Why Are Only Women Expected To Wear Symbols To Prove Their Marital Status?

One year into my marriage and I have been encountering innumerable queries from several quarters about my not-so-married-avatar or why I haven’t come up with the “good news” yet… Initially, most of the queries would amuse me, while some made me ponder—why was it necessary to wear accessories and prove one’s marital status?

Having had the privilege of being born in the eastern part of India which is called Bengal in English and “Bangla” in Bengali, I have grown up seeing women sporting sindoor or kumkum in the parting of their hair, a big red bindi and coral-conch bangles. Being brought up in a cosmopolitan environment, it was interesting to see that married women from Assam too had a similar look, whereas those from Bihar had an orangeish kumkum in their hair partings.

The newly married women from Punjab wore chudas that would go up to their arms, whereas the Nepalis would wear a green coloured mangalsutra. The Bengalis and Assamese, on the other hand, do not have any mangalsutra, which would flood my little mind with innumerable questions.

Why are marriage symbols ritually placed just on the women? Image via Getty

After moving to the southern part of the country (now that I am married to a Tamil man), I witnessed something unique. Married Tamil women would sport thick gold chains, anklets and toe-rings, irrespective of their religion. Why are there such varied customs that must be followed by women, despite following the same faith?

Due to my experiences in research on gender and sexuality, I have developed a streak of mind wherein I question anything which seems to be unequal between the sexes. Women have been tied to diverse customs across the country, yet men, married or not, seem to roam around nonchalantly.

Why is it so important for a woman to exhibit her “marriedness” publicly? Why is it necessary to follow certain criteria to prove one’s womanhood? I believe that marriage is a commitment between two individuals who are bound to each other by promises of love and dedication. I understand that there are certain sentiments attached to certain customs, but then setting them as benchmarks of womanhood only reinforces patriarchy!

And most importantly, the questions shot to you by the neighbouring aunties regarding your pregnancy or marital status have internalised patriarchy to such an extent that these women feel as if imposing on or binding women with these strict customs is an inherent task they must perform.

There may be women who are going through an unhappy marriage or failing to seek an appropriate groom. There may be women who do not want a child at present or are going through fertility treatments! Shooting them with queries and judging them is the last thing we should do to a human being! Why don’t we live and let others live? Life is a journey where at the end you should not die with regrets, but with a content heart and a satisfied soul! Why don’t you live as you like it?

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