At only twelve years old, Muklesha was sold into marriage to a man in his seventies, conceived a child, and three years later was yet again sold into forced marriage and suffered domestic abuse at the hands of her second husband. Unfortunately, Muklesha is one of many thousands of women and girls in India, that are sold and forced into marriage, receiving a terrible and harsh lifetime. With a population of 1,281,935,911 (July 2017 est. ), an economy GDP of 6. 7% (2017 est. ), and an economy PPP of $7,200 (2017 est. ), India continues to be the second most populated country in the world, containing one-sixth of the world’s total population. Hinduism is the predominant religion, but Buddhism and Jainism also originated there. The invasion of Islamic peoples in the eighth century contributes to the minority of Muslim practicing individuals. India’s social system is sectioned into social ranks called caste systems, which determine where each person’s status and function in society is.
After gaining independence from Britain in 1947, India continued the form of parliamentary government instituted under British colonial rule. Because of India’s fast growing economy, experts predict that it will soon be one of the world’s primary markets. Although India is an advanced country, some problems continue to exist, such as the approach to marriage. Forced and fake marriages continue to exist in India because of historical traditions and the benefits it brings to the families. Forced marriages in India remain the cultural norm and are widely practice throughout all levels of society. The definition of a forced marriage is when one or both participants within the marriage do not consent or agree to the involvement of the act, and furthermore are not allowed to leave the said marriage after being pressured into a union. Frequently, these decisions are made by the victims’ parents, relatives, or matchmakers close to the family, and often the affected ones do not have a final say in the decision. According to Rao Prakasa, author of Marriage, the Family and Women in India, “[Forced] Marriage is treated as an alliance between two families rather than a union between two individuals”. The legal age of marriage is eighteen for females, and twenty-one for males, according to the Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929-1978.
Although sometimes this is not the case, as some families in India will marry their children off when they are young, and they will not consummate the marriage until they are of legal age. While guidelines have been established by the government of India, forced marriages remain a standard part of Indian culture. Forced and fake marriages have continued in India because of historical Hindu traditions within the families. Hinduism first began as a result of the Vedic Hindu culture which originated around 500 BC. The Manu Smriti, a religious book of the Hindu code, had a set of rules that explained the correct and incorrect ways of people’s duties and rights in life, if they wanted to reach a life of pure dharma, the concept of order in the universe. These rules from the Manu Smriti resulted in a patriarchal society in India, that stripped women of their independence, because many believed that they spread promiscuity, which the book stated was an incorrect way of people’s duties and rights. After this, women were lessened as individuals, being put under forced male domination during their life. As the rank and treatment of women in Indian society downgraded, the approach of marriage and her part in it changed. The previous practice of asking of her opinion was stopped, and other customs such as dowry, forced marriages, arranged marriages began to popularize. As a result, forced and arranged marriages became the most common way of marriage in India, especially among Hindus.
Throughout time these practices stuck with the society and families, and eventually became traditions. Guided by the majorities’ belief in Hinduism, these types of marriages are a common, mandatory route taken by India’s young individuals. Forced and fake marriages have continued to exist in India because of the stability and financial gains it brings to the families. The reason families save money by forcing their children to marry at a younger age, is to maintain the tradition of dowry. Dowries are wedding gifts that usually contain money, paid from a bride’s family to a groom’s family to finalize a marriage. Since there is a lower dowry price for younger girls, in order to save money, families will marry off their daughters sooner, when they are very younger. Another way families save money is by not allowing their daughters to receive an education. Dowry prices increase for every year a girl completes a school grade. Therefore, families think of it as a waste of money to not only pay to allow their daughter to get a formal education, but also pay more for her marriage because of the dowry system. Unfortunately, many families actually abort and kill many of their daughters when they are infants, or not yet out of the womb, because they are seen as a financial burden. Without the presence of girls in their families, they will not have to pay a dowry, and will also benefit from their son’s marital dowry from his wife. Families of sons also have advantage because not only will they receive a dowry from the wife, they will also accumulate an extra pair of hands when the wife moves into the groom’s house, therefore making work easier. Because this system dehumanizes women by treating them as other people’s possessions, women are not only kept from having their own economic independence, but also suffer from gender inequality. This relationship is very stable for males and families, for it ensures that women will never have power over, or get a say in their marriage. This guarantees that the form of forced marriage will never be able to end by the actions of the women involved, for they are seen as less. Although there are multiple downsides to forced marriages, the financial stability afforded to families, guarantees their existence.
Due to customs passed down by multiple generations and the financial assistance they can create, forced and fake marriages are maintained in India. The continuance of parental driven decisions, and the strong foundation of Hinduism encourages the continuation of forced marriages. Encouraged by the opportunity of financial stability, families in India seek ways to continue these horrible arrangements, even though it can destroy their children’s life. Despite increasing objections to forced marriages from both the participants and onlookers, both the deeply rooted customs passed down through generations, and the community involvement of this act, suggests that the approach to marriage is not likely to change anytime soon.
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