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Marriage Is A Patriarchal Institution Designed For The Subjugation Of Women!

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By Sayendri Panchadhyayi:

Sex crimes against women have always made to the front page of the newspaper entailing an exhaustive debate about the omnipresent sexual threat on women in the various social strata. Sex crimes have soared in the past decade and the concatenation of sexual assaults against women post the December 16 Delhi gang rape case qualifies the statement. But are sex crimes the only form of violence against a woman’s dignity? What about the everyday struggle that a woman has to endure by virtue of her sex? What about the persistent negotiations and compromises she needs to succumb to in the name of maintaining peace within the family?


I want to streamline my attention to the institution of marriage which persists to oppress women. Within the patriarchal culture, marriage is postured as the ultimate destiny for women. The pursuit of education and having a career are encouraged as long as it does not impede with the prospect of marriage. In fact, if a woman does not marry within a specific age frame, concerned relatives and gossip mongering neighbours feel that it is their onus to remind the parents of the woman that they should get their daughter married! While critics may argue that women can exercise their autonomy and decide to adhere to singlehood but there is a stigma attached with single women. There is a propensity to delve into her personal traits and come to the conclusion that she must have shortcomings which has hindered her marriage. A single woman is looked upon as a social anomaly as she is a challenge to the institution of marriage.

Marriage is projected as a destination for women and everything else in her life is like the halt station. It is romanticized and fantasized to the extent that a woman starts believing that her life won’t come to a fuller circle without marriage. It is a very internalized concept that a woman is someone else’s property and the giving away of the bride by the father screams out loud that women are property transferred from one household to another. The marital symbols that a woman needs to don during the marriage rituals is a manifestation that now she is someone else’s property. It is still expected that it is women who will acclimatize to a new family and becomes an examinee to the constant test she is put to. Within the urban space, many married couples live separately away from the husband’s parents. However, that doesn’t mean that a woman is discounted from misery. If she is a house wife, she has the responsibilities of accomplishing the household chores and devoting herself to the thankless job that does not find any recognition. It is taken for granted that a woman is ‘naturally gifted’ for the domestic sphere and hence she will take care of the home while her husband works outside! Even if there is a domestic worker and a cook, the onus rests with the women to supervise them. And if the woman has a job, ‘double-day work’ becomes her fate. A woman who chooses to escape from the glare of the trope of her wifely duties is implicitly or explicitly reminded by one and all that she is a failure, thus injecting guilt in her; a slow poison to bring her back to the track of her womanhood.

Hence, it is not just the sexual assaults that infringes with the dignity of a woman. If we dig deeper right from the birth a girl child, the notion of femininity that she is socialized into goes on to become an onslaught to her autonomy at every juncture in her life.

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  1. arpit

    Marriage is projected as a destination for women and everything else in her life is like the halt station. It is romanticized and fantasized to the extent that a woman starts believing that her life won’t come to a fuller circle without marriage. you as a woman will never marry or think of it?… And taking note of second point….Women start believing that their life if incomplete without marriage..are women that dumb to believe in that flimsy idea in these days?

    i am not judgemental .. if marriage is subjugation…then will you allow your husband to have sex with any woman he wants with or without your consent,..?..And you too would have sex with any man without any guilt trip?

    marriage has rules ..if rules are subjugation… then there is something wrong in your brain.
    Note” as you seem a lot touchy-feely kind of writer — i want to clarify i meant no offence ..and am no chauvinist.

  2. gargi bhardwaj

    “In fact, if a woman does not marry within a specific age frame, concerned relatives and gossip mongering neighbors feel that it is their onus to remind the parents of the woman that they should get their daughter married!”

    This is something still going on in society but slowly the “age-frame of marriage” is expanding and now not-before 26 is being accepted as right age to get married.

    Lady! no offences to you or your thoughts but the kind of institution of marriage you are talking about is something invalid. just because an accident happened does not means that we should quit walking on road. the institution of marriage is under a change these days and credit goes to the people like you and me who want a change.

  3. Prashant Kaushik

    Still cant understand if you actually mean what your heading says “Marriage Is A Patriarchal Institution Designed For The Subjugation Of Women!” .

    1) Marriage is a need more of a women than of a man. Even a naive knows that the since it is a woman and not a man who has to go through the long and painfull process of giving birth, it is the female homo sapiens who needs a helpful, caring and responsible partner who is with her beyond mating season. What if the partner, in absence of any binding laws/customs would walk away free after mating, as animals do, since he is doesn’t go any biological change during and after birth of his kids ?

    2) Why everything is targeted at patriarchal mindset ? True some men are greedy, pervert etc but that doesn’t mean who pick up ‘patriarchal’ as the cause of every problem around you and in society.

    3) Just like we guys always remember about the best and most beautiful women of our life, similarly you should also not forget that one of the two who gave you birth, and brought you up was a MAN. He must have taken your good care, sacrificed a lot of things for you, as most of the fathers do. So dear writer please don’t have this Hate relationship to the less better half of humankind.

  4. Sonakshi Samtani

    I think that the heading of the article is just too misleading. Marriages didn’t come into picture with the onset of patriarchy, they exist in matriarchal societies as well. It is more about the implications of marriage and the compulsion attached to it in the society which is bothersome, all of these are not inherent in the concept of marriage though.

    It is not the institution of marriage which is problematic per se, it is the connotations attached to it, which are more socially determined.

    1. Akhil Kumar

      How do you define ‘onset of patriarchy’? Patriarchy is not an event whose origins could be traced in history, furthermore there are no known societies that are prominently and unambiguously matriarchal. Gender roles have been defined since prehistoric times and women have never been treated as equals, historically. Marriage is an ancient institution that predates recorded history. Stephanie Coontz, the author of “Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage,” (Penguin Books, 2006) says “It was a way of getting in-laws, of making alliances and expanding the family labor force.” If you explore the history of marriage in more detail, it was never meant to be egalitarian in character, Duran Bell describes marriage as “a relationship between one or more men (male or female) in severalty to one or more women that provides those men with a demand-right of sexual access within a domestic group and identifies women who bear the obligation of yielding to the demands of those specific men.” In referring to “men in severalty”, Bell is referring to corporate kin groups such as lineages which, in having paid brideprice, retain a right in a woman’s offspring even if her husband (a lineage member) deceases (Levirate marriage)”,

      You talk about the socially determined connotations attached to the institution of marriage, but can you really talk about an institution in isolation with it’s roots? The basic foundations that it was built on? You are referring to an ideal situation where we can try to deconstruct the present form and make it more egalitarian in character. The ‘implications of marriage and the compulsion attached to it in the society’ are inherent in the present form of marriages, we can try to change that but it does not change the practical reality of present day marriages. This article talks about the same and thus i do not find the heading misleading at all.

  5. swati

    Up to an extent I agree with you. In India marriage does not mean to be ready to be with your better half only, for girls it is far more than this. I don’t understand why should it be the girl only who leaves her family, her culture and her surname???… both husband and wife should leave their place.Secondly why should the girl only be overburdened with responsibilities and to be a servant to his husband’s family and take care of them?? if she is expected to take care of his husband’s family , the husband should also take care of the girl’s family. There should be a balance always which is not there. No boy can understand the pain a women goes through at the time of leaving her house, her parents just after the marriage because they have never experienced it and they don’t need to. For them it is just a culture and every girl has to go through it. Thank god the practice of dowry is legally banned.Still we need more changes so that a couple can peacefully enjoy their life after marriage.

  6. Sayendri Panchadhyayi

    I knew that it would call for heated debates and I am glad that you have been vocal about your opinions. @arpit: Socialization can be a process that has the potential of injecting beliefs in both men and women about their and shape their aspirations. So, whatever I have written is not bubble of thought with a determination to onslaught patriarchy. Men themselves are victims of patriarchy but since this article focus on women hence I have solely focused on women. Since we are part of an urban culture all these might appear obsolete hence your revolt. This an empirical study which sociologists and social scientists have conducted. It is a product of theoretical edifice and not the soliloqouy of my feminist imagination And most importantly @Prashant: I understand what you want to convey but you see I have attacked patriarchal culture and not men. There is a difference which can be only ascertained through a nuanced understanding of the discourse.

  7. Nivedita Rai

    Apart from the title..everything else is so true. I am not a disbeliever of institution of marriage but all of you should be aware of the stark reality. I don’t say that marriage is an evil imposed on us but yes I believe that women should have more freedom in terms of choosing her life partner and the age she wants to get married. All of us have aspirations and in India many women are forced to shun their ambitions just to get married. I personally know people who were forced to marry without their consent. And the fact Sayendri stated about the mindset of society and the role neighbors play certainly adds to our woes. We need to accept the fact that even women have ambitions and the right to take their own decisions. The mental trauma inflicted by the society which a girl goes through is immense if she fails to accept the norms 🙂 Good job @Sayendri. Keep writing.

  8. abhishek srivastava

    If we talk about marriage, it is not at all patriarchal institution, basically thee is no any civilization on this earth who has not accepted marriage as a system, a system which is parallely importantan for both male and female member of society, suffering and torcher for women is some thing diffrent, I m just talking about marriage, what I think that thee is some scientific concept behind it, we all know SEX one of our physical need which could be fulfilled only when both the genders are together, so before the concept of marriage during earlier phase of civilization the people would have been making intercourse betweent then randomly just like we see dogs and othr animals today because of which various diseases like AIDS or other STD(at that tym no docters no research so they must not be knowing about these diseases I m just giving a xmpl) would have spread and may be there sexual part would have been effected because of which they decided to be with only one partner so that no body gets infected again because of changing partners frequently, so the concept marriage prevailed.and if we talk about ater period during early vedic age even polyandry was prevailing so we cant say that the concept of marriage is patriarchal because this concept is as old as the VEDAS in hindu dharma.

  9. abhishek srivastava

    Most of the comments here are not upto the mark rather are just discussing the social condition of women in indian society, friendzzz the topic is is marriage a patriarchal concept, please say yes or no and give you explaination

  10. Aditi Thakker

    Isn’t marriage a personal choice? Lets look at it at two individuals in a consented union, instead of superior and inferior. Till this ‘lets pity her’ business does not stop, the proposed changes that a large majority want to see in the situation of women in the country, is not going to happen. No one can stand up for you, you’ve got to do it yourself.

  11. Sayendri Panchadhyayi

    @akhil and Nibeta: thanxx for understanding the thrust of the article:)@Abhishek: you have rightly pointed out what the I am trying to hit at. And to all this might seem like an anti-marriage treatise but reflect over the article and you will see why I made these statements..:)

    1. Raj

      Sayendri: Have you every blamed “matriarchy” for anything?

      You could have talked about the fact than men hate marriage too. What could be worse than spending your life being stuck to some strange woman, earning for her and taking care of her kids, not to mention the restriction of sexual freedom . I would like to point out that married men commit suicide two to three times more often, not just in India but all over the world. But you ignored it so casually.

      I feel you have a burning hatred towards all things male and try to portray men as oppressors and women as victims. I respect your right to do so and write about it. But is that who you really want to be?

    2. Somia Sharma

      Hi Raj,
      It is just that the pressure on women for getting married and having kids is much more than it is on men.
      Yes, I totally agree with you that men hate being married too but it is for the fact that they lose their freedom of all sorts and have to bear the responsibility. And most men are hence commitment phobic.
      Also both men and women are responsible for bring a child to this world, then how is she solely responsible for that.
      Hope your father does not consider you to be YOUR MOTHER’s son ONLY. Please be empathetic and then comment.

      And yes I am not against you or any other man but the psyche and mindset needs to be changed.

  12. Sumeet Mahendra

    I partially agree with Sayendri Panchadhyayi Ji, many women out there who’s charm forced/persuaded a man to be a “Ghar Jamai” and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is one such example. Then there are many such women whose charm and excellence in their field overshadowed their husband’s existence like Kiran Bedi, Shiela Dixit, Pratibha Patil, Chanda Kochhar etc.etc., and unluckily they’re all Indian women who have reached to zenith after crossing the “projected destinations” I mean the marriage. So rather criticizing the age old, time tested institution of ‘marriage’. Start performing best among men rather ridiculing them for no reason. And those who malign the dignity of any princess or doyenne (girl and woman) are not considered as “man” in our community rather a beast in true sense.

    PS: It’s arrange marrige due to which we asian in general and Indians in particular have least divorce rate as compared to our western counterpart. Isn’t so . . . ?

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