Tag Archives: Marriage

Apparently, Only Hindu Marriages Break Down

The working of the Indian legislature is like a mother whose kids are out of control, and she keeps chasing them and cleaning up their mess after them. We work with need-based legislation, rather than initiative legislation which works to achieve the broader goals of our Constitution and culture.  This new hype about divorce being allowed on grounds of “breakdown of marriage” seems good to me as an idea and as a need of society but what disturbs me is the fact that such an amendment is being introduced only in the Hindu Marriage Act, as though people of other religions/communities don’t have an equal right to divorce when they are in a state of irreconcilable misery in their marriages. Of course, the reason for ignoring other personal laws is purely vote bank politics. But there are many aspects of the marriage laws of Hindus as well as non-Hindu religions which are shocking and would stir up great controversies if people would only be made aware of them.

For example, it is widely known that children born of a marriage between a Muslim father and a non-Muslim mother are not entitled to a share in their father’s inheritance. I came to know only recently that the exact same law applies to the inheritance of a Hindu – the children of a Muslim woman born to a Hindu man are not entitled to their father’s property! This is despite a British-made law (the Caste Disabilities Removal Act, 1850) which provides that conversion to another religion cannot result in the loss of a person’s rights over his family’s property. Shockingly, Hindu law does not discriminate by religion only in terms of inheritance, but also in guardianship. The laws of Hindu Guardianship mandate that a convert to a non-Hindu religion (i.e. Judaism, Islam, Christianity) cannot be a legal guardian of a Hindu child, even if it is his own child.

Another absurdity that recently came to my knowledge was the absolute neglect of the Christian Marriage Act, and its provisions which would be considered ridiculously outdated in any other part of the world. A Christian man has the right to seek divorce on grounds only of adultery, but his wife must prove adultery along with one of the following: incest, bigamy, cruelty,  desertion, etc to have the right to seek divorce. And we judge the Islamic world for their stone age laws! Moreover, a Christian marriage cannot take place at night: a minister who solemnizes a Christian marriage between the hours of 7 pm and 6 am is liable to imprisonment of up to 3 years, with a fine, for his offense! The only exceptions to this law of timing are made for special permissions from the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, or the Roman Catholic Church. Why do foreign churches have the right to bypass Indian laws and why don’t Indian churches have the right to let their members marry at whichever hour pleases them?? According to the laws of all marriages taking place in India, no person below the age of 18 can be legally married. However, several provisions relating to marriages of minors under the Christian Marriage Act have not been repealed or amended.

As for Muslim law, the practice of “triple talaq” is an unacceptable way of divorcing one’s wife in several Islamic countries such as Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Bangladesh, and even Pakistan. But in India, this anomaly still flourishes and we cannot foresee an amendment any time in the near future. The case of bigamy and polygamy has affected several women and families who have approached the judiciary for their right to equality under Articles 13 and 14 of the Constitution (providing that laws which violate fundamental rights are void, and that all citizens have a fundamental right to equality including gender and religion equality). The Supreme Court has, however, kept itself away from the controversy of striking down personal laws as unconstitutional – it has maintained the stand that changes in personal laws must be brought about by legislative action, and that personal laws are outside the scope of Article 13. What this essentially means is that as long as the Parliament is sitting quietly, the fundamental rights of individuals can be violated without remedy by the personal laws governing such individuals.

What this calls for is proactive measures by the legislature to seek the good of the people and to enact laws which minimize the inequality that exists and is agitated by controversial personal laws. Ideally, we would like to see this in the form of a Uniform Civil Code. It may not be practical to enact a UCC all at once, but as of now we cannot even see the appearance of the form of one in the distant horizon. Unless the legislature gets its act together and disciplines its children to act according to instruction, instead of chasing after them and being controlled by their demands, our legal system will continue to be hijacked by the Khap Panchayats, the whimsical fatwas of attention-seeking Maulvis and any other player who wants to have a go at it.

Note:  I am not a lawyer. This post has come about as a result of conversations with friends who are lawyers, as well as some internet research.

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A Wife, Made To Order …

My visitors have just left my house, phew! They came unannounced and left me rattled with their conversation. Come May and the Hindu marriage calender is buzzing again. My guests had  come to invite us for their son’s marriage. I am not particularly fond of the couple, still I tried to make conversation by showing an interest in their son’s impending marriage.

“What is the girl doing?”, was my first question. I didn’t need to ask another question, the mother of the would be groom started like I had turned the ignition key of the latest model of imported cars. The girl is an MBA, she very proudly informed us  but she won’t be working, she announced in the same breath. In our family we don’t want our bahus to work outside the house; we refused a few marriage proposals for our son earlier because the girl was insisting on continuing with her profession even after marriage. She sounded like the all powerful and well placed bureaucrats in the government of India who could make or break the careers of many a budding businessmen. It seemed as if  wanting to be financially independent after marriage was some kind of crime. If this was the case why on earth did they want a professionally qualified wife for their  son? Why force a woman to give up her years (read decades) of hard work for a man and his household?

All they wanted for their son was a too-good-to-be-true wife. One who was prepared to finish her professional aspirations so that she can devote her full attention to the big baby in her life — her husband. And about why they wanted an educated wife for their  son, they had an answer. The boy wanted a professionally qualified girl who could be good company to him in ‘society’. To me  it meant a bahu who is more like a trophy won by the boy and his family. The other reason was that an educated mother is always good for the children. What the prospective bride wants, is nobody’s concern. They don’t want her to be financially independent because that would mean an empowered woman who would be in control of her life and take decisions of her own free will.

All this rantings and ramblings by me  no way means that in my opinion women who stay at home looking after their families are less in anyway. My point is that what a woman wants to do should be her choice and not forced on her by the family. It is not that a career woman has an easy ride in our society.  She has to work outside and also double up as a full time  homemaker. I do know of couples where men help their wives in the kitchen although that depends on the the level of confidence of the husband. An insecure man would never like to be seen helping his wife with the  household chores. The point is that women who are forced to sacrifice their  selves to maintain balance in their marriages invariably end up frustrated and disillusioned. It doesn’t matter if they are homemakers or career women.

I am not  sure about who is happier, a woman working outside the house or somebody who has decided to stay at home taking care of the family, it is an individual choice. Some women may happily love to sacrifice their careers for the sake of their family and enjoy it but when they have to do it because of somebody’s ego, it is unfair.

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Before You Say, “I Do”…

After Rakhi Sawant and the endless  will she- won’t she controversies, Rahul Mahajan is ready for a Swayamvar. There is another programme currently being broadcast on Star Plus called Perfect Bride in which apart from prospective bride and groom, the prospective mother-in- law is also involved. It seems that reality shows based on marriages are the current favourites.

While surfing different entertainment television channels, I heard a Sanskrit Shlok on NDTV Imagine which went something like this – Karyeshu Dasi, Karaneshu Manthri; Bhojeshu Mata, Shayaneshu Rambha.. I can hear only this much, after that something else begins. This Sanskrit shlok seems to be the theme of a popular programme . As far as I can understand this shlok means- that an ideal wife works like a servant, advises like a minister, feeds like a mother, makes love like Rambha (a beautiful courtesan in Indra’s darbar) and the expectations go on.. I am sure the expectations are much more from the wife as the shlok continues. This shlok depicts the expectation of an Indian male thousands of years ago, I tried to imagine what a typical Indian male today expects from his wife! I don’t know of any Sanskrit shlok depicting the expectations of a wife so I can’t imagine what a woman in those days expected from her husband. I can try to imagine a young woman’s expectation today from her spouse.

In a culture like ours  marriages are considered to be the make or break moment for the person, his parents and upto a certain extent his or her extended family. What makes two different people risk their whole life, peace of mind and happiness is a mystery to me. I took the plunge more than a couple of decades ago and am quite happy about it. Now when I look back I consider it youthful recklessness. Mine was a an arranged marriage and there was very little in common between the two of us, I guess it was a typical case of opposites attract. We are still very different and I am sure if given a chance we will choose each other as life partners (only life partners, in any other situation we don’t think alike at all :) )  The post is not about me, it is about young boys and girls of marriageable age.

After going through different matrimonial sites I realised that physical appearance is fairly high on most people’s  lists when they go looking for a suitable wife. The mothers I am sure are looking for adeptness with housework. Family background is important for both the parents. For girls in general, compatibility in mental, physical, and material spheres seems to be more important than anything else. Usually in arranged marriages physical and material considerations  i.e. ethnicity, family background, education, looks, etc. seem to be more important than other factors. Practically speaking, other than these there is hardly any thing one can judge before meeting the prospective groom or bride many times.

Relevant questions  which could matter could be-  Do you squeeze the toothpaste tube from the bottom or from the middle or do you replace the lid of the toothpaste after use? How fussy are you about food or are you willing to help your wife in the household chores? Civic sense and etiquettes should be high on the list.

A couple of days ago I  was visiting a friend in the hospital. I had opened the door to enter the gallery leading to her room when a young man just walked through the door as though it had been opened for him without even smiling, nodding or saying thank you. I don’t expect chivalry from young men anymore but this looked rude. A young man I know used to say that the person he was looking for should be young, not very well educated and completely malleable. He  said, he would prefer a small town girl to somebody  from a metro because they are ready to adapt to the new family better. I haven’t met him after he got married but I am curious to know how is he faring in his role as a husband. Another young boy I met wants to marry a well educated girl, MBA or any other professional qualification but wants her to stay at home and manage the house. When I asked him why does he want a professionally qualified girl if he is looking for a home maker, his answer was that he has a reputation to protect. A typical MCP I thought! There is no dearth of boys and girls living in the world of their dreams and waiting for their made to order spouses.

It is said that  matches are made in heaven and solemnised on earth, If it was true there should have been no breakups and no divorces. There are no guarantees!

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