Being married is not enough in India, women also have to look the part. And the refusal to do so is often perceived as disrespect to tradition or worse rebellion. Married women are judged for not “looking” married. But, why should a woman indicate outwardly that she is married? And can a woman’s dressing style, her choice of jewelry convey the nature of her relationship with her spouse? If she abides by the rituals such as sindoor, bangles, mangalsutra, etc. does that ensure she is in a happy space in her conjugal relationship? Also, if a woman refuses to wear any of them does that mean she doesn’t accept her marriage? And for women who wear a few of the accessories does that mean she is unhappy? In India, a bride has jewellery for her ankle, toes, head, fingers, neck, wrist, forearms, ears, you name a body part! So, why are there no such things for men? Why when men decide to not wear their wedding rings it is a matter of choice or convenience but for women, she must announce that she is a wife?
I do not need to showcase I am married. I dress up as is comfortable to me it has nothing to with my marital status.
Recently, while hearing a divorce plea, the Gauhati High Court held that a Hindu woman’s refusal to wear sakha (conch shell bangles) or sindoor (vermilion) after her wedding reflects her unwillingness to accept her marriage, and allowed the man to divorce his wife. In this case, both partners wanted to go their separate ways because of irreconcilable differences and the court granted them their wish. It is a good decision, after all, nobody should be stuck in an unhappy marriage. However, does a wife's refusal to wear sakha, sindoor et al. indicate of her unwillingness to accept her marriage?
Can it not be a matter of convenience? Her personal choice? A dislike for the particular accessory? And can marriages sustain when there is no love and mutual respect between the couple by merely keeping up with traditions? And how will they assess the man’s unwillingness? What will be the parameters? Outwardly an Indian man doesn’t have to “look” married ever.
In India, a bride has jewellery for her ankle, toes, head, fingers, neck, wrist, forearms, ears, you name a body part! So, why are there no such things for men?
Is it too difficult to understand that my body is my right, and how I decide to decorate it or not is my choice and I should have the full agency? I do not need to showcase I am married. I dress up as is comfortable to me it has nothing to with my marital status. Can just keeping up with rituals protect women from marital rape, domestic violence and dowry deaths?
Yes, many of these accessories have traditional significance, but at the end of the day, it is something to outwardly adorn your physical features. Yes, some women like to dress up, wear gold jewellery and they carry them with elan, they should do it out of their free will. Like some women love to wear a bindi, sindoor, mangalsutra, shaka pola, chodda and so daily. Let them choose what they want not get compelled. Marriage is a commitment for a lifetime. For a marriage to work, it needs commitment, love, trust, common values and mutual respect. And when a couple has irreconcilable differences no amount of sakha and sindoor can reconcile them.
Image Credit: Hindustan Times
The views expressed are the author's own.