My first article since the beginning of this New Year. I wish one and all a very happy 2018. Hope you all had fun with friends and relatives. I spent this new year in my hometown in India. I should say that this New Year was enlightening for me rather than fun and party.
I am an unmarried woman in my twenties and so you can imagine how my India trip would have been. I do not know why elders in India are obsessed with this whole marriage concept. I had been dreading this trip, like every other Indian in his/her twenties living abroad would do, every time while visiting India. To quote a funny conversation: Someone I knew asked me when I was going to get married. I gave a very vague reply. Her response was, “Get married soon, we are all getting old. Getting married is the best thing that everyone must do.” When she said this, I thought she was also talking like everyone else, but she immediately followed this with: “But, enjoy your bachelor life as much as you can. Marriage is filled with commitments and really not that much fun. So, enjoy your maximum as a bachelor but get married soon“. I am like, “Lady, just pick one. You can’t tell ‘Marriage life sucks but still get married’“.
My friend was telling me: “When anyone sees a 50 year old, they ask, do you have diabetes, blood pressure? When everyone sees an unmarried woman in her twenties, they ask ‘When are you getting married?’” – the million-dollar question posed by random people you might not even recognize.
I can’t be without mentioning this completely hilarious thing: Parents are proud if their children get married early. One of the girls I knew got married when she was right out of college and I am still unmarried. So, her parents tell my mom: “I am very lucky to have ‘X’ as my daughter. She got married immediately when we asked her. I was happy with the way we brought her up. We were proved that we were amazing parents. Unlike your daughter (which is me 😛), our daughter didn’t give us any trouble. She even has a kid now. Get your daughter married soon. Then you can also be happy like us“. I am like “Dude, seriously?” Getting your children married is like a competition in India. So basically, to win this competition, all that the parents need to do is to put as much pressure as possible on kids, do everything possible to win the rat race, even without telling the kids why they need to get married in the first place.
Marriage is not a phase of life that has to immediately follow after you complete UG. It is a life decision that every individual needs to make for self.
Here I am thinking – “How is it possible to marry someone whom I don’t even know and more than that how can I have a baby with him within a year? It sounds creepy.” But this is what has been happening since forever and such arranged marriages have actually not proven to be unsuccessful. When I thought why they weren’t unsuccessful, the only convincing reason I could come up with was this – Women have sacrificed for many generations and that is the only reason arranged marriages have worked out well. Now women are starting to become independent, so they believe they can get out of marriage if they are not happy. Many elders say that “The kids these days do not know to adjust and live“. I would like to point out that “It is women, forever, who have adjusted to keep the family united”. Now many of us start to realize what we’re losing by giving up everything, which is what creates the friction. It is definitely not that the youth these days do not know affection. Men these days are actually way more emotionally understanding and caring. In fact, I feel that the current generation of men definitely encourage equality in every aspect and do value emotions much more than the previous generation.
I have seen many mothers and even many women of the current generation saying: “I simply obeyed my parents and did whatever they said”. I completely believe in what I am about to say –
IT IS GOOD TO OBEY YOUR PARENTS, BUT NOT WITHOUT KNOWING WHY YOU NEED TO DO SO. IF YOU’RE BLINDLY OBEYING THEM, EVEN AFTER BEING A GROWN-UP, WELL THEN, YOU CLEARLY DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU WANT IN YOUR LIFE AND YOU WILL DEFINITELY END UP PASSING THE SAME IRRATIONAL PRACTICES TO YOUR CHILDREN EVEN THOUGH YOU YOURSELF DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU ARE DOING THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Wow! Looking back at it, my India trip had been quite entertaining – getting to know people’s perception of a meaningful life 😛 Moving on from the entertaining part of my trip to the enlightening part of my trip. During this trip, I met many conservative people who read my blogs but they never spoke to me about it because they do not approve of my way of thinking. But some of them did question me:
- Why are you going on and on about feminism? Aren’t women already in a much better situation?
- Do you really think child marriages still exist?
- Don’t you think dowry is non-existent these days? I do not know of any of my friends and family who give or receive dowry.
- Are sexual assaults that common? And why is it so difficult to get over an assault when it is that common?
I was incredibly shocked to know that people were not even aware of these. I got really furious when someone asked me “Why it is so difficult to get over an assault?” But I believe talking about sexual assault and its widespread nature needs an article by itself because even now many people are in the belief that there is no such thing as marital rape.
I saw many people rejecting the harsh reality. To all those who think that child marriages don’t exist just because it is banned by the Government, did you know that as of 2016, UNICEF reports that India has the highest number of child brides in the world? It is estimated that 47% of girls in India are married before their 18th birthday. The rates of child marriage vary between states and are as high as 69% and 65% in Bihar and Rajasthan. While fewer Indian girls are marrying before the age of 15, rates of marriage have increased for girls between ages 15 to 18.
Since the Indian Government has set the legal age of marriage to be 18, most of the parents are just waiting for their daughters to reach 18 and then try to get them married as early as they can. I personally consider marrying anyone even at the age of 21 as child marriage. At the age of 21, most of us (in urban areas at least) would have just completed our undergraduate studies. Frankly, in India, most of us don’t get a lot out of a UG degree. So obviously we have to take up whatever job we get. And only after 1 or 2 years, at least some of us start realizing what we need to do with our lives. But when a girl is married to someone even before she is able to think what she wants, it is brutally restricting her life choices. When a woman gets married at the age of 21, her family would become her priority. Believe it or not, we are living in a patriarchal society and so a woman’s career is always ranked below a man’s career. At the age of 21, the girl is still just a kid. She would not know what she loses in life, if she gets married at that age. And that is the reason most women, even though highly educated, are not able to make it big in their careers. Well, how can they? They are getting married even before they realize the importance of career and after marriage they think that taking care of their family is their life’s purpose. I am requesting every woman out there to realize what you want to do with your life.
- A woman’s career is equally important as a man’s. It just doesn’t get said enough.
- Whether you are married or not, your career and having an identity for yourself is important.
- Stop saying “Family is your only responsibility”. Family is one of your important responsibilities.
- Please do not do all the household chores yourself. Share the responsibilities. I strongly believe this is lacking in most of the Indian families. KITCHEN IS NOT FOR WOMEN ALONE.
- When you have a kid, encourage your partner to have equal share of responsibilities. It is not just the mother’s duty to take care of the baby.
To every parent out there who says, there is no dowry in India – Dowry is considered abolished only when we start doing the following in our marriages:
- Stop trading your daughter in the name of marriage. Stop spending lakhs and crores to get your daughter married
- Stop borrowing money for performing a marriage
- Start sharing the expenses of the marriage equally between the bride and the groom’s families’
- Stop giving expensive items as dowry and for heaven’s sake, stop naming them as ‘GIFTS’
- Do not make marriage an amazing money-making market for parents of male children
- Stop making marriage a business deal
- A request to every man’s parent out there – Stop saying “Do how much ever you can, we are not asking for anything” Start saying: “We do not want anything“
- Dismiss this financial plan – “I will spend a lot of money for my daughter’s wedding now but get it back during my son’s wedding“
If you still do not realize the negative impact of the dowry system, well, did you know that as of April 2017, 21 dowry deaths are reported across the country every day? The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) states that in 2015, as many as 7,634 women died in the country due to dowry harassment. Either they were burnt alive or forced to commit suicide over dowry demand. Data further reveals that after registration of dowry deaths, police have charge-sheeted around 93.7 per cent of the accused, of which only 34.7 per cent have been convicted. The remaining cases are still pending in various courts. According to Delhi Police, till March 15 this year, 31 women died due to dowry harassment. In the last five years, as many as 715 cases of dowry deaths have been reported in the national Capital and the crime rate has been increasing with every passing year. Moreover, in Delhi, around 3,877 cases of cruelty by in-laws and husbands have been registered in 2016. Till March 15 this year, as many as 506 such cases have been reported in the city.
And most importantly, these statistics represent only the reported number of dowry deaths and child marriages and we do not know how many have gone unreported.
I got really sick of the way parents were perceiving marriage and even more annoyed because people refused to agree to the fact that child marriages and dowry still exist, even though they might have actually either given or received dowry in the name of GIFTS. I wanted to change the way things are. I do not have a plan laid out yet but I really wanted to do something. I wanted to start somewhere. That is when I came across the organization “eVidyaloka“, which gives education to students in rural India, where it is difficult to find teachers in the first place. They operate in areas where the parents are not sending their kids to school because, they want them to work, in desperate need for money. These are kids way below the poverty line. There are very few girls in these schools compared to boys. Working with them gives me immense satisfaction because, even if one kid succeeds, that child would be a great example to uplift the entire village. The kids actually gave me a completely different perspective of life. They made me realize that we are all living in a world where everyone wants to make money, lead a luxurious life, get married, have kids, be filthy rich and ultimately not care about people, with whom we co-exist. The experience made me realize that I just turned out lucky.
The majority of the people we meet on a daily basis are actually a huge minority compared to the actual population. But we are the only ones who are capable of making a change.
Slaves did not have the power to fight for themselves beyond a certain extent. It was Abraham Lincoln, who was a white himself, who fought for their freedom.
We are in a situation where we need to make a huge change with very limited resources. So, it is highly important that we don’t turn a blind eye to it. Helping for an organization like eVidyaloka takes me 1.5 hours a week. I get more happiness spending 1.5 hours with the kids than spending 3 hours at a movie theater. The help we do might not have a huge impact, it might not create a huge revolution, but it will definitely help at least one person. I personally consider helping one person come up in his/her life to be a million times worthier than a high-paying job.
Post Script: A note on volunteering
Volunteering for a good cause gives complete satisfaction unattainable by any other activity or job. How happy would it be to know that someone is getting food or education because of you? But unfortunately, not many people are able to volunteer because often they have many doubts in their mind and eventually lose motivation to do so. Are you one among them? Are you scared that you might not have time in your busy schedule? Are you scared that your help might not bring about a huge change? Are you trying to do virtual volunteering but are lost on how to do it? Well there is a lot that you can do and bring about a huge change if you are ready to spare even one hour every week or even one month. I am listing below some organizations that have volunteering opportunities.
- Children’s education – http://www.evidyaloka.org/
- Women’s rights – http://sayfty.com/about-us/volunteer/
- Sex Trafficking – http://apneaap.org/get-involved/volunteer/
- Casteism – https://dalitfoundation.net/support-us/
If you need help getting in touch with any of these organizations for volunteering or if you are not satisfied with any of the above and are looking for something different, please reach out to me and I can direct you to the right source.
Email id: firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/saisruthi_sathy