This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Amrit Mahapatra. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Busting The Myth: Here’s Why ‘Love’ Marriages Do Not Break ‘Caste-Barriers’

More from Amrit Mahapatra

Marriage is one of the most prominent social institutions, especially in a developing country like India where it is seen as a marker of upward mobility, either in terms of social status (caste mobility – in case of a woman) or economic capability (accumulation of dowry by a man).

How Endogamy Perpetuates Caste

The inevitability of marriage in India is indicated by the number of girls getting married before the legal age. One of the most prominent reasons for this is the prevalence of arranged marriages, where the parents or the family members of the prospective bride and groom arrange for a match from their respective communities. This leads to endogamy in weddings and perpetuates the institution of caste.

With the growing globalization in India following the LPG reforms in 1991, the new generation of Indians started getting exposed to western ideals of progressiveness, romantic love as well as consensual marriages. The concept of inter-caste marriages started getting into popular notions and the governments across states proposed schemes incentivizing such marriages albeit these policies never got into mainstream political programs due to the risk of cutting adversely across the caste arithmetic in elections.

Representational image.

Love marriages became the new buzzword and soon stories of love marriages were equated with the struggle of annihilating caste. Whether this holds scrutiny is a question on which the jury is still out.

Focusing on the group of privileged, higher educated Indians who occupy corporate spaces, government offices and universities of higher learning, it is noticeable that most love marriages originate in workplaces or in colleges. Universities and workplaces (both governmental and corporate) abound with higher percentages of Upper Castes in contrast with the grossly under-represented ‘Bahujans’ (SCs, STs, OBCs) who even though make up 85% of the population do not find proportional representation in places of power.

As a result, whatever love marriages occur, do take place either within the same caste or at best, between castes that are adjacent to the perceived caste hierarchy. According to a 2019 report on the caste composition among 89 Union Secretaries, only 3 members belonged to the STs, 1 belonged to the SCs and none to the OBCs.

Since the ‘choices’ in love marriages are inherently limited to the people in and around us, in a social setting or having certain similarities, the gross under-representation of SCs, STs, OBCs in educational and work sectors has also prevented the inter-caste marriages among the highest and lowest members of the caste locus, largely touted as a factor to annihilate caste.

Since the ‘choices’ in love marriages are inherently limited to the people in and around us, the gross under-representation of SCs, STs, OBCs in educational and work sectors has also prevented the inter-caste marriages among the highest and lowest members of the caste locus. Representational image.

It is also common knowledge that notions of romantic love or relationships sprout in places where the individuals share certain interests, socially, ideologically or culturally. This mingling on the basis of similar social or cultural choices come as a dampener to the majority of ‘Bahujan’ students who belong to humble backgrounds with little or no scope for being well-versed in the millennial lingo of movies, Netflix series and international pop culture.

Love Marriages Break Caste Barriers? Hmm, Not Really

An insightful article by the ThePrint that reported about the potential struggles of a Dalit girl at the DU, who topped the boards in Punjab, is a case in point.

An invisible glass ceiling and an ever-present danger of cordoning off of places of elitism to the marginalized sections contributes towards an absence of any real caste mobility in love marriages.
Romanticizing the struggles faced by the couples in a love marriage is another reason why we fail to address the actual problems of casteism and its implications. In areas where inter-caste marriages and the notion of love has failed to make a dent, honour killings are common.

Like almost every other social phenomenon, honour killings too are gendered events. The patriarchal notion that honour resides in the woman of the family and her marriage out of caste leads to defiling of notions of purity and pollution has led to the curtailment of women rights disproportionally.

Honour killings are intersectionally oppressive. In a bid to maintain caste endogamy, inter-caste marriages are violently stopped, sometimes leading to murder.

How Honour Killings Are ‘Intersectional’

Honour killings are an example of intersectional oppression where gendered events are further exacerbated by one’s position in the social hierarchy. In a bid to maintain caste endogamy, inter-caste marriages are violently stopped, sometimes leading to murder. Women from marginalized communities are worst affected by this, both in terms of direct impact (murder of self or partners) and indirect consequences (accessing institutions of justice).

To sum it up, love should be the reason for any marriage and it shouldn’t be viewed through lenses of caste, class or religion. However, a thorough analysis of the structures of the institution and its composition is necessary, to ensure not only the inclusiveness in love marriages but also a greater diversity in spaces such as education and workplaces.

As a result, it will be possible on the part of both government and private parties to take corrective measures that are progressive as well as intersectional, ensuring that benefits reach the most marginalized of genders in the most marginalized of communities.

You must be to comment.

More from Amrit Mahapatra

Similar Posts

By Yuvaniya

By Yuvaniya

By Fatema Tambawalla

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below