Why Do Indian Parents Prioritise Caste, Religion And Culture Over Love?

inter caste marriage, Sydney sikh woman arranged marriage

A Sikh woman Jas Kaur opened up about being disowned by her parents for marrying against their choice and out of their culture and religion. And I could relate with each and every word she wrote on her  Instagram post. Marriage in India is less like a partnership but more like a legitimisation of sexual relationship between two people whose union has been sanctioned by caste, religion and society. Even today women do not have the freedom to choose the man she wants to marry. The stronghold of religion, caste and community is still so pervasive that it gets to decide the fate and future of its women. And if she dares to make a choice of her own, she has to pay the price by being disowned or killed for family honour. Even though we have come a long way in battling with sexism in workplaces, public places and institutions, the patriarchy that thrives at home leave us torn.

Jas Kaur’s story clearly shows how the patriarchal toxicity in the family makes a woman’s life difficult. Right from the clothes a woman wears, the course and career she pursues to the friends she meets and the man she marries, all the decisions are taken by the parents. This stems from the belief that a woman is too naive to make the right decisions and that her honour which is as fragile as hymen coincides with the family’s and community’s honour. Ultimately, a woman is torn between two lives, one where she rules over her choices and voice and the other where she lets them be ruled and subdued by her family members to not lose them forever. But why should women pay such a huge price of being separated from their birth givers for loving and living freely? Why do families obsess over their social positions and log kya kahenge rather than their daughters’ happiness? Where is the choice and freedom of the women? Who will care for their happiness if the family itself denies it?

Also Read: How My Patriarchal Family Broke Me. And My Mother Watched In Silence

This brings us to the idea of the importance of the social position. Families in India define their honour and pride by their caste and religion. India is a country where discrimination against Dalit and other underprivileged sections of the society is a glaring reality and caste is a legit criterion to validate a person’s identity. Marriage becomes a medium to consolidate a family’s reputation in society and to solidify the hold of social hierarchy. In that case, inter-caste and inter-religion marriages pose a threat to the homogeneity and unity of a community puffed with hubris. Cases of honour killing as a result of inter-caste or inter-religion marriage has been reported frequently. While Kaur’s story, whose parents were an immigrant in Sydney, is not of honour killing par say, it does prove that the obsession with religion and caste in marriage is a reality in every section of the society.

But are parents even aware of the loss that they are incurring by prioritising culture and caste in marriage over love and understanding?

In our society marriage is seen as a certificate to legitimise any relationship between man and woman, whether it is of love, politics or hatred. Be it domestic violence, marital rape or ill-treatment by the in-laws, everything is summed up as a part of marriage. There are no laws which are effective and without nay loopholes to support and provide justice to a married woman. In such situations, if a marriage is devoid of love since the beginning, do parents know how much loss can it cause to their daughter who is always expected to compromise and not raise a voice? Or are parents and society too blinded by the pride over caste and culture that they have become insensitive to a woman’s happiness and pain?

Unfortunately, that is what is visible in Kaur’s story and of many others who relate with her. If a woman has to think twice before pursuing a man she loves so passionately; if she has to live a fake life with a fake smile just to deserve her parents’ support; if she has to live in the fear of being disowned and killed by her own family; can she ever be happy to live in a free country and with loving parents? And it doesn’t end here. Even if a woman decides to marry by her parents’ choice, there is no guarantee that they will support her if her marriage fails and she wants to quit. So there seems to be no good option that a woman can embrace and expect happiness. But then, between two bad options, we always go for less bad which is the one that ensures a woman’s freedom and happiness, with or without parents, the one that Jas Kaur chose.

Views expressed are the author’s own

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