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Stop blaming women for having a failed marriage! Instead, support them and encourage them, for that is exactly what they need.
How Indian marriages work: In Indian society, the responsibility of keeping the marriage running lies on the shoulders of women, regardless of education or career. ‘Aurat ghar ko bandhe rakhti hain’ We believe that women are the keepers of the home and societies.
In patriarchal societies, women are conditioned to follow gender stereotypes. Here the duties of running homes, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry, raising children and becoming caregivers to in-laws fall to them. Men aren’t really expected to share their load and in case they do, we consider it a blessing and call ourselves lucky but never a duty.
Marriages are ‘holy’ or ‘sacred’ and last for seven lifetimes, ‘saat janam and not just one lifetime. Women are taught to accept-adjust-conform to their rules of marital homes and the breakdown of marriages are seen as a disgrace.
The women who manage to discharge their duties and responsibilities without complaining or grumbling are respected. They are held as role models for others to follow. Meanwhile, boys are allowed to grow up with indiscriminate freedom and no restrictions whatsoever. So, obviously, there’s no pressure of performance.
Women have a rule book on moral code of conduct – the do’s and don’ts for an ‘adarsh nari’ (deal woman). At the same time, men aren’t expected to be ‘maryada purushottam‘ (ideal man) and the theory of ‘boys will be boys’ continues.
However, with education and literacy women have questioned the inequalities and discrimination. This, in its turn, has led the traditionalists and orthodoxy to blame modern education for the breakdown of marriages.
Men fear when women raise their voice. They know women can no longer be controlled or subjugated by patriarchy when women square up to them.
Women are blamed for not trying hard enough or working hard at maintaining a relationship. They are labelled ‘quitters’ for breaking up, thus, the fear of failure makes them stay back. Success in marriage is attributed to your family values and upbringing and considered a personal setback if it didn’t work.
Indian families are close-knit with a rigid social structure where a number of marriages are ‘arranged’ to perfect strangers by parents, relatives or friends. Breaking up such a marriage and extricating yourself from it becomes very difficult while being answerable to those involved in bringing about a match. Divorce is considered a selfish choice, especially if there are children involved. So women are constantly under pressure to keep up the charade.
Often, women are also unwilling to report cases of dowry-related harassment, physical, mental or emotional abuse as they are considered ‘normal’ issues. Victims of anger or rage issues, extra-marital affairs, and marital rapes are also deemed ‘common’ issues that one can outgrow with the passage of time. Sometimes, religious beliefs of destiny and fate make women tolerate bad relationships as if some things are just meant to be!
Divorces in India are expensive long-drawn court battles that make it a difficult choice for women to make. This is mostly because only 25 percent of the women in India are working or independent. The lack of financial resources and family support makes it hard for them to break free from their situation. Also, the alimony or the settlement they receive is ridiculously low as compared to their expenses and struggles. There is also no real hope of getting their streedhan, dowry or even valuable back.
Hindu marriages are meant to be sacred and last for seven lifetimes. They are not contractual obligations but ‘matches made in heaven.’ Married women are called ‘saubhagyawati’ or ‘suhagan’ and enjoy special status as compared to single women, widows or divorcees.
A married woman’s status is feted and celebrated during festivals, customary rituals and ceremonies. But the simple act of applying the ‘haldi kumkum tikka’ on the forehead of a divorcee or a widow is considered inauspicious. These women are seen as ones who have no ‘mangalyam.’ So basically, a man is seen as conferring dignity and respect to a woman.
For women, marriages are a trap door. Behind this door, dowry harassment, abuse, violence, misogyny, the brutality of men with addiction issues, mental instability and sexual perversions are hidden. Women, meanwhile, are constantly under pressure to hide these and keep up a facade of a happy marriage.
Men who have financial issues, multiple responsibilities and loans, issues with joblessness expect financial bailouts (dowry) from their wives. The women, in question, are often held ransom for fear of the loss of dignity.
Divorce offers a life of dignity for women. It is an informed decision towards a life of freedom, liberty and deliverance from toxic relationships. Relationships that threaten to choke her spirit and individuality.
Divorce isn’t the end of a fairy tale, but, the end of a tale that wasn’t meant to be. Stop looking for a fairy tale when there are none.
No, dear society, divorce not a luxury or a fall out of ‘bad sanskar‘ English education, feminism or entitlement of the rich or elite. Let’s not trivialise it by calling it an ego clash, swollen heads or incompatibility issues when it is a logical and reasonable solution to a bad problem.
Bad marriages never ought to be saved, there’s no honour worth salvaging in a bad relationship. So let’s stop looking for ways to resuscitate a marriage and try to save the woman instead.
Let a woman have her choice and make a change in her life. And let’s not be harsh in judging or believing that a ‘thinking/educated woman’ is a danger to society. Let her be the validation that we are a progressive and forward-thinking society where we believe in the equality of gender and the spirit of egalitarianism.
Ps. Let’s remember this: Women who hold up half the sky have every right to live her life and make her choices. So let her be.
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Hain Chahatein
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