Wedlock in lockdown

Women of marriageable age are under pressure from their parents to get married soon. Stuck at home due to the pandemic, they have no choice but to listen to harangues about how time is running out 

The ongoing pandemic has negatively impacted normal life. Needless to say, this impact has not been uniform — some have had to face far more problems than others. The sociological impact of the lockdown can be felt by millions of people.

One such — often overlooked — impact is that it pushed many to get married. There are reports that the lockdown pushed many teenage girls into early marriage, especially in poor households.

The pressure to get married and start a family is not limited to households with low incomes. In lower middle as well as middle class families,youngsters who are of the so-called “marriageable age”, instead of the coaxing they were used to, are now being pressured. This pressure is relatively far more for girls.

Amiti, a research student in DU, who is in her mid-20s was really perturbed with her parents’ pestering. She is the eldest daughter of a feudal Brahmin family in Alwar. Since the lockdown started, she has been staying with her parents, while simultaneously  teaching college students in online classes.

“I am stuck in my hometown and can’t go out. So those conversations that I used to hear once in a while, I now hear on a daily basis. I can’t convince my parents that in our generation marriage is not the priority.” She said, “This lockdown gave them some kind of licence to impose their dreams of my marriage on me, which is giving me a lot of anxiety. I don’t want to see boys as of now. I am already worried about admissions in PhD and job security.”

Getting a good groom or bride at marriageable age is the basic premise of parental pressure. The quarantine gave parents an opportunity to convince their daughters and sons through whatever means possible about prospective partners and about the threat of losing the opportunity to get a good match and in-laws once they go beyond marriageable age.

“Parents assume that if we are of marriageable age then we are ready for marriage. Age doesn’t prepare anyone,” says Anupriya (name changed), who is working in an MNC based in Noida.

This pressure is not just coming from the parents but also from your partner’s side. Mumbai-based PR professional Prerna Gupta (name changed) is facing such a situation. Her boyfriend, due to his age, is planning to marry but she is uncertain about marriage right now.

“Me and my boyfriend have an age difference of four years. For him it is the time to get married. His parents are saying if you guys have decided, you should marry as soon as possible.” Prerna is just 25 and she wasn’t in any hurry to get married until pressure started coming from his parents’ side.

“He is staying alone in Gurugram and earning well. He is meeting other girls if this is not happening with me. His parents are saying that you should marry, you don’t know how long this pandemic would last as he is passing that age. I don’t want to lose him but of course I am younger and taking this decision to marry now is a lot tougher.”

Some women took to social media to discuss this marriage pressure. A Twitter user wrote, “My parents are sucking the life out of me in this lockdown because I’m turning 30 and I’m not married. I’ve massive anxiety at the mention of arranged marriages even though I might have to give in under family pressure.”

This tweet provoked a whole discussion and some more women came forward to talk about similar pressure.

Our society is obsessed with marriage and feels a sense of burden in the case of a girl child, as finding her a good groom is top priority. They definitely want her to “get settled” when she is in her twenties.

“Marriage is not just two people living together. It is a burden of customs, rituals. You have to manage families, which requires time to get ready,” says Aishwarya, a Delhi-based professional working for an NGO.

“Our society doesn’t value singlehood much. What’s wrong in my being single and earning well? This is not just frustrating but also goes over my head.”

Those couples who are ready to get married, however, should do it now for one good reason. Costs will be low, as many invitees will not venture out into the crowd that is inevitable in Indian weddings. A smaller venue can be chosen and the food bill will be low.

(Cover: An unforeseen impact of the Coronavirus induced lockdowns is the mounting pressure on the youth to get married // Photo: lovelearnings.com)

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