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Meaning of marriage

The meaning of marriage differs from
person to person, and from one time to another. Marriage is perceived by sociologists as a system of roles of
a man and a woman whose union has been given social sanction as husband and
wife. The equilibrium of the system requires adjustment between the two part­ners
so that the role enactment of one partner) corresponds to the role expectations
of the other. In ancient times, marriage is regarded as a contract, for example,
a woman was given to a man almost as a property, and often as a part of a
political, social or business arrangement of some short. The concept of
marriage can also be looked at from a legal point of view. Legally, marriage is
a binding contract between the two members that joins together their income,
health, happiness etc. Marriage is a socially approved pattern whereby two to
more person establish a family. Westermarck, in the history of human marriage,
defines marriage as “a relation of one or more men to one” or more women which
is recognised by custom or law and involves certain rights and duties both in
case of children born of it”. Thus, Westermarck’s definition contains not
only the biological (sexual) aspect but also the social aspect of marriage.

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Mate selection

Marriage, as said above, is a very important social institution. That is
why no society allows a couple quietly to pair off and start living as husband
and wife. Marriage is too important for such casual arrangements. There are two
methods given as follow for the selection of mates:


All people prohibit marriage between individual sharing certain degrees
of blood relationships. This is know as exogamy i.e., marriage outside the
group. A man must not only seek a wife out of his own clan but also must avoid
the clan of all the grand-parents. Then there are certain relations which are
not to be married, but the degree of nearness differs from community to
community. Exogamy also called out-marriage, custom enjoying marriage outside
one’s own group, religion, class or race.


Sometimes restrictions are imposed that the other partner is to be
selected from the caste to which the first partner belongs. Marriage within the
class is known as endogamy. Hence marriages with out-group members are prohibited.
Even today inter-caste marriage are not encouraged. In India endogamy is mostly
obligatory. However, today endogamous attitudes have somewhat relaxed and
softened and we sometimes hear of an inter-caste marriage but that is not
common as yet.

Evolution of marriage

Marriage is most important institution
of Indian society. The ancient human society was a nomadic society. Empirical
evidence on the origins of marriage is small, as it evolved cross-culturally at
different times and has been defined in different ways. In early society, caste endogamy was functional be­cause it
preserved the occupational secrets of the caste, maintained the solidarity of
the caste and checked decrease in the membership or strength of the caste. In
the present society, though it makes marital adjustment easier, yet it has
proved to be dysfunctional in some ways since it creates inter-caste tensions
which adversely affect the political unity of the coun­try, makes field of
mate-selection limited and circumscribed, and creates problems of dowry, child
marriage, etc.

In ancient time no rights were given to women
for choosing her life partner. Only the family members used to decide the life
partner of the girl. Married women had very less rights, in any case like they
had no right over the property of her husband, also they cannot represent themselves
legally, other places in the developed world, beginning
in the late 19th century and lasting through the 21st century, marriage has
undergone gradual legal changes, aimed at improving the rights of the wife.
These changes included giving wives legal identities of their own, abolishing
the right of husbands to physically discipline their wives, giving wives
property rights, liberalizing divorce laws, providing wives with reproductive
right of their own, and requiring a wife’s consent when sexual
relations occur. These changes have occurred primarily in western
countries. In the 21st century, there continue to be controversies regarding
the legal status of married women, legal acceptance of or leniency towards
violence within marriage (especially sexual violence), traditional marriage
customs such as dowry and bridge price, forced marriage, marriageable
age, and criminalization of consensual behaviours such as premarital  and extramarital

Present lower status of women

As we all very well aware of the fact that in world population of women
is equal to that of men. Sex ratio of women is 50%. But the scenario is
different in our country . The situation of decreasing sex ratio of male to
female is the reason of unequal social status of women with men. Critics of the
Indian family system say that Indian women do not enjoy equal rights with men
in the social, political, religious and economic fields; that they are ill
treated and that they cannot claim any share in the family property. It is evident
from our ancient culture that in one hand we treat women as goddess in form of lakshmi,
Durga and the other second all the illegal and horrible offenses like rape, sexual
exploitation, kidnapping etc. Before marriage a women depends on her father,
after marriage on her husband and in old age on her sons. She never has an independent
living according to her own likes and dislikes but is made to live as her patrons
direct her to live. She from the cradle to the grave has to bear degradation and
insult silently and if the husband dies leaving her still young she is forced
to live a widowed life and is not allowed to remarry.

As per the constitution today, we give equal rights to women and share
equal status on the basis of equality principle. Women struggled a lot to gain
or achieve this equality. Our ancient era is the witness of this inequality. Women
were also used for dance to please kings, women was also not having the right
to speak loudly. These are some examples that prove that in ancient time also
there was inequality between men and women.

Reform movements

In rise of 20th century Mahatma Gandhi has started national
movement for liberalization of women Social reform like Raja Rammohan Roy,
Chander Vidyasagar, Justice Ranade and Nataranjan started movements to put an
end to some of the inhuman practice. These reforms did succeed to some extent
and were able to get certain Acts passed putting an end to some evil practices.
The all India Women Conference also did its bit to improve the conditions of women.
Women in large numbers began to take part in the freedom movement. The part
that they played amazed the world. Their picketing of liquor and foreign good
shops, marching in demonstrations, courting prisons, facing lathi charges and
bullets, all these things were unique in the history of a country where women
were suppressed, degraded and insulted through the centuries. The age-old
restrictions were broken within no space of time, slowly and gradually women
acquired more and more rights without even begging for them. The Hindu Marriage
Act of 1955, the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, The Dowry Prohibition Act of
1985 and the Commission of Sati Act, 1987 are fresh efforts to remove most of
the disabilities from which Indian women are suffering. The Department of Women
and Child Development in the Government of India has been given the main
responsibility of coordinating and executing the welfare programmes for women
in India. A number of voluntary agencies are working in the field of women
development. Women Development Corporation have been set up to assist women in
better employment opportunities. The year 1987 was declared International Women
Year. A Nation Commission of self-employed women has also been appointed. The
73rd Amendment Act has reserved one-third seats for women in the
local bodies and now there is a move for similar reservation in the
Parliamentary election. However, there is much to be done especially for the
womenfolk of the village where old prejudices and customs still hold deep roots
in the family life.

Dowry System

Another problem
that is to be considered regarding marriage problems in India is the commercial
aspect of the marriage. By it we mean the dowry system. It needs no mention
with what evils the system is fraught. The father of the girl commits suicide
because he has not been able to manage for the dowry demanded by the parents of
the boy. Sometimes the girl herself commits suicide on that account. Due to
dowry system the parents are sometimes compelled to marry the girl to a man who
is almost fit to be her father. The parents often commit theft, forgery or
misappropriation, to arrange for dowry. The government of India having realized
the evils of the system has brought a Dowry Prohibition Act on the statute
book. With the passage of the Act it is hoped the evils of the system will be
removed. But the Act by itself would not be able to achieve its purpose unless
public opinion is aroused against the system.

Practice of Sati

Sati was a practice followed by some
communities in India in which a recently widowed woman used to sacrifice
herself in her husband’s funeral pyre and she was burned with the dead body
of  her own husband. The history behind
sati, Sati, the wife of  Daksha, was so
overcome at the demise on his funeral pyre. Sati was the consort of Lord Shiva.
She burnt herself in fire as protest against her father, Daksha did not give
her consort Shiva the respect she thought he deserved.

prevention Sati Act, 1829. The idea of  Pativratya had led to inhuman practice of
‘sati’. Widows were forced to make a Sankalpa to die after their husbands. Some
were even pushed over their husband’s funeral pyres. It was the efforts of
famous Brahmo Samaj active Sri Raja Rammohan Roy who took up this cause of
women. He could convince the then British Governor-General of India, Lord
Bentick and a legislation was passed prohibition the practice of sati. This act
saved the lives of many widows over a period of time. This Act declared the practice
of sati as a couple homicide punished with fine and/or punishment.

The most important legislations related to marriage are given below:

1.     Hindu Widow Remarriage
Act, 1856. This legislation came as a compliment to the “Prevention of Sati Act
of 1829”. To remove the pathetic condition of Hindu widows, a well-known social
reformer, Pundit Ishwara Chandra Vidyasagar pressurised the British government
to make legal provision for widow marriage. Therefore hindu Widow Remarriage
Act of 1856 was passed.

Civil (or Special) Marriage Act, 1872.
This legislation has treated Hindu Marriage as a ‘Civil Marriage’ and a legal
permission for intercaste, interreligious and even registered marriage.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929.
This act came into effect on 1st April 1930. This Act restrains the
Child Marriage. This Act announced the marriage of boys under 18 and girls
under 14 years as an offence.

This Act was amended in 1978, which further raised the age for a boy to 21
years and for girls to 18 years. Violation of this Act has a provision of
punishment (3 months of simple imprisonment and a fine up to Rs. 1,000) for
bridegroom, parents, guardian and the priest who are party to the marriage.
Women are not punished under this Act.

Hindu Marriage Act of 1955.
This act came into force on 18 May 1955. The Act brought revolutionary change
in marital relation and many social asprcts. The Act is applicable to the whole
in India, except Jammu & Kashmir. The word “Hindu” includes Jains, Sikh,
Budhists and the Scheduled Castes.


Even though India is emerging in all the fields
for improvement, its culture of showing inequality for women is still not
changed in form of marriages. The dowry system, stove burnings, female foetus
abortion ratio all state and remain as an evidence for the issue. Even though
these factors are a hindrance to the emerging society, this tradition is
important in every means to lead a decent life in India. The empowerment of
women has given a new dimension for them to show their talents in many fields.
The government has allotted 33% for the women to encourage their ability and
prove that women in India are living in a modern era and not that of the times
when they were not given permission to study or come out of their houses. This
initiative from the government in the past has made India accept the first
president after the regime of A.P.J.Abdul Kalam. Even though government has
been giving many percentages for women, the tradition of arranged marriages
won’t change in the coming years. The deed of arranged marriages is also
related to the respect and pride got from the close family relatives and
friends on regarding the marriage system. In India, almost 90% of the marriages
are arranged and successful owing to these positive outcomes, people go by the
traditional way of arranging the marriages. The practice of arranged marriages
in India cannot be judged as a false idea because of the divorce rates in India
are less than 5% of the total marriages and the society is optimistic about
these outcomes.



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