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‘Changing Religion For Marriage Not Acceptable’ But A Woman Changing Herself For Marriage Is?

Women should be able to be the way they want to be, do things they have dreamt of doing. This should not be 'allowed' to women by in-laws or anyone else - it is a right.

Women should be able to be the way they want to be, do things they have dreamt of doing. This should not be ‘allowed’ to women by in-laws or anyone else – it is a right.

I read this in the news a few days ago – A young married woman, Priyanshi nee Samreen Jahan went to Allahabad High Court for their protection as a couple from her family especially her father, under Article 226, for her peaceful married life. The court passed an order giving directions to the police and to petitioner’s father to not to interfere in the married life of her daughter.

However, this simple case got into the limelight when Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi observed that the petitioner had converted her religion from Islam to Hinduism on 29 June 2020 and they formalized their marriage on 30 July 2020, which disclosed the fact that the conversion was done solely for marriage and not on the grounds of belief and faith to which the Justice of High Court said that “Conversion just for the sake of Marriage, not acceptable.”

I was discussing this decision with my neighbour, about this being relevant for people going in for interfaith marriages. She had an interesting take on it. “Changing your religion for the sake of marriage may not be acceptable but changing yourself as a person for a marriage is definitely acceptable to the society,” she said.

This stuck in my mind, and I remembered it the next day, when coincidentally, my mother was talking to someone who recently got married, and told me about it later that day. My mother asked this newly married woman if she had started going back to work after her marriage to which she replied, “No, My husband has said that there is no need for you to go out and work since I am working.”

When I came to know of this, I thought of how this woman would always be excited about her work, but after she got married, all she would speak of was only household work. Suddenly, the discussion with my neighbour came into sharp focus, making sense at last.

‘A married woman’s duty is only to her husband and family’

The idea that women must act the way their husbands want them to is a common one.

Whenever a daughter is about to get married, she is told by her family “sabko khush rakhna” (keep everyone happy), the hidden meaning behind this is to do whatever it takes to keep the in-laws happy even if it makes you crush your happiness. Do we ever talk about what a woman wants, and how she changes herself so that she can adjust to a new family, but adjusting with everyone means suppressing your wishes?

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We cannot ignore the fact that a man too has to make adjustments in a marriage, but why is there a diktat for women to change themselves completely and adapt to their new family, to the extent that sometimes their identity is erased, and they have to let go of all that they have dreamt of? Surely, marriages are for a society approved togetherness between two individuals so that they can build their own family?

Why do we only ‘allow’ a wife/ daughter in law to do something she wishes?

This reminds me of the movie Dil Dhadakne Do where in one scene, two educated men were seen discussing Equality and one of them says, “Things are changing, we allowed Ayesha (his wife) to run her business.”

This is not just a scene in a movie; it is the scenario in almost every Indian household, where allowing women to work or to go outside the house is considered as equality. But does it reflect equality? Why do women have to be allowed for anything? Do men ask their wives if they can work after marriage or not? From getting permission to work to change their lifestyle to fit in with the idea of how a woman should behave after she gets married, the adjustments within a marriage become never-ending.

The problem with this idea of a married woman adjusting

However, the biggest problem that comes with these adjustments is that women often readily accept this change as a part of their life. They let these changes become a part of themselves and a part of the next-generation, where the mother in law says to her daughter in law who may want her wishes, “humare time par toh aisa nhi tha” (we didn’t have this in our times). But this sentence should not stop this generation’s women from being the way they want to be. Otherwise this adjustment will continue being the obstacle in every married woman’s life, and all thought of gender-neutral behaviour that we wish to bring into this society will remain on paper.

For this change to happen, we need everyone in the family to understand that women have the right to be the way they want to be, do things they have dreamt of doing. That some chores do not have ‘to be done by women only’ written over them, and men can and should be doing them. That being a working individual should not be an attribute assigned to men only, women can be work and career-oriented too. And the most important, that these attributes should not be allowed to woman by her in-laws or anyone for that matter – it is a matter of right.

If changing your religion is not acceptable, then changing yourself should not be acceptable as well.

Image source: shutterstock

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