A MATCHMAKING FOR MUSLIM WOMEN – “A suitable young, fair and attractive girl needed who is literate, domestically trained but not highly educated. The girl should be of a marriageable age and shouldn’t have had any pre-marital relationship.”
If asked, why the girl shouldn’t be highly educated? The obvious response would be that highly educated women with strong opinions are difficult, as in they will not easily bow down to the whims and fancies of the in-laws. Also, if they refuse to obey their husbands or answer back, wouldn’t the groom be insulted? Why should the girl be of amarriageable age? Because then the gold, cash and gifts that she is expected to bring would be doubled. Why shouldn’t she have had pre-marital relationships? If not, she is spoiled and a ‘used property’.”
To how many of us is the above statement offending? Certainly to many. But why are we fuming over a statement when the society itself has demeaned its women to such degrading expectations?
Talking about the presumptions, a Muslim woman is often expected to have a good reputation. A girl who enters into a love marriage, particularly with the ‘wrong sort of boy’, is considered ‘too modern’ whereas a girl who rejects traditional arranged marriages is ‘too selfish’ or “corrupted and influenced by the wrong group of people in the society”. Entering into an arranged marriage helps the girl maintain her reputation.
A suitable match between a young man and woman is arranged keeping in mind the values, personalities and goals of both the families. Adjusting with the family of the groom is given more importance because there is no need to fall in love with the partner. Also, falling in love with the partner before the marriage is next to ‘breaking rules’. Marrying a person of one’s choice can tarnish the image of the young girl.
Marriages are fixed between and according to the community elders as it is believed that young minds often make poor choices. Young people are contented and think that their parents know them better than they know themselves.
A young man’s potential is measured by his income, social status, religious knowledge and the reputation of his family in the society. Parents aim for a suitable match with a higher or an equal social status. Arranging a match with a person from a lower social status is perceived as parental failure or the woman’s bad luck.The ideal son-in-law is considered to have a good family history, reputation, employment and minimum dowry demands. Not only that, ahandsome son-in-law is expected for a beautiful girl whereas a less attractive son-in-law is expected for a less beautiful girl.
Taking example of eighteen years old, Noor whose mother had been looking for a suitable groom for her daughter, wanted a boy who is well-learned. After a year when she couldn’t find the suitable man, she reduced her demands for a groom who practised the basics of Islam with a good personality. Yet another year later, she resigned herself to finding a groom within the same class and social status as her family. This is the nemesis of an ordinary Muslim young girl.
A man who has more to offer has more dowry demands. Higher dowries are expected from the families when their daughter isn’t a good catch. It is a burden to poor families who do not delay in approving the matches with a good marriage offer. The dowry demands proliferates with age, as a woman’s worth is considered to wane with age. A young girl who is home-bound for a long time is considered a liability for herfamilies.
On one hand, we have men who aren’t able to complete their secondary education due to the pressure of obtaining employment. On the other hand, we have young women, to whom education is provided to make them marriageable but not as much as to be placed out of the marriage market. Girls with less education than their male peers are considered more appealing as brides. Also if girls become too ‘big’ or ‘successful’ by educating themselves, who will marry them? Even if a girl is sent to school, her parents worry about her misusing her freedom to meet boys. Thus, they are escorted to and from school and are asked to wear ‘burkha’ in public spaces. In case of pre-marital relationship with a suitable boy, the families often fix the match to dwindle the shame of the clandestine relationship.
Thus, it’s the need of the hour when we should cease to parley over the role and position of women but instead emphasis on providing them with new prospects and opportunities to change their predicament.