Marriage and motherhood are considered as the coveted trophies that a woman must achieve in her life. So imagine if you are an unmarried woman, how the society perceives you? There have been many debates and policies to make marriage a safer space for women and provide the rights a married woman deserves. Of course, these discussions are necessary. But what if a woman doesn’t want to get married at all?
Do our society and the government make ideals and policies that provide rights and comfort to a single woman? Amidst the current discussion of raising a woman’s marriageable age in India, is our society liberated enough where women can freely choose to not marry at all? Yes, it is normal for women to not have marriage as a goal. But is our society ready to normalise it?
Every time when I say to my parents that I don’t want to marry, their reply is “shaddi nhi karogi toh or kya karogi?”
As if shaadi is an essential achievement in life without which my CV is worthless. Their major argument in support of marriage in a woman’s life is that how can a woman possibly survive alone and on her own bank balance? She certainly needs a male partner/protector who is powerful, mature and earns more. But today when women are potential leaders of the world and its economy, why marriage still remains an inevitable part of their lives?
If marriage is all about seeking financial and social protection, it will make no sense to women who can earn a stable and secured life on their own.
Rather than this flawed definition, if marriage is about choosing to spend your life with someone you love, it will still not justify its inevitability. Because it isn’t necessary for a woman to marry to spend her life beside someone. Moreover, it isn’t wrong either if a woman chooses singlehood, devotion towards career and passion and bank balance as her life partner.
But even if a woman makes a personal choice of not marrying, the major obstacle that she has to face is log kya kahenge? Singlehood is still seen as an unrealistic ideal of life that fades away once a person faces the real world, real struggles and real people. Even today, a single or unmarried woman is objectified as khuli tijori to the mindsets that predate on women’s sexuality.
Why can’t an unmarried woman be accepted like an unmarried man is? Simply? Why not?
Even today, a woman is forcefully married after her education or sometimes in the middle of it before she is too empowered or too aged to fit into the charcterstics of a suitable bride and mother. We still have a minister who believes that women should marry after 18 and stay happily in her sasural while another who thinks that women should always be accompanied by her male counterparts on the streets.
Watch this video on Marriage A Goal for an Unmarried woman?
But is it a woman’s naivety or the society’s narrow mindedness that has made singlehood an impossible reality? And should a woman change her choices just because society is not ready to accept a defiant woman?
This is the change that we need to bring in our society. For women to freely choose to not marry, it is important for the society and the government to normalise women’s independence, empowerment and singlehood.
Because it cannot be ignored that the question of marriage is not just a personal choice for an unmarried woman in our society but an intersection of moral and patriarchal judgements.
Once the society sheds its prejudices, it would be easier for a woman stay unmarried. But, mark my words, society cannot stop a woman from making the choice on the firsthand. It is normal for a woman to not marry although it is not easy.
Views expressed are the author’s own.