By Seema Chowdhury
Friday, October 14, 2011
Defying the practice of arranged marriage in India can tear families apart, particularly when young people go outside their castes. The Supreme Court has sided with the young couples, calling the caste system a "curse on the nation."
There are no laws against arranged marriage. The only legal curb is to underage unions, which can be linked to arranged marriages. Indian law sets a minimum marriage age of 21 for men and 18 for women.
In some families and in some regions, a daughter who defies her parents' marriage wishes can put herself at risk of a so-called honor killing, when families kill family members – mostly women – for bringing dishonor on the family.
Honor killings, which have been outlawed, are more famously linked to extramarital or premarital relationships, but they can also be triggered by young people's decisions to marry against their parents' wishes.
Some believe that if a woman in their family breaks the marriage customs, then society would declare the entire family to be outcasts, subjecting them to criticism and excluding them from receiving the benefits of belonging to the caste and community.
Various nongovernmental groups in India are working to stop honor killings and lend support to inter-caste and love marriages. Young people who evade arranged marriages are also changing the culture.
Aastha says she and her husband will make sure their daughter feels free to marry whomever she chooses.
"I hope other parents do the same," she says.
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Seema Chowdhury is a reporter for Global Press Institute's India News Desk. Originally from Mumbai, Chowdhury currently lives in Bangalore.
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