The Indian woman seems to have moved beyond the social boundaries that restricted her to make her presence felt in all spheres. She is taking the route that the women in the west took, perhaps a hundred years back. Her own individuality as a woman is gaining focus and a clear example of the same is the cultural shifts in marriages in India.
Changing Cultures in Indian Marriages
Starting right from moving out of the traditional arranged marriage set up, women in India are redefining culture. They are not only rubbing shoulders with men in professional spheres but also taking a lead in personal relationships and marriages.
Striking the Right Balance
As the Indian woman shapes up her new identity, she is forced to leave behind the traditional roles that once defined her. Women are now seen staying apart from their husband, just because their careers demand them to. Many are moving out of their homes for higher degrees and better job prospects. It is a good deal for them, in terms of having the freedom and independence of choosing their own path along with the benefits of marriage.
This shift has been accompanied by the change in the beliefs of Indian men who are more accepting of the idea of an empowered woman who is self-driven, passionate and aspires to make it big in life. However as compared to the western standards, India has a long way to go. The much seen role reversal between men (who have been the traditional bread winners) and women (who have served the family at home) in the west has not been observed in India greatly. This is indicative of the fact that no matter how much we talk about gender equality we are not even close to what is ideal.
Retaining their Freedom and Identity
In India there has been an on-going tradition of women adopting their husband's surname after marriages. This makes marriages seem like an acquisition deal where the wife has to come under the same umbrella brand as the husband.
Well, whether women should adopt their husband's name or not, has been a point of debate and discussion for long. Women are increasingly refusing to use their husbands surname. This is especially the case with women with established careers who may consider changing their surnames a challenge to their established "brand". It is not a question of her commitment to the marriage but rather her decision to preserve her long lived heritage.
The Indian law has also been supportive of this change in attitude. It is absolutely legal now for women to use their maiden names after they get married. The Bombay high court changed its pre-existing rule of forcing women to file for any marriage-related dispute in their husband's surname in September 2011. This comes as a good news to those filing for a divorce and who might be uncomfortable using their husband's name.
Another reason why women today want to retain their surnames is that they find it rather sexist to switch their identity with their husband's. And the fact that there is no expectation from men to change their names after marriage supports their case.
A few women have chosen to stick to their names to carry on the family name in the absence of a male sibling. For some, it is the mere fact that they like their name better than their husbands . Well, everyone deserves to chose their own identity!
Age no barrier for marriage
Women are no longer ready to compromise on their education and get married early which is manifested in the increasing age for marriage . The average age of first marriage has increased from under 18 years in 2006 to more than 22 years now. Women now want to become financially independent and build a successful career before they get married or think of a family.
Increasing commitment to education and work has also resulted in late marriages, late kids and increasing gap between kids. In the decade ending 2012, the number of teenage marriages and pregnancy reported a decline of 32%. With the increasing average age of marriage, 47% of the women in urban India have babies in 24-29 age bracket, a contrast as compared to rural India.
A job makes a woman self-sufficient and many have chosen to not get married at all. The proportion of unmarried women has increased since the last decade as many of them chose to remain single and focus on professional life and entrepreneurial venture.
It is a change in the ideology of women, who are now better equipped to manage their professional and personal life. They have their priorities clear in life and they know what to chose when. What is right to them may not be the ideal thing to do given the social environment in which we live, but it is important to remember that takes time for cultures to evolve and thinking to change. All you need to do is maintain your ground and believe in yourself and your ideologies. Right or wrong is a very objective view of a situation that requires subjective analysis. The only thing that matters is the decision should be taken by the person who is affected by it and not some year-old tradition or family pressure. Real power comes from the ability to make your own decisions and if one wants to empower women, this might be the first step to begin with.
- Jasmine Makkar
Jasmine Makkar is a first year PGDM- Finance Student at SPJIMR. She has completed her graduation in Economics(H) from Lady Shri Ram College, DU. She enjoys writing, dancing and is a theatre enthusiast.
Follow Jasmine at jasminemakkar.insideiim.com