Source : Google photo of marriage in the Western culture
Synopsis : The idea of traditional marriage with all its rituals and fanfare has come under some pressure in many societies where the young people have started to question the validity and the sanctity it proposes .They say that it is not necessary to get married so they choose the live in relationships that frees them from legal entanglements if and when they decide to split. The blog looks at the reasons why most people still believe in the sanctity of marriage because they believe in the institution of marriage.
I have attended numerous marriages in many countries and have observed their rituals attentively to note that they vary widely from country to country, from one religion to the next and from one region to the next within a country. These rituals are designed to cater to the specific cultural as well as the religious requirements so they vary widely although one thing is common to them all. It is the contract the groom and the bride enter into that is supposed to be everlasting and binding legally as well as socially.
Once I was invited to an Algerian wedding in a rural part of the country where I was working as an agronomist so I was curious to know how the rituals were performed. It was my first time so I eagerly went to attend the ceremony dressed as a fellahin ( peasant ) in my camel hair jellaba and sat down among a group of invitees .
Soon they started to talk to me in Arabic that I do not speak or understand so they realized that I was not a fellahin after all and was a foreigner so they were surprised to say the least and started to gossip among them about this strange fellow sitting there dressed as them.
Then their excitement was diverted when a car stopped and a woman clad in a white dress from head to toe was brought and gingerly lowered into the waiting car as if she was sick. I was naturally shocked because it was supposed to be a joyous occasion so I asked someone who was the sick woman. They said that no one was sick. It was the bride who was brought by her relatives this way because no one was supposed to see her face. It was my time to be embarrassed because I really did not know their culture and their rituals so I departed quickly lest something else like this cropped up. I was also spared from their oily food that my stomach did not like at all.
The Algerians who are mostly Moslems have their own traditions and rituals that are different from the Berbers who mostly live in the Djurjura Mountains and who have their own distinct traditions and rituals. I was amazed by the modern ways of the Berber girls in the Kabylie Mountains of Tizi Ouzou who were dressed in miniskirts and invited me to dance with them. I have written a great deal about the Algerians and the country so please read the Chapter five in my biography at the link below : https://storyofalifetimeofanil.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/chapter-five-remember-djamila-algeria-1971-1973/
I am a Bengali so I know a great deal about the Bengali culture and their rituals during the marriage that I have always observed very keenly. People are a product of their culture that emphasizes traditions that carry on rituals from generation to generation to make it embedded. You can’t separate people from their traditions, rituals and culture because it becomes a part of them they value and cherish. ( Read my blog here called Arranged marriage here ). When it comes to marriage in the Bengali Hindu society, they try to show off their culture and rituals in the most visible way possible that may not be understood well by a foreigner.
But the blog is about marriage and its relevance in the modern society that I would like to focus on so I will leave the rituals aside for the time being.
Marriage is or supposed to be a social contract that gives the union between a man and a woman the social approval for procreation. People who procreate without the marriage and the social approval are ridiculed and scorned in most traditional societies. Their illegitimate children are ill accepted by their society so the children face scorn and ridicule in their schools even if it is not their fault that they are illegitimate.
So people in all countries have favored marriage for the purpose of procreation as the legitimate way to bring social harmony and stability. A legally married couple then enjoys all the benefits of the social approval so everybody is happy. The fact that not all the married couples end up living happily ever after is another matter that people are not really concerned about needs to be analyzed further.
So it is one thing to be married with all the glitter and fanfare but quite another thing what happens later when the married couple finds it hard to live with each other for one reason or the other.
I know of a couple that lived miserably and separated when the woman ran away with someone and the fellow took to the bottle that took his life. I attended their marriage in a small town but had no idea what would happen to them or why but such is life. I knew another couple who came to experience disaster in their relationship when the pushy and greedy woman made the fellow to start drinking heavily that eventually killed him. I know of a third couple who had three sons, the youngest being my play pal since my childhood. His father was a very good doctor and deeply religious man who provided well for his family but his wife was unhappy for some reason so one day ran away with a fellow and abandoned her family. The result was so sad that I do not want to write about it here.
The Christians like to repeat the words like staying together in sickness or health ,in riches or poverty etc. until the death do the parting from each other because the marriage is supposed to last until death. This finality of marriage is emphasized in all cultures but many marriages fall apart leading to divorce in many societies where the finality of marriage is not taken seriously. It hurts the children the most when they need the parents during their most vulnerable period and it hurts the couple financially, emotionally and even spiritually.
Then there are cases where a divorce is not only welcome, it is desirable. The infidelity in marriage is a major cause but there may be other reasons as well like financial struggles, drug addiction or alcohol abuse. Couples may come to a point when they can’t tolerate each other due to their emotional detachment, domestic violence and mental and severe emotional stress that is caused by the depressing conditions under which they live. It may be due to the fault of the wife or the husband or both so the result is always the same. (Please read my blog on Drugs and domestic violence here )
In the Catholic Christian societies, divorce is not allowed and a legal separation from each other is a very long and tedious process so most couple who have problems may choose to live separately even though married and take up concubines or lovers thus hurting the children even more.
Some women do not mind being a concubine of someone who provides well and supports financially so infidelity in marriage becomes common in such societies demeaning the sacred nature of the traditional marriage.
I know many such cases in our neighborhood. Now the trend in many countries seems to be the unmarried couple living together who produce children. The man may leave the woman after getting her knocked up for one reason or the other because it is easier to leave someone who is not legally married to someone. Such women are euphemistically called single mothers who then have the sole responsibility of raising their progeny. They take up menial jobs to provide for their children because they get pregnant before they finish their schooling so they are forced to take up whatever job they can find just to survive.
The poorer section of any society where promiscuity and infidelity is common, women don’t wait to get married so they become sexually active at puberty and may produce large number of kids from different people who bear no responsibility of raising them. To them, marriage is desirable but not attainable because of the cost involved that they can’t afford. The groom may be jobless and without any schooling or skills so the burden of raising the kids falls on the shoulder of the woman who looks for any job she can find. Washing clothes for others, working as a maid or as a waitress somewhere to support themselves is perhaps the only choice they have or they may take to the streets which has its own risks. There are millions of prostitutes who are forced into it due to their financial needs to support their illegitimate children in many countries. Many young women get trafficked by evil men who sell them to the brothels.
In India the Hindus who are tradition bound insist on the dowry system demanded by the potential grooms or their families that puts a great and onerous burden on the family of the girls who want to get married. So many young women remain spinsters because of this dowry problem and because the tradition does not encourage women to have boyfriends. The tradition dictates that the women remain virgins no matter what.
The number of unmarried women in the teaching profession is unusually high because they can’t seem to find a match for them. Perhaps men do not like educated and independent women in their patriarchal society. The issue of eligibility of the man and woman who want to get married is a serious one that depends on the age difference, education, employment status, religion, caste and even political affiliation. Where the eligibility of the man and woman is not an issue, the relationships tend to fall apart quickly. Love is blind does not hold much water in such cases.
This is slowly changing in cities but not so much in rural areas that are still very tradition bound. But the traditionalists do not easily accept the Western culture of boyfriend girlfriend relationship in India leading to some tragic consequences. A young girl was gang raped and murdered in a Delhi bus just because she was out late in the evening with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend was beaten senseless.
The Arya Samaj (society) that arranges mass marriage of hundreds of couples without any cost is a boon to all unmarried men and women but millions of women still remain unmarried. In other countries where there are more men than women, the men can’t find mates easily while in countries where there are more women than men, they face a similar problem.
So now a new trend has developed in Japan where you can rent a boyfriend or a girlfriend for a while without any risk of legal entanglement or responsibilities. You will be amazed how a simple condom has liberated millions of women everywhere.
These trends develop due to a necessity to solve the issue of biological demands. These demands are true for both sexes everywhere that is why the traditionalists favor their ways of meeting these demands through legal and society approved marriages. Those who can’t get married because they can’t afford dowry or can’t find a suitable match is not their concern.
So I see now a trend worldwide of couple who choose to live together if they can’t get married. They say that in France and Germany, a very high number of couple just live together and produce large numbers of children because marriage is no longer a relevant issue for them. You will see many people who do not attend Church services because religion does not play an important role in their lives any more. So moving away from their Church and religion makes it easier for them to accept a live in relationship.
It was the role of the Church, the temple or synagogues to keep people religion bound and respect the tradition of marriage but that role in diminishing in many countries. Thus the stigma attached to single mother or illegitimate children does not carry the same weight as before because young people simply say that they don’t care what others think of them.
This brings us back to the question- Is marriage necessary? To answer it, one has to look at the context in which it is asked. If you ask the traditionalists in any country, they will vouch for the sanctity of marriage and say that it is necessary to follow the moral dictates their religion and society demands. Without it, the people start to behave like animals that has a detrimental effect on the society as a whole.
The concept of marriage is a very old one. It teaches that the sanctity of marriage is dependent on both the husband and wife who must share their responsibility equally in a conjugal manner for the benefit of keeping them together and raise their children in a responsible manner.
The young people who say that marriage is not necessary show a callous attitude toward the children they produce who may face severe social disapproval. If they decide to split from their relationship, they end up hurting their children more than they hurt each other because they take their responsibilities casually. This is very selfish to say the least.
In the final analysis I would like to conclude that there are very good and valid reasons why people should value the sanctity of marriage and take their marital responsibilities seriously so that a healthy and moral society is maintained. But the traditional societies also need to reform some of their strict dictates and move towards a more liberal way to get young people married while keeping the essentials of their traditions.
The dowry system should be abolished and the men and women should be free to choose their partners they want to live with the rest of their life. No one should be deprived of the joy of marriage that can bring a fundamental change in their life in a very positive way. A happy marriage brings up good children while an unhappy live in relationship may bring up unloved and uncared for children who get into all sorts of trouble later. (Read my blog called the Institution of marriage here. )
So ask yourself- what do you want ?. The choice is yours.
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