Arpita was married at the young age of 15. She lived in Durgapur of Kolkata. Her parents married her off to a family that appeared to be well-to-do and a man who was apparently caring. But within a few years of marriage, Arpita’s husband showed his true colours. He started drinking, selling off her jewellery and torturing her daily. Arpita, who didn’t have enough education and was dependent on her husband and in-laws, couldn’t muster the courage to leave the marriage. She also had a daughter from him who was scared and scarred by what she had to witness.
But then, one of her friends encouraged her to seek divorce and promised to be her biggest support. Fuelled by the encouragement, Arpita left the marriage and started living her life as a divorced woman. She completed her graduation online and sought a job in beauty parlours. Today, she works in a famous family salon of Dehri-On-Sone, Bihar and takes care of herself and her daughter on her own. However, Arpita is forced to concoct stories about her existing marriage and wear indoor just to escape the scrutiny that single women undergo in our society.
It is undeniable that a single and financially independent woman is one of the most powerful members of society. Such women defy the necessity of marriage and the idea that men alone can gain financial independence. They normalise the idea that a woman can be happy and complete without any support and permission from a husband. But is society more accepting of such women? Is society ready to encourage the women of their families to follow single independent women as role models? Don’t they label such women as irresponsible, characterless and troublesome?
The reason why some single women like Arpita are forced to pretend their marital status is the social scrutiny that single women are subjected to in our society. For not accepting marriage, single women are demonized as irresponsible and ignorant towards their assigned duty of being a wife. For daring to earn money and live on their own, single women are blamed for shaming the men who believe that women are nothing without them. Just because a woman is single, she is at the risk of being molested as they don’t have a tagline of marriage and a husband who can mark his ownership on them.
The discomfort of the society towards accepting single and empowered women is rooted in their fear that such women might threaten and eliminate the patriarchal standards that govern our society.
It fears that by being able to live on their own, single women might defy the necessity of marriage which is often used to restrict women. Single women also defy the idea that a woman needs a man in order to survive in the rough world.
But dear society, it is high time you turn your fears into norms. Because it is true that marriage is not a necessity in a woman’s life. A woman should marry when she wants to. It can be this year or 10 years later. And if she doesn’t want to, it is also equally a valid choice. Moreover, it is high time society accepts that women do not need to depend on men for their basic needs. Their education and skills are enough to fend for themselves. And how is it right that a woman marries a man just because she needs his money?
This is exactly what feminism wants in women- independence, financial security and freedom.
And single and independent women reflect all of them. I am not saying that married women are less empowered. But single women should not be shamed by being compared to married women. Rather they should be upheld for the strength and hard work they do and consider them as the model for millions of women trying to seek independence.
Single and financially independent women are potential economic forces. Their presence in the workforce and in the market can drive the economy to achieve new heights. As a part of the workforce, they can pull up the GDP by as much as 30 per cent. By being consumers, they can help millions of brands to consider the need of single women and add to the demography of the economy.
In fact, women are increasingly embracing singlehood and seeking financial independence. In our country, there was a 39 per cent increase in the population of single women in India. In 2001, there wear 51.2 million single women and in 2011 the statistics touched the mark of 71.4 million. According to economists and statistics, the rate of employment among single women significantly increases after they are widowed or separated in marriage. The workforce participation for these women has risen from 26 % in 2005 to 47 % in 2011.
Singlehood is a valid choice and a choice that also has a positive impact on society, both socially and economically. And the change is on the verge, we just need to recognise and welcome it. So why don’t we accept women who want to be single? Is there any reason that can argue against it?
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