also expects her to be an obedient and dutiful ‘elder-caregiver’ to his parents but again he may not feel the need to reciprocate.]

3) He risks being called “Joru ka ghulaam” or ‘Mama’s boy’. Neither is pleasant to hear.

I’d like to believe it IS possible for a grown adult to just be HIMSELF without being either a Joru ka Ghulam or a mama’s boy.

[Indian women continue to be seen as Paraya dhan‘ (property of their in laws) and Indian sons as providers of elder care through their wives. The system has resulted in a male child’s parents expecting special privileges.]

4) We have heard only the wife’s version. We have not had an opportunity to hear the husband’s version and that of the mother-in-law.

If this were a court of law, you would have.

It saddens me that a woman is not taken seriously when she says she’s miserable enough in a relationship that she’s willing to be single again, willing to go through a breakup and a divorce, willing to face social stigma and whatever other consequences, because she does not see herself being happy with him.

It saddens me that unless I choose to sacrifice my happiness, my commitment to my marriage is questioned.

My expression of my experience in this marriage are taken as an attack against which my husband and In-Laws need to present their defense. And what then, will someone rule that I can’t leave? That I have to stay here and remain unhappy?

[And yet it is not uncommon for the in-laws to complain to her parents about a daughter in law’s incompetence, disobedience or lack of respect. One doesn’t generally hear demands for her version. This could be because in the past the wives were much younger than the husbands and were treated like their wards.]

5)  If the husband or mother-in-law reads this, we would hear a version of the entire story as viewed from the other side.

Of course they’ll have their own take on the situation. Of course they have every right to be vocal about it. And of course it won’t be identical to mine. That doesn’t discount the fact that my experience so far makes me unhappy and hopeless enough to make me want to leave.

Is my happiness not necessary for their happiness? Is it fair to expect me to ensure their good at the cost of my own happiness?

6) I am sure a joint counseling session moderated by a respected family elder, or a professional counselor in which the mother-in-law, son and wife thrash out all issues, would ease tensions.

IHM: Family elders tend to ask all the same FAQs that have been asked here. Age does not automatically mean better ability to be unbiased.

The Counselors, the Lawyers, the parents,  and the Police are the products of the same society. Bias is a way of life in a Patriarchal society. Hearing different points of views is fine but an individual must trust her own judgment in the end.

6-b) Did you notice that the father-in-law never figures in issues like this? What is it about women ? (Aurat hee aurat ki dushman? A woman is a woman’s worst enemy?)

To an extent it’s BECAUSE the F-I-L wasn’t a prominent figure in his wife’s or his child’s life that the onus of fulfilling his wife’s emotional needs falls on his son.

7) You do not have enough valid reasons to walk out of this marriage. You have been more fortunate than most Indian women whose problems are far worse than yours.

Yes, a lot of Indian women have it worse. To me this doesn’t justify any of their behavior either.
Also, a lot of PEOPLE – including Indian men – do have it better. I know *I* had it much better before I got married. So regardless of whether or not others think I have “enough valid reasons” I do believe I have a right to my happiness.

8 ) Your ONLY grievance seems to be that your husband is a “Mama’s boy”. But this term is frequently abused and misused. It’s sometimes relative. What is “mama’s boy” to some might be seen as “filial respect and regard from an ideal son” to others.

At no point have I mentioned that his respect or regard for his parents bothers me. His OBEDIENCE to them and their wishes, however unreasonable, however unfair to me, definitely does.

We don’t see parents of married daughters having similar expectations of ‘filial respect’ from them because daughters in India are expected to put their spouse and their marriage before their own parents. How can a marriage be truly happy if one partner is being reminded that the other must not be his priority (but she must still see him as her priority)?

9) Cheerfully put up with 10 days of possible tension and live the other 355 days happily. Remember that these 10 days cause tension to the Mother-in-law too! Married life is not always a bed of roses. You have been married for only two years. More serious problems are yet to come. Children, their upbringing, health problems as one grows old, career ups downs etc are all yet to be experienced.

If only! In those 10 days, I am constantly insulted and deprived of basic rights. My family is insulted and called names. It’s not like I can turn off a switch on the 11th day and be happy for the next 355. And what about the days I lose because of the weekly phone calls?

I’m CERTAIN I didn’t have that many unhappy days a year when I was single. And if more serious problems are on their way, I’d rather not stick around until then.

10) Walking out of this marriage is no guarantee that you will find happiness in some other marriage or in remaining single. Instead of “Mama’s boy” you may end up with something far worse.

Yes, there’s that risk. I might choose it over guaranteed unhappiness.

11)  I am not convinced that you have a winnable case.

So I lose and my “punishment” is staying in a marriage that makes me unhappy? Out of curiosity, why do you not consider being a divorcee a “worthy” punishment for me?

Irresponsible girls who throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person…

In response to “Don’t let me down dear daughter!”, a comment expressed this opinion.

“In defense of parents – and while absolutely hating my parents for their emotional blackmail – I do see where they might come from. I have seen innumerable girls (and sadly this still applies to girls in our society) throw away their lives while in throes of lust for the completely wrong person.

These girls typically run away with the first guy who gathers enough courage to ask them out the first time. Typically this guy does not have a great value system, any sense of responsibility, any education,ambition, willingness to improve their lot in life, respect for women and so on and on. As a result, the said girl either lives her life in grief or returns to her parents home where none of guys among us will marry her anymore.
I have seen way too many examples of such irresponsible behaviour and so do not have any hopes of parents granting girls “freedom” within bounds.

As they say, it is the limitation that defines any freedom.”


I was going to delete this but further comments indicated that this was written in all seriousness.

My response:

I wonder why don’t we consider guiding these daughters instead of locking them up. That’s a more reliable ‘protection’. But is it really about protecting the girl from unhappiness? I don’t think so, because we don’t kill to protect.

Also…

Strangely, this  protection is only from falling in love (etc.) – not from violence, being burnt alive, abuse, murder or rape in their marital homes, even if this home is chosen by the parents.

Can an intelligent adult be expected to blindly trust such hypocrisy?

If the arguments given are honest and logical. If caste, community and the neighbour’s father in laws’ third cousin’s  opinion are not the reason given for rejection of a partner a daughter (so lustfully!) chooses.  Then the opinion of the elders would be considered worth taking. The parents have to earn this trust.

Sometimes girls are pushed into running away to escape forced-marriages or other problems at home. If the family accepts and supports their choices, girls won’t be forced to run away, they will see their home as their sanctuary and support system – as the place one always wants to come back to.

Assuming they do choose badly, could it be because they were not allowed to form independent opinions or choices?  While anybody can make a mistake  (including the parents) – some basic guidelines could make choosing easier for the daughters, but parents don’t want to hear of girls choosing their own partners.  They would rather kill them. One Khap supporter claimed only prostitutes choose their own partners.

When the parents arrange a marriage, do they always choose well?

Giribala said, ‘Freedom to obey’ is not ‘freedom.’ And when the obedient girl marries the person of her parents’ choice, she gets the ‘freedom to obey’ for the rest of her life!’

Freedom to obey also means, they can’t come back home.  Sometimes they must adjust till they die. Sometimes they kill themselves, sometimes they  are burnt to death, sometimes they are sixty before they realize they can’t go on. They are told their happiness depends on their luck. Does this make a daughter see the parents as her genuine well wishers?  Think about it, would you trust someone who says it’s your Destiny to live an unhappy life and your Duty to serve those who make life unlivable for you?

Social conditioning has such powers – some girls do.

Some rebel.

They can see that if they are old enough to get married then they are also old enough to choose their partners. Nobody has more right to decide who they marry than the girls themselves…

Sounds like common sense? But we tend to put custom (i.e. old habits ) over common sense.

There are some with unlimited freedom to control other citizen’s lives . It seems Gujarat  government has forgotten that these citizens are voters too.

GANDHINAGAR/SURAT: The Gujarat government has asked courts not to register marriages unless there’s parental consent in writing. (Click to read – Thanks for this link Desi Girl)

Wordless Wednesday? Casteless India.

Translation:

We can change our religion, why can’t we change our caste?

Don’t let caste-divides break India.

Would love to know what the first few lines in the video below made you think. He says he is quoting from the veda.

Video from here, on Yayaver’s blog.

Related posts:

Modern Agraharam near Hyderabad – Keep out if you are not a Brahmin.



When a daughter refuses to go back…

Sita and Geeta worked for us when we were newlyweds. Geeta was eight, Sita a little older. We offered to sponsor Geeta’s education but their mother said she had seven kids to raise and she needed the girls to work.

We found the kids adorable, bought them trinkets and treats, but we let them do the dishes and clean our homes.  Then we moved to another part of the city and lost all contact.

Around six years later I was in-between-maids and buying veggies when a young woman in a colorful sari and bangles greeted me with a huge smile. She was Sita. She said it was God’s wish that she found me, she needed help.

She moved into our servant’s quarters and pleaded with me to speak to her parents and let her stay there and work –she wanted to leave her husband. She said they were married three months ago, she was afraid of him, he had a bad temper and he had threatened to kill her if she tried to leave him, he also threatened to chuck her out of his house. She didn’t care, she was sure he’d kill her if she lived with him. She hated him. She feared her in-laws also. She had been making similar appeals to other families she had worked for. She looked afraid.

Today I feel if a girl says she does not want to go back to her husband’s home, it is reason enough to let her stay. No arguments. No attempts to ‘reason’ with her. No assumptions that she is behaving like a spoiled brat who has never learnt to adjust with her in laws. No insisting that she would ‘get used to it’. No talk about her ‘sanskar’ or her duty towards her parents. No demands that she must try to make the relationship work.

But I was inexperienced then. I asked her how she was going to manage on her own. I asked her what she did to anger her husband. I wondered if she liked another man. (As if that was the perfect reason to send her right back to her husband). Basically like everybody else I assumed she couldn’t possibly know what was good for her. I thought her parents (obviously) would want the best for her, and would do what was best for her*, even if they had married her to a much older man when she was less than seventeen.

Her parents did speak to her husband but this angered him, he insulted them too. Within weeks her in laws wanted them back in their joint family home in another part of Bombay, they left.

We moved to another city and I forgot about her. Such stories are extremely common; most girls learn to live like this, and their marriages ‘work’. Happy or not, they manage to keep the system of semi-forced marriages going. We Indians are grateful to thousands of Sitas who live with some violence and abuse. Their sacrifices are appreciated.

What is happening in Afghanistan hurt because it is not unfamiliar? Even though we are conditioned to treat anything common as ‘normal’.

Around five years later we were back in Bombay and one day I called a malish wali. She saw me and started crying. She was Sita’s mother. She said Sita had died of third degree burns. She was making tea and the stove burst, and her sari caught fire. Her in-laws did not inform the parents until two days later.  While dying Sita begged her mother not to leave her three months old son with her husband. She told her it was not an accident; her husband had poured kerosene on her. She made conflicting statements in her dying moments. This seems to happen all the time.

But I read, “If it’s an accident, you can almost always escape the fire. It’s not really possible to burn all of the body,”

Everybody blamed the parents. Her father died of grief within six months of her death.

Sita’s husband died a year later, of something that made his body turn black as coal. Her mother said god punished him.

She sent the grandson back to his paternal grandmother when he was three years old.  She wants him to be close to his paternal grandmother so that he does not loose his father’s share in property.

I felt little sympathy for her, although she brought a happily married Geeta to meet me. Nothing had really changed for her; I feel she would still do the same if any other daughter of hers were to come pleading for support.

And we have millions of parents like this taking life changing decisions for their helpless daughters.

And this doesn’t just happen in the lower or uneducated classes.

Have some fun today :)

Happy Janamashthami!  🙂  One of the things I love about our culture is how we just need an excuse to have some fun 🙂 Singing and dancing simply runs in our system!

Fun and even more, pleasure is often looked down upon, but I feel, this was one thing Lord Krishna (my favorite God) taught us by his own example -to live our lives to the fullest.

Fun and festivals are even more important to the poor who have so much more to take a break from… but this is not a serious post, so here’s a fun filled, energetic song I can never listen to without atleast tapping my feet 🙂


…for the welfare of women certain customs were formulated

Part I of a long comment I received, and some doubts I have.

“By the law of nature, the characteristics of male gender is different from female gender. Women give birth to children whereas men cannot. Hence, for the welfare of women certain customs were formulated. It is infact from the mother that any child inherits its good habits or bad manners. Even though Father influences, the mother is the first teacher and the mother’s milk is directly fed to the child. Also, these days so many diseases are considered to be genetic. Diabetes, eye problems, blood related problems, skin pigmentation. So, dont you think the great rishis in those days who formulated certain codes, were right in giving lot of importance to the way in which marriages should be performed or the way in which women should conduct themselves. It is a well known fact that, when one gets angry, there are several hormones are released in the body which are not good. Hence, women are generally advised to remain calm, because you can not just cultivate certain qualities when you need it, like during the time of pregnancy. If the children do not inherit good values, or good culture then they are of no use to the society.”

I have some queries.

1.  Should the children not inherit qualities of courage, confidence, intelligence and the capacity to think for themselves?

2. Are no harmful ‘hormones released’ when a woman is feeling helpless, frightened or resentful or frustrated or outraged at the ridiculous expectation from her in the name of tradtions etc?

Please note: Any anger or violence in a child’s environment is bad, even that which is directed at the mother.

3. What if such customs teach her to timidly adjust to injustice? Timidity is bad. How will she provide a hundred brave, bold and daring sons if she is  timid? (I hope we aren’t already facing the results of this lack of foresight …)

4. In case of the spouse’s death they are made to stop living a normal life- is that also for the welfare of the childen? Shouldn’t women be able to raise them on their own if required?

5. If a woman’s biggest job is to give birth and to raise good children sons, and if they are the teachers of their children,  should they not be empowered, educated, and have a say in how their children are raised?

6. Finally what if she is not able to have children?

I hope our ancestors did not advise us to abandon them, or to bring home another baby-making-machine?

And I hope it was kept in mind that it takes two to make a baby, and  these women (who you say were worshipped like goddesses) were in a position to point this out.