Gender Bias In Indian Marriages

Posted on August 28, 2011 in Society

By Amrita Paul:

“Let a man be careful to honour his wife, for he owes to her alone all the blessings of his house.” -Talmud.

And finally Meera walked into the living room. Dressed in a simple salwaar kameez she came and served tea to the guests. She sat down grimly beside her parents while the boy’s family continued to stare at her. At last, Meera’s mom decided to break the silence and as she started speaking about her daughter it felt as though she was giving the job profile of her maid. “Oh she can cook anything. Indian, Lebanese, Chinese. She is good at household work too. She is…”

“She is an economics graduate with a post graduation in Business Administration. She is an author of several research papers and has been teaching at the University level for two years.”– finished Meera as she left the room disgusted.

Welcome to 21st Century India. We women are progressing after all. I mean look at us, we have six seats ‘reserved’ for us in public buses. We are leading political parties, multinational corporations; we dance around in movies wearing skimpy clothes without any objection from the Censor Board whatsoever. Ten years into a new era, a woman is no less than a man; she is gritty and brimming with self confidence. She carries herself with élan and smartly conceals that black patch underneath her eye which was a gift from her husband as dinner was not ready when he had come back from work, the night before.

There are thousands of other Meeras who are married off every day to someone they barely know because, ‘their parents know it best’. More often than not, these marriages fail miserably because the very premise of Indian marriages is based on a gender prejudice. Think about it. Why do women alone have to leave their parents house and settle down with her in laws irrespective of whether they respect her or not? We call it tradition but we never mean it. The younger generation although more aware, still feels that- “Only westernized families have the luxury of falling in love.” So then is that it, Is it okay to compromise our own happiness for some obtrusive convention we fondly call, - “TRADITION?”

“May you be the mother of hundred sons.”

For an Indian woman, her greatest accomplishment is motherhood. Everything prior to marriage is preparation. Everything after motherhood is reward for fulfilling her destined role. In Semitic religions, children are considered to be the “Gift of God”which leaves little scope for family planning. As far as a Hindu woman is concerned, it is tacitly understood that she must bear sons. Because, with the birth of a son the continuity and safe keeping of the father’s soul is assured. It is almost implied that bringing up a daughter would be a sheer waste since she is destined to cater to someone else’s family. No matter how much we debate, even in the present times the birth of a son calls for special celebration. And after thirty years, when the same son disposes his parents off to some old age home, his folks continue to believe that it was for their best. One can’t help being taken aback by such an astounding faith in a child whose immediate concern is anything but them.

“Self immolation: Distant Myth or a Harsh Reality?”

Year 1987. Roop Kanwar, 18 had been burnt alive on her husband’s pyre who died at the age of 24. Most of the villagers stood testimony to this heinous crime but no one; absolutely no one had come forward to help the young girl. Even Roop’s parents were oblivious to this incident till they read about it in the newspaper. As Roop’s in laws continue to stress on the fact that it was her decision to commit sati, one cannot help but wonder as to why an educated girl like her would possibly give into any sort of religious fancy unless she was forced into doing it? Today, Twenty four years later, women continue to be victimized in this society and are not only burnt to death but raised to see self immolation as their only escape from miserable marriages or worse as an act of courage or inspiration. The number of dowry deaths reported in the year 1987 was 990, and today it has increased to 7618. Such cases almost always meet a futile end because of the difference in opinions between the victim, prosecutor and police. But if a woman does not have the right to decide whether she wants to marry and when and whom, how far she wants to study, whether she wants to take a particular job or not, how is it that she suddenly gets the right to take such a major decision as to whether she wants to die?

Irrespective of her financial and socio political status a woman continues to be someone whom we expect to take care of us, to make ends meet, to suffer in silence as her husband continues to have an affair with his secretary. A woman has so many things piled up in her mind; she has so much love in her heart but sadly not much of it is reciprocated in a similar manner. To bring about a change in her life, we have to change the way we look at her. Even at an individual level we must understand that just like we need our mothers, wives and sisters, they also need us at some point of time. To even remotely comprehend the seriousness of the issue, we need to be comforting and patient rather than demanding and insensitive. The transformation has to begin within us first, so that we can take up the cause and inspire others to do the same. Quoting filmmaker Aparna Sen, – “…But I feel that by doing my own thing the way I believe, and not abiding every single rule that is laid down, I am holding up myself as an example. I don’t presume I am but I don’t see what else I can do.”