In India invariably, the patriarchs of society have always sought to prescribe limits for women, deciding what is good for them, what they can yearn for as well as what women can do and when. For centuries, women’s identities were taken hostage, so that their existence could be limited to social dictates. One such dictate is that a woman should always marry a groom of her father’s choice. In many homes, women are expected to bow their heads to the patriarch’s will, even if it means sacrificing their choice and love. If they dare to love, then they find themselves at crossroads with tough choices laid out between them, and no matter what they choose, they end up losing one thing or the other.
With their horizons broadening, many women are stepping out of their homes for higher education or to earn a paycheck. This provides them a chance to live on their own terms. However, there is a line they are expected not to cross- when it comes to marriage, they must obey their parents’ wishes. Mind you, patriarchs in many Indian families not only get to dictate when does a daughter get to marry but also to whom.
But does love ever abide by social dictates? What happens when a woman finds love and companionship on her own? What if her father wishes her to marry a groom of his choice instead? Why must a woman even have to face this choice? Why can’t Indian fathers trust their daughters and accept that they know what is good for them?
To marry for love or honour?
Papa ki pasand or the love of my life- This is certainly a question a young woman asks herself at least once in her life- sometimes long before she even has to face this choice. As a country which provides equal rights among all its citizens, is it under the course of action that a woman cannot even choose the person they are supposed to spend their life with? 74 years as an independent nation, but are women of this country truly free?
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A survey done by University of Maryland and the National Council of Applied Economic Research in 2004-2005 and 2011-2012 claimed that only 4.99 percent of Indian women are equipped with the power to choose their own partners. Though it’s 2022, one couldn’t even accept this ratio to increase tri-fold. Give a shoutout in your classroom or at your workplace and you’ll hear many stories from women on lack of choice and sacrifice when it came to love, marriage and dealing with patriarchy at home.
These women are the lucky ones though- they survived. There are many who paid the cost of daring to choose love. In November last year, a father from the city of Bhopal allegedly raped and strangled his daughter to death because she had an inter-caste marriage. In 2020, an 18-year-old girl was allegedly hacked to death by her father after he found her at her boyfriend’s house. There are numerous such incidences to remind us that when women choose love of a father’s notion of honour, also questioning his authority over their lives, the consequences are tragic.
No woman should have to give up on the idea of love or have to adjust for less, simply because her father wishes her to marry a man he approves of. But sadly, we are far from the day when no woman would have to feel obliged or pressured to marry against their own wishes.
Views expressed are the author’s own.