Indian Marriage system
Partha Pratim Mazumder
(The writer can be reached at email@example.com)
Forgotten the days when the Assamese people used to take pride in saying that there was no dowry in the Assamese society. Look at the figures provided by the government in the State Assembly – as many as 316 incidents of dowry-related death of women were reported in Assam in the last two years. The number of cases of dowry-related violence reported in the state during the past two years, on the other hand, stood at 2,185. This means there have been at least 2,185 marriages in the state where dowry was demanded. While these statistics were laid in the State Assembly, what was not asked was how many of these incidents and cases involved Assamese families.
Marriage is considered as a hallowed custom in India. Indian parents spend a lot of time for the matrimonial search to find the right partner for their children. Nowadays, parents are somehow free from the task of finding a perfect person for their children because boys and girls are finding their life partners. Love marriages became common in our country when compared to earlier years, irrespective of religion, age, and social status. Parents and other family members are creating space for their children to lead a happy married life. The report by United Nations “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World” revealed that non-marriage remains extremely rare in India, but the number of divorces has doubled over the past two decades. The report also revealed that despite the increasing rate of divorce, only 1.1% of women are divorced, with those in urban areas making up the largest proportion in India. Luxembourg has the highest divorce rate in the world at a staggering 84%. Research studies proved that globally in the nearly four decades, divorce rates around the world have more than doubled. However, the divorce rate in India is very low due to the culture and traditions of the country. In India, it is not easy to throw away marital relationships on some whimsical grounds.
Marriage in India is a celebration of union, not only of the bride and groom but also of two families. So in case of divorce, convincing family members from each side is not an easy process. Parents, as well as other family members, do their best to settle the issues between husband and wife. Also, Indians are never taught to prioritize individual happiness. As a result, couples who don’t want to spoil their family feelings and reputation decide to continue the relationship. Moreover, in India, values are very much rooted and certainly reflected in marriage also. People have a belief that once married; only death parts them from their partners.
Even though women in India are more empowered many are not in a position to speak up against their families due to the patriarchal style. In India, after marriage, the woman belongs to her husband’s family. The custom like ‘Giving Away the Bride’ is an inherent part of our marriage. As a result, women don’t like to devastate their parents through a divorce.
India’s female workforce participation is among the lowest in the world. Marriage is a career stopper for the majority of Indian women due to pregnancy & childbirth. Women in India are giving more importance to their children and family. Most of the women cannot handle a demanding profession and a family at the same time. Hence a majority of women in India usually take a career break or quit their job in order to avoid work-family conflict. Research studies and surveys depicted that childcare and lack of work-life balance is one of the reasons for conflict among married partners which finally end up in divorce. Some other surveys claimed that women in India are adjusting with oppressive marriages due to the lack of financial stability.
The most important cause behind the longevity of Indian marriages is religion. For example, in Hinduism, marriage between two souls is a very sacred affair that stretches beyond one lifetime and may continue up to at least seven lives. Since marriage is sacred, it is believed that no party can dissolve it at will.
Usually in our country, only men who decide about divorce. In very rare cases, only women want a divorce. Parents and families advise only women to adjust to husbands. Even though women are educated, it is not easy to survive in our society after a divorce due to nosy parkers. Everybody is keen-eyed about a divorced woman’s life. So women in our society think twice before going for divorce, whereas for men, it is easy to walk from marriage.
Usually, the courts in India focus on reconciliation rather than separation. Couples are sent for endless rounds of counselling and mediation. Most of the couples go for a compromise after the counselling sessions.
On the other hand, men face gender biased laws in the country in favour of women. Hence it is a reason for men to avoid divorce. Though laws were formed to protect women from exploitation, sometimes they are being misused by wives and her family members to extort money from the husband and his family, which delays the divorce cases for years. Another problem faced by men is child custody. The husband rarely gets child custody, but he has to pay money for upbringing the child.