All Things Un-feminist In Hindu Marriages

Hindu marriages are characterized by their cultural richness and unique traditions. However, they are deeply entrenched in patriarchy, misogyny, and sexism. The traditions put unfair expectations over women while placing men over a pedestal. These norms build the union on an inherently unequal basis. Despite this, society continues to indulge in them just because they have been practiced for centuries and perpetuates the suffocating status of women.

 

  • Patriarchy before marriage

 

Since adolescence, young girls are prepared for matrimony and are educated about ‘life skills’ required to lead a ‘happy married life.’ A woman is expected to be mature enough when she reaches the ‘marriageable age.’ She is taught to behave in a stereotypically feminine manner because “agle ghar jaana hai.”

 

It is ironic to note that all expectations of compromise, sacrifice, and adjustment are put only on the woman. The young woman is expected to navigate the intricacies of married life in her in-laws house while the man can continue to be his pre-marriage self. These sexist ideas both permeate into and draw from symbolic rituals that are a part of Hindu marriages.

 

  • Misogyny in the wedding ceremony

 

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The rituals involved in Hindu wedding ceremonies treat the brides as a secondary entity. The ‘Saat Vachan’ or Seven Vows taken during the ceremony restrict the foundations of the couple’s union to stereotypical gender roles. Providing for the family is reserved for the groom while taking care of the household for the woman. Priests can also be heard saying during the ceremony that after marriage, the woman has to ask for permission from her husband and parents’-in-law before stepping out of the house.

 

The most evident patriarchal ritual is Kanyadaan- that translates to “donating the daughter.” It is the tradition of the father giving his daughter away to the husband. It indicates that the woman is a commodity that can be donated and must be under the control of a man at all times. She is a man’s responsibility and needs to be provided for.

 

Furthermore, talking about the Vidaai, it is never questioned why the woman is expected to leave her home behind while the man stays put in his own house.

 

One of the most deeply entrenched traditions is that of dowry. Although it is illegal, dowry disguised as gifts is a part of every union, no matter how aware the families may be. It is covered up as a tool of showing “respect” to the groom’s family and relatives. Along with this, the bride’s family is somehow obligated to the groom’s family. Parents of girls internalize this notion and believe that they always have to metaphorically bow down to the groom and his family.

 

  • Patriarchy after marriage

 

Misogyny does not end after the ceremonies, and in fact, the wedding is just the beginning. ‘Solah Shringar’ is an overlooked aspect of patriarchy. It implies that only the woman, and not the man, is required to look different after marriage.

The bride is expected to ‘adorn’ herself with markers of matrimony and is branded with the ‘sindoor’, ‘mangalsutra’, and ‘chooda’, that bind her in the clenches of patriarchy.

 

Women internalize the importance of ‘shringar’ by being repeatedly told that it “enhances their beauty.” It is believed that the sindoor provides a cooling effect to the body, but infact, the colour red in these ornaments is the marker of the woman’s fertility and chastity. It simply indicates that she is no longer a virgin. The practice of shringaar also conveys an obsession with the woman’s physical beauty and fetishization of her body.

 

In addition to this, changing of the woman’s surname and children taking up the father’s last name are undebatable things in the patriarchal society. By changing her surname, marriage changes and negates the most basic part of the woman’s identity.

 

The rituals that take place after the wedding- like Karwa Chauth- are also deeply sexist. They forward the idea that it is the woman’s duty to suffer for the man to prosper. Misogyny lies in micro practices like the woman touching the man’s feet that lend godly authority to the man.

 

Lastly, matrimony brings along the ‘duty’ of giving birth. Women have always unquestionably been giving birth. It is a responsibility bestowed upon them. Infact, women who make the choice of not having kids are perceived to not be in their right mind. It is said that they would understand their responsibility soon.

 

As a society, we need to examine why we continue to practice un-feminist traditions even in today’s age of women’s education and financial independence. In order to build an egalitarian society, these widely accepted norms and rituals involved in marriages need to be questioned and shattered.

 

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About the Author

Samiya Chopra

Samiya is a freelance journalist and student of M.A. Journalism at AJKMCRC, Jamia Milia Islamia. She is passionate about photography and literature. She reports on culture, gender, and health. read more...

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