There's something terribly wrong with Indian marriages. Forget equality, we cannot even be sure if the 'typical' Indian marriage can boast of something as basic as mutual respect between two partners. We know, the nation is awakening towards issues like women empowerment and equality, but there's still a long way to go. The Indian law deems any man above the age of 21 fit to get married, but truth be told, you're not fit to be a husband until you fully understand what marriages are and more importantly, what they're not. For the betterment of yourself, the woman you're going to marry, and the society you're going to raise your kids in, here are 10 things you must stand up for before you decide to tie the knot.
1. Dowry isn't always demanded by 'torturing' the bride. There are subtler ways of putting forth your demands and the 'ladke wale' in India flaunt this skill with pride. Your parents may drop hints to the girl's family about the 'things' (read refrigerator, furniture, car, etc) their house desperately needs. Make it stop. Even if the girl's family seems comfortable and willing to disguise the dowry as 'gifts' for the sake of their daughter, you must take a stand against it. It is high time we get rid of even those religious and regional customs that promote the dowry system in any way. The moment you let your parents demand dowry (in any form), you become an equal partner in crime.
2. No matter how much we may have broadened our minds, even today, a woman's virginity seems to be a big deal for Indian men. While they may themselves have been sexually active previously, it is impossible for them to accept the to-be bride's past relationships. Not just that, women are constantly judged and 'evaluated' on their fairness, height, weight and the size of their assets. Before you decide to get married, make sure you're free of such regressive notions. A woman is much more than her body. And, it is not shameful for a man to be married to a woman taller than him. It is your mind and soul that need a match, not your height.
3. It's so deeply imbibed in the Indian culture that the girl's parents would bear all the wedding expenses; most of us don't even realize how much undue pressure it is upon them. Just because you're marrying their girl doesn't mean they owe you a lavish celebration you can boast to your family and friends about. This is as much a social evil as the dowry system. You must either share the expenses or settle in for a simple affair that both the parties can afford.
4. A lot of young men end up going bankrupt, spending all of their savings on their weddings, just to live up to the society's expectations. Is it really worth it? Now, we're not saying you shouldn't celebrate but you must know the importance of hard earned money in adult life. Don't spend to impress others; it's never going to be enough. Of course, if you can afford it, you must celebrate and spend to your heart's delight. But if you're a young, self-made man who wouldn't seek his parent's financial help, you'd much rather opt in for a plain, affordable wedding and save the rest of the money for your future use. Firstly, because it's really going to help you live a comfortable life ahead, and secondly, because giving in to societal pressures is never worth it. Your wedding doesn't need to be better than your friends' or cousins'. It's your wedding, do it your way. Don't spend a fortune on it and regret later.
5. It is not only unfair but extremely regressive of a man to expect his wife to change her second name after marriage. She can be as much a part of your family even with her original name retained. Her willingness to get her name changed is no measure of how dedicated a wife and how 'cultured' a woman she is, which is why it shouldn't be a concern at all. Moreover, she has a lot of emotions attached to her name - it has been a part of her identity all her life. Just because she is married now, doesn't mean she shall lose all individuality. If you're still not convinced, ask yourself if you'd ever be willing to change your name to hers after getting married.
6. It is strange how convenient it is for an Indian man to make his wife stay with his family without having to give anything up himself. When a girl agrees to leave her home and live with you for the rest of her life, you owe her equal respect and love towards her family. Instead of making her distant from her family, promise to spend equal amount of time with her parents as she does with yours or be willing to move in with her parents. The society desperately needs an example of a truly equal marriage. Be that change!
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7. It is high time we let go of gender roles in a marriage. You'd have to put in equal effort to make it work. Help her with the household chores just as she helps you with the finances. Looking after the house shall be as much of your responsibility as it is hers. Doing the dishes or getting the groceries or cleaning the house wouldn't make you any less of a man. It's only going to make you a better husband.
8. Do not marry just to have children. Marrying for the wrong reasons can ruin lives - yours, your wife's, your parents' and more importantly, your kids'. Having said that, if your wife doesn't want kids at the moment, respect her choice. Don't try to force her, or worse, manipulate her for the sake of your parents' expectations. She may be married to you, but she's still an individual who has every right to have her own choices in life. Bearing kids is not the sole purpose of a marriage.
9. It is a shame that something as prevalent as marital rape in our country isn't punishable under the law, yet. There's no excuse for domestic or verbal abuse, and of course, marital rape. Before you marry, you need to pledge to your wife that you will never abuse her in any which way, come what may. Your marriage doesn't give you the right to your wife's body. Do not consider yourself above her in any way to be entitled to exercise your power over her. Her consent matters.
10. Lastly, Indian men must stop seeing their wife as replacements for their mothers. No, she may not look after your family like your mother may have been doing and she may not be the household cook and it is perfectly fine. She may want to focus on her career just like you. Only she gets to decide whether she wants to be a homemaker or not. And when you marry her, you give her an unsaid assurance that says you're going to support her in whatever she wants to do with her life.