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What’s In A Surname? How Marriage Is A Ponzi-Scheme Of Society’s Oppression

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William Shakespeare once said, “What is in a name?” Had he been in India, he would have surely uttered, “What’s in a surname?”

Yes, you read it right!

When it comes to marriage, which is nevertheless a socially approved sexual contract, ‘surname’ plays a huge role. For what? Well, surname introduces the ‘caste’ preference. Casteist parents often prefer an arranged marriage system for their offspring so that their “izzat” (honour), a euphemism for ‘social anxiety’, is well-respected.

Representational image.

I contrite for using the ‘apex fallacy’ here but it’s a common experience faced and observed by many Indians here.

Our society prefers marriage to preserve the patriarchal traditions and cultural notions of caste. It has nothing to do with love in general, although most married couples are deluded by the idea of socially constructed and Bollywood-generated love, romance and sex.


If marriage was literally about ‘ideal’ bonding, it would have possessed the inherent features of unconditional and unconventional acceptance, respect and freedom. Take a look around and behold if the system of marriage has literally emancipated social cognition and transcended people towards the bliss of sexual liberation, gender equity and exogamy? The possibility is quite less.

The last time I checked the census data of 2011, I concluded that the scope of exogamy is merely 6% amidst the overpopulation of India. What does this data tell us? It clearly reflects that the idea of marriage so far has been about formalisation and conservation of caste-based bonding and nothing else.

A report in 2018 by Lok Foundation and Oxford University stunned “modern India” that urbanites still marry the way their conservative grandparents did.

On the other hand, despite the cacophony of the 21st century that we’re in, the marriage system has yet to anthropologically include same-sex bonding in our societies. The conventional idea of marriage still prevails, despite many people receiving graduation certifications from education institutes. With all due respect to the brouhaha encircling marriage, we are yet to establish a ‘safe space culture’ for women. As known, even if unrecognised, marriage benefits the ego and masculinity of men more than the sexuality of women and queer.

Marriage, And Marital Rape

From dowry system to domestic violence, ‘marital rape’ yet goes unrecognised and illegalised. Marital rape is no less an offence than murder, culpable homicide or rape per se. It denigrates the honour and dignity of a human being and reduces her to a chattel to be utilized for one’s self convenience and comfort. It reduces a woman to a corpse, living under the constant fear of hurt or injury.

Medical evidence proves that rape has severe and long-lasting consequences for women. A PIL (2019) was filed in this regard to make ‘marital rape’ a crime but the patriarchal nature of the Supreme Court openly and impudently rejected it by uttering “However brutal the husband is…when two people (are) living as husband and wife… can sexual intercourse between them be called rape?”

Instead, marriage becomes another liability on the shoulders of women. They’re supposed to have sex when their husband demands it. They’re supposed to migrate between the kitchen and bedroom and do the household work without getting quantified in GDP calculation for their unpaid labour.

They’re supposed to give up working because their mother-in-law would not want it since the neighbour or relatives next door would judge the character of ‘working’ bahu. They’re supposed to reproduce as and when the husband and his family demand it. At times, ‘vastu‘ or ‘kundali‘ has a role to play here.

They’re supposed to speak softly, sit on the floor, cover their head, suppress expression and at times must not dare to touch the idols of God during menstruation.


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Socio-legal Infringement

In another realm, the recent love jihad law will set a precedent of oppression of women. The ramifications of the law will boost honour killings or parental interventionism in the choices a woman would want to make, followed by discouragement of interfaith marriage. Intercaste marriage is already all-time-low. In one of my previous blogs on ‘caste and compatibility’ published on this platform, I highlighted how the system of anuloma and pratiloma continues to dissuade women from upper-caste community to marry a man of lower-caste community.

Indian Human Development Survey-II (2011-12) mentions that “73% of marriages were found to have been ‘arranged’ by parents. Mainly, caste-based. Further, almost 70% women said they had not met their husbands before the day of the wedding.”

The following chart generated by ‘India In Pixels’ tells us further about the status of endogamy which are mainly in violation of consent, liberty and also personal choice:

Last But Not Least

This whole idea of marriage has now become another conspicuous display of affection, unnecessary spending (which verily adds more to the pressure on bride), judgements and Instagram selfie moments. At times I feel that those matrimonial sites are nothing but manifestations of what society thinks. Almost like a food menu at a sports bar, the menu card of potential bride and groom represents how casteist, racist and illiberal we are. We may like quixotic love and quotes but when it comes to marriage, the sanghi-mindset hidden in our so-called liberal mind pops out!

Anyway, “shaadi main jaroor aana!”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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