Marriage is a union of two souls. There should be abundant love shared between two human beings for the commitment to last. The true essence of marriage lies in the choice that two people make to spend their lives with one another by sharing their hopes, aspirations and dreams. There are a lot of factors involved in the vocation of marriage. As man is a social animal he makes a lot of different bonds and commitments to various people. These commitments influence marriage. In the Indian context, there is a huge influence of these commitments and other social factors on marriage. Marriages in India cease to be just a choice two people make. It is a social contract between a large number of people associated with the bride and groom.
When looking for a worthy groom or a bride, the families still adhere to ancient norms of beauty and purity. Failure to live up to these norms can lead to shaming. Individual choices are frowned upon in most societies and the concept of love is not acknowledged. Love marriages, inter-caste marriages and inter-religious marriages are a strict no-no. More importance is given to the social implications of such weddings rather than the well-being and the happiness of the couple.
Even in the modern times, arranged marriages are still very prominent in our country. Our mindset is heavily embedded in notions of caste and social class. Thus arranged marriages in India take place accordingly. A person is only allowed to marry another person who belongs to the same social class and the caste. A marital alliance which occurs on the basis of these ideas does not remain a personal choice. The alliance takes place under the jurisdiction of the elders of the family. The bride and the groom are given very less or no freedom of choice. This denial of freedom when making life’s most crucial decision of choosing a life partner has a lot of consequences that directly affects the couple. Most couples that have an arranged marriage are not happy. This may either lead to a divorce or an unhappy marriage. The reason is the lack of compatibility between the partners. The couple is expected to follow traditional gender roles attributed to them. Marriage ceases to be merely a celebration of love. It becomes more of an agreement to live with each other and thus render benefit to each other’s families.
Men and women are both affected in this process. The society is a predominantly patriarchal one expects the man to be in charge of the family. He is the one who is responsible for bringing home money and necessary requirements to support the family. In an arranged marriage the bride families often make demands on the groom. In order to maintain the social class in the choice of groom, there is a very high demand of grooms who have the conventional ‘good’ jobs. A lot of emphases is laid on the choice of careers and any unorthodox career choice is frowned upon. Women, on the other hand, are expected to stay at home. Even if they are allowed to work outside, they are often subordinate to their husbands. The woman usually is responsible for the household chores and in most cases the man refrains from helping the woman with the household chores. There is also the immense pressure of the couple to bear children from the families.
The most inhumane consequence that comes along arranged marriages is the practice of dowry. In this practice, the bride’s family is required to pay a certain amount of credit in the form of cash, gold or any other asset to the groom’s family. The dowry that the groom demands is often high and is a huge burden on the bride’s family. Furthermore arranged marriages are a very extravagant affair in many Indian communities and this poses an additional burden on the bride’s family. This is one of the leading causes for the high rates of female infanticide and foeticide. A lot of families rejoice at the birth of the male child as it is an opportunity for them to collect dowry at the time of his marriage. Also, in marriages where the dowry is not given on time, the woman is subjected to domestic violence from her in-laws. Due to shaming, most families hide this issue and the woman suffers in silence. In the case of most unhappy marriages, the results are devastating. Many people in modern times engage in extramarital affairs. In most cases, unhappy marriages do not lead to divorce due to social pressure by a family member and the couple puts its own happiness at stake.
In contemporary times, however, there is a radical change. With the emergence of new thoughts which transcend the archaic notions of purity and marriage as a social contract, youth now are looking for partners they genuinely want to spend their life with. This also means a lot of people are independent and break these restrictions imposed on them. Women have more freedom in the marriage and are independent as well. There is not much emphasis on conventional career choices being a necessary requirement for marriage in modern thought. More and more families need to embrace modern though and give enough freedom to their children to choose their marital partner. Practices such as dowry should be abolished. Divorce should not be looked down upon and the family should be supportive when their child makes decisions independently which may not in favour of the approved norms set by the society. After all, in this life of few days, everyone should be granted enough freedom to seek happiness.