Saturday, January 27, 2007

More on Sex and Marriage in India

As I've noted previously India seems to be on the verge of a sexual inspired by international TV shows (e.g. Sex in the City), the activities of Bollywood stars, and the stirrings of India's discontented youth. As for hard numbers, arranged marriage very much remains the norm, but much is shifting. Assisted marriages wherein a friend/go-between rather than parents facilitate introductions occurs as do out-and-out love marriages. And for many of the 20 and 30 something parents we've spoken to who are themselves in arranged marriages, they foresee love marriages for their children. And ideas about family have shifted, too. While previously Indian families had upwards of five or six children, now many young couples consider two children the ideal.

Arranged marriage has been practiced in such a way where ones' parents are full party to the activities of the nuptial couple. They declare how many children they should have, when the bride's tubes should be tied, etc. What Westerners might consider personal decisions very much function as family decisions.

While divorce does occur in India, it's considered shameful...and especially in the context of an arranged marriage, it is avoided at all costs. This condition has certainly contributed to what have been considered dowry deaths. While dowry has been legally banned since the 1980s, nonetheless a wife does inherit wealth from her family that can be considered the property of her and her husband. Untimely deaths (the first seven years after the wedding) are investigated. While the husbands' family routinely reports that the bride was unhappy and must have committed suicide, the pressures of arranged marriage are often at the core. Sexual incompatibility can be an issue. Brides report that they are being used sexually and that their husbands don't treat them in a loving way. And grooms claim the bride doesn't excite them...that perhaps she's not as pretty as the picture her parents' received.

From a safe distance I wonder where young India is headed. Will they embrace their version of a Western way? Will they push aside the prudery of the conquering British and before them the sexually restrictive Muslim Monguls and fashion their own versions of an enlightened Kama Sutra? It IS a very interesting time.