Last night my friend and I were talking about open marriages. The idea of swinging partners for sexual needs while being committed to one thrilled my friend a lot. “Then what is stopping you?” I asked. “If I marry, I will be the izzat of the family. And to preserve that I will have let go of my desires,” she sighed. The conversation yet again brought to the fore the idea of women embodying the izzat or the honour of the family. But dear society, if women are the izzat of the family, then give them the value they deserve. Are you doing that yet?
The idea of open marriage is certainly new in India. Even though less than 1 per cent of couples are into open marriages, it is a trend for some couples to spice up their sex life and not let monotony affect their relationship. However, in India, rarely, a couple will openly speak about being in an open marriage because it is just not possible for families to imagine their bahus (Daughters-in-law) having sex with men other than their husbands. For Indian families, Ghar ki izzat rests in the" target="_blank" rel="noopener"> vagina of the woman, which should be owned by one man, her husband.
Before marriage, they have the burden of preserving the izzat of their parents and after marriage, they become the izzat of both marital and paternal family. But it is ironic that even though women carry this huge responsibility of representing the reputation of their families, they have to do so by giving up their desires, freedom and individuality. Even though they embody the izzat, they are never valued by the family member. They are often rendered as pair ki dhul (dust on the feet).
Dear society, just imagine, if women are both izzat and pair ki dhul, what does it say about the family's reputation? Is it as light as dust or as fragile as hymen?
If some women decide to own their sexuality then they are called characterless or are slut-shamed. Their choices to explore their sexuality intimidates society. This is especially because when women own their bodies whether they want to be intimate with one partner or more becomes their choice and not of the family, husband or society.
Of course, open marriage is a complex idea. It should not be done without proper conversation, consent and understanding between partners. But is it fair that women have to kill their desires of swinging sexual partners just because they embody the izzat of the family? Is it right to force women to prioritise their status as Ghar ki izzat or property of someone over their own needs and desires?
A woman’s body is her own. It is her choice how she wants to use it. Family, husband or society should not have a say in how her body should be labelled. A woman’s body is neither owned by someone nor up for sale. Having sex once or more doesn’t blotch the character or izzat of the woman. It only represents a woman’s bodily autonomy not her character.
The views expressed are the author's own.