Saturday, August 27, 2011

Setting the Record Straight

A few days ago, Sonia Sarkar, a Special Correspondent of The Telegraph newspaper wrote me in a letter and questioned, “What exactly is Sense and Sensuality? The website gives me an impression that it is a common platform where women facing sexual harassment on streets can write about their experiences. But what after that? Is it only a platform of empathy or something more than that?”

I was stunned at her questions. I have been blogging here for not less than five years and my bloggings have been awarded as best blog by organizations throughout the world. In 2009, the Red Room, a literary website based in America, declared my blogging as one of the best blogs of the week in September of 2011. I have been awarded the Ladli Media Award of India for gender sensitivity for one of my bloggings. Many of my bloggings have been reposted, translated and published in different languages of the sub-continent. Google statistics show I have readers and visitors from all over the world. Moreover, the articles of my blogs have been published in a book form by a reputed publisher from Delhi. Still a Special correspondent of an English newspaper could ask me such questions. From that day, I decided to write a brief description of my motto of blogging and my ideas of feminism here, which I could publish as a preface in my next forthcoming book.

Who I Really Am

I have been repeatedly told that I am never an activist and basically, I am a writer. I have also told many times that as a feminist I am more a writer and as a writer I am more a feminist. Actually I don’t know if I am a feminist in any way or not because in my idea, I have found the ideas of Second Wave feminists as stereotyped. I am just a thinker and I write about what I think gender study should be.

I have found in India, some critics compare me with Simone De Beauvoir, though I differ from her on theoretical grounds. Once, The Tribune from Chandigarh described me as the ‘Virginia Woolf and Judith Butler of India’ in its Sunday, June 13, 2010 issue. But my readers know how many similarities these two eminent personalities and I have.

So, at last I have decided to list again some of my ideas on women in brief.

The Main Concept of My ‘Feminism’

For me, feminism is not a gender problem or any confrontational attack on male hegemony so it is quite different from that of Virginia Woolf or Judith Butler. I accept feminism as a total entity of female-hood, which is completely separate from the man’s world.

To me, femininity (rather than feminism) has a wonderful power. In our de-gendered times, a really feminine woman is a joy to behold and you can love and unleash your own unique yet universal femininity. We are here for gender sensitivity to proclaim the differences between men and woman with a kind of pretence that we are all the same. Too many women have been de-feminized by society. To be feminine is to know how to pay attention to detail and people; to have people skills; and to know how to connect to and work well with others. There will be particular times and situations within which you'll want to be more in touch and in tune with your femininity than others. Being able to choose is a great privilege and skill.

I think 'femininity' is the proper word to replace 'feminism,' because the latter has lost its significance and identity due to its extensive involvement with radical politics. Femininity comes from the original Latin word femine which means ‘female’ or ‘women’ and certainly the word creates debatable identical characteristics. It separates the female mass from a masculine world with reference to gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, nurturance, deference, self-abasement, and succorance. And patriarchy also sets the group alien from them in their traditional milieu.

There are many more differences in theories among scientists, anthropologists, and psychologist regarding the nature and behavior of the female mass. Biologists believe the role of our hormones, particularly sex hormones, and the structure of our chromosomes are responsible for such a dichotomy in gender, though some queer theorists and other postmodernists, however, have rejected the sex (biology)/gender (culture) dichotomy as a “dangerous simplification.” Psychology, often influenced by patriarchy, categorises women as different from the masculine world in certain behavioural, emotional and logical areas. Social anthropologists deny the concept of biology or psychology which keep women aside from the masculine world. Simone De Beauvoir’s saying “one is not born a woman, but becomes one” impressed social anthropologists so much that they create a different theory of feminine socialisation.

Here in my bloggings, I have constantly tried to analyse the ‘truth,’ as related by biologists and anthropologists. What I think true to my sense and sensibility, I have expressed without any hesitation. But still I don’t consider myself as a conformist because I consider myself more a writer and as a writer, I think I am always a genderless entity. In my opinion, a writer should not have any gender. But still, patriarchal society has prevailed; is there any possibility to have a genderless society?

How I differ from Simone De Beauvoir on ideas of Feminism

This section is from Wikipedia:

( There are some grammatical errors in the Wikipedian text, which I did not touch as I treated it as a quote)

Simone De Beauvoir changed the Hegelian notion of the Other, for use in her description of male-dominated culture. This treats woman as the Other in relation to man. The Other has thus become an important concept for studies of the sex-gender system. Michael Warner argues that:

the modern system of sex and gender would not be possible without a disposition to interpret the difference between genders as the difference between self and Other ... having a sexual object of the opposite gender is taken to be the normal and paradigmatic form of an interest in the Other or, more generally, others.

Thus, according to Warner, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis hold the heterosexist view that if one is attracted to people of the same gender as one's self, one fails to distinguish self and other, identification and desire. This is a "regressive" or an "arrested" function. He further argues that heteronormativity covers its own narcissistic investments by projecting or displacing them on queerness.

De Beauvoir calls the Other the minority, the least favored one and often a woman, when compared to a man, "for a man represents both the positive and the neutral, as indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity" (McCann, 33). Betty Friedan supported this thought when she interviewed women and the majority of them identified themselves in their role in the private sphere, rather than addressing their own personal achievements. They automatically identified as the Other without knowing. Although the Other may be influenced by a socially constructed society, one can argue that society has the power to change this creation (Haslanger).

In an effort to dismantle the notion of the Other, Cheshire Calhoun proposed a deconstruction of the word "woman" from a subordinate association and to reconstruct it by proving women do not need to be rationalized by male dominance.[11] This would contribute to the idea of the Other and minimize the hierarchal connotation this word implies.

Sarojini Sahoo, an Indian feminist writer, agrees with De Beauvoir that women can only free themselves by “thinking, taking action, working, creating, on the same terms as men; instead of seeking to disparage them, she declares herself their equal." She disagrees, however, that though women have the same status to men as human beings, they have their own identity and they are different from men. They are "others" in real definition, but this is not in context with Hegelian definition of “others”. It is not always due to man’s "active" and "subjective" demands. They are the others, unknowingly accepting the subjugation as a part of "subjectivity".[12] Sahoo, however contends that whilst the woman identity is certainly constitutionally different from that of man, men and women still share a basic human equality. Thus the harmful asymmetric sex/gender "Othering" arises accidentally and ‘passively’ from natural, unavoidable intersubjectivity.[13]

Why I differ from the Second Wave feminists or Western Feminists

For many feminist thinkers, after marriage a family breeds patriarchy. Happily-married women are considered false and double-crossing. The titles of popular feminist books from the early movement highlight the split between gender feminists and women who chose domesticity. Jill Johnston in her “Lesbian Nation” (1973) said married women who are heterosexual females 'traitors'; Kate Millett, in her “Sexual Politics” (1970), redefined heterosexual sex as a power struggle; whereas it was argued in Kathrin Perutz's “Marriage is Hell” (1972) and Ellen Peck's “The Baby Trap” (1971), that motherhood blocks the liberation of a woman. These feminists always try to paint marriage as legalized prostitution and heterosexual intercourse as rape. And they come to the decision men are the enemy and families are prisons.

My Thoughts on Marriage and Parenting

Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer were against marriage in their earlier thoughts. But they tried to skip from their anti marriage ideas in later periods of their lives. Marriage is a three-sided arrangement between a husband, a wife and society. That is, society legally defines what a marriage is and how it can be dissolved. But marriage is, on the other hand, for partners of the marriage; it is more of an individual relationship than a social matter. This is the main reason of crisis. Individually, I think marriage must be taken out of the social realm and fully put back into the private one. Society should withdraw from marriage and allow the adults involved to work out their own definition of justice in the privacy of their own homes.

Our feminist thinkers always try to skip the idea that offspring-begging is a natural instinct of a woman and it is related to our ecological and environmental situation. Anything against it may result in disaster. We find a woman has to pass through a different stage in her lifespan and there is a phase where a woman feels an intense need of her own offspring. Feminists of second-wave feminism have always tried to pursue a woman against the natural law because it is seemed to them that motherhood is barricade for the freedom of a woman. But if the woman works and has a career, doesn’t that mean that her working assignments would demand more of her time, more of her sincerity, and of course, more of her freedom? Where is the freedom there? If a woman can adjust herself and can sacrifice her freedom for her own identity outside her home, then why then couldn’t she sacrifice some of that same freedom and identity inside her home for parenting, when parenting is also a part of her social identity? And then what are the costs in both freedom and identity for women who have two careers -- one outside the home and one inside the home? It becomes good food for thought and debate.

And this double career of women could also be solved by rejecting the traditional patriarchal role of parenting. We have to insist on the idea of the equal division of labor in parenting. This equally shared parenting is now more common in the West where it has become an economic necessity to have two or more incomes just to survive. But still in South Asian countries as well as in many other parts of the world, we find shared parenting is a taboo factor because of the economic inequality between men and women, our crazy work culture, and the constrictions placed on us by traditional gender roles.

The conflict between American mother-daughter feminists Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker is a well-known chapter for Western feminism. Alice Walker, the mother, the second-wave feminist, obviously had an anti-motherhood idea as the other western feminists of her time. But Rebecca Walker, her daughter and a feminist of third wave discussed in her book “Baby Love” about how motherhood freed women like herself from their roles as daughters, and how this provided the much-needed perspective to heal themselves from damaged mother-daughter relationships and claim their full adulthood. What happened? This latest article is mired in unresolved childish hurt and anger (especially in the chapter “How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart”), which would be all well and good except that she strikes out at her mother by striking out at feminism. I personally think the bitterness between her and her mother, as any woman who has ever fallen out with her mother knows, is a very painful experience and note to self, one that probably shouldn’t be written about too much in public.

In her book “Baby Love,” Rebecca Walker writes directly about unadulterated excitement and pride about becoming a mother. Rebecca argues that motherhood frees us from childhood. It is the most important step a woman can take because it creates another human being and because it makes a woman an adult.

I found this to be true for myself. In one of my stories in “AMRUTA PRATIKSHA RE” (Waiting for Manna )(1989), published many years before “Baby Love,” I discuss the queries of a woman after a lifetime of wondering whether to have children, wondering if the sacrifices are worth it, wondering if life is full enough already -- how does our generation of women decide to have children? How does any generation of women decide to have children? Or DO they decide to have children? Do they have the freedom to?

Why I Oppose Some Theories of Social Anthropologists: Natural Gender v. Learned Gender

I began the first article in my book “Sensible Sensuality” with “Bicycle and Me,” where I wrote of my experiences of childhood. As my father had an obsession for a male child, he wanted to see me as a boy and therefore, I was dressed as a boy; my hair was cut like a boy’s; and I used to play boyish games with boys instead of girlish games with girls. In my second article, I mentioned my Portuguese friend’s query, where he asked whether this being raised as a male child had any impact in my sexuality in later life or not. It is clear to me that these cross-gender activities did not make any difference in my later life, and I grew up normally as a woman.

When I studied more about gender theories, especially in anthropology, I found that the anthropologists tried to confirm that gender is not innate but is based upon social and cultural conditions -- in other words, it is learnt. But my mind did not accept the theory so easily. Margaret Mead, in her anthropological study in 1935, concluded the differences in temperament between men and women were not a function of their biological differences, rather, they resulted from differences in socialisation and the cultural expectations held for each sex. (See: “Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies” by Margaret Mead; New York: Dell.). This is, I think, the earliest study that led to the conclusion that gender is more a social and cultural factor than a biological one. According to this study, it is the social environment of the child, such as parents and teachers, that shapes the gender identity of a child. A child learns what to wear (girls in frocks and boys in shirt-pants); how and what to play (dolls for girls and cars for boys); how to behave (passivity and dependence in girls and aggressiveness and independence in boys); and how to reciprocate (gender-wise thoughts, feelings, or behavior). As a result, according to their theories, these ‘learnings’ confirm an appropriate gender-wise appearance and behavior, which leads to gender identity.

The sex/gender distinction, seen as a set and unchangeable dichotomy, does not help social scientists. They might have feared that “the set of sex/gender distinction serve to ‘ground’ a society's system of gender differences, [but] the ground seems in some ways to be less firm than what it is supporting.” (See the essay: “Transsexualism: Reflections on the Persistence of Gender and the Mutability of Sex in Body Guards” by Judith Shapiro in the book ‘The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity’ (eds) J. Epstein and K. Straub, 1991). Other social anthropologists like Moira Gatens , Henrietta Moore, Pat Caplan dismiss the idea of a biological domain separated from the social. Even Pat Caplan declared that “...sexuality, like gender, is socially constructed.” From the preceding sentences, one can see that gender identities are grounded in ideas about sex and cultural mechanisms and create men and women from them.

But we also have to remember that biological sex is related to chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role which are rooted deeply in science and somehow proved rather than hypothetically assumed. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes within each cell; 22 of these are alike in both males and females. But when we come to the 23rd pair, the sexes are not the same. Every woman has in her cells two of what we call the ‘X’ chromosome. But a man has just one X and another Y chromosome. These sets of chromosomes are what make males and females different biologically.

Also, the sex hormones, primarily estrogen and testosterone, have a significant impact on the behavior of males and females. For example, why do boys typically like to play with cars and girls like to typically play with dolls? Social anthropologists think it is the impact of socialization while biological science thinks it is the role of these sex hormones which differentiate the choice children make gender-wise. Biology says the sex-specific differences in the brain are located both in the primitive regions, and in the neocortex, the higher brain region which contains 70 percent of the neurons in the central nervous system.

The neocortex is divided into two hemispheres joined by a 200-million fiber network called the corpus callosum. The left hemisphere controls language analysis and expression and body movements while the right hemisphere is responsible for spatial relationships, facial expressions, emotional stimuli, and vocal intonations. Females use both their right and left hemisphere to process language in certain circumstances while males just use one hemisphere. Females also reach puberty two years earlier than boys, as per biological science, and this changes the way they process social and sexual information.

There are still some characteristics and feelings that I think social anthropologists rule out for the sake of their theories. What about the voice pitch? Males have harsh voices and females have soft voices. This is a biological characteristic and it is related to gender. The crisis of infertility may create a serious trauma to a female, which a male cannot feel. This is a feeling innate with specific feminine gender and it is more a psychological and biological than a social problem. The menopausal psycho syndromes are totally biological and not categorised with this social gender theory. Social anthropologists emphasise that we are all trying to pass as a gender which is decided by cultural systems, not our biological sex. But that is only in a black and white world. But how about when it turns gray?

What happens in the cases of transsexuals who do not pass it? The operation does not make their bodies fully male or fully female. The genitals will not function as genuine genitals and their chromosomes cannot be changed. Voice pitch and other physical characteristics might reveal their transsexualism. Actually, the high level of testosterone in men drives them toward some specific masculine characteristics while the lack of high levels of estrogen in women creates a natural, biological push in the direction of feminine characteristics. So is this biological or is it social?

A Closing Thought

Each gender has different strengths and weaknesses. This does not mean that one sex is superior OR inferior to another. Being feminine is a woman's birthright! It is always hard for me to understand why any woman would want to give up this cherished possession. I feel proud and adore my feminine dress, grooming, carriage, posture, voice, and language.

I want to use an integrated analysis of oppression which means that BOTH men and women are subjected to oppression and stereotypes and that these oppressive experiences have a profound affect on beliefs and perceptions. I am against the patriarchy role model of society but it does not mean that I want to replace a matriarchal role model of society in place of the existing patriarchal one.

What I want is to develop equal mutual relationships of caring and support between all genders and I want to focus on strengthening women in areas such as assertiveness, communication, relationships, and self esteem.

I am here to stand against patriarchy and stand for all that it is not.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Banning the Burqa: What’s Really Being Hid?

“After a hard day at work, an Afghan working woman usually changes out of her uniform, applies her lipstick, a dab of mascara, and a dusting of eye shadow and then she puts on her powder blue burqa and commutes home,” writes Kiko Itasaka, an NBC News producer in her blogging at NBC’ Blog. (

Burqa, a full-body covered black gown and hijab (‘niqab’) a head/ face-covered scarf are modest Muslim styles of dress in general which were introduced into Arabia long before Muhammad, primarily through Arab contacts with Syria and Iran, where the veil was a sign of social status. [See: Ahmed, Leyla (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300055838.]

Wearing a ‘burqa,’ for a woman, is also not a pleasant experience.

When she moved to Saudi Arabia, Nesrine Malik, a girl originally from Sudan but living in London, had to wear a burqa and she tells of her experiences with that full-length cloak in her blog ( She commented, “On a practical level, it was cumbersome, hot, and uncomfortable. Eating or drinking in public became a chore, as food has to be maneuvered gingerly under the veil or taken abruptly in small bites. In Saudi’s overwhelming heat, temperatures regularly reach 45C and any physical outdoor activity, even walking, is out of the question. I became anti-social, hardly able to wait until I got home before tearing off the ghastly garb.”

In Kabul, more than half of the women wear burqas, while outside of Kabul, virtually all women are clad in head-to-toe covering. It was an astonishing fact for me that during my Bangladesh visit a few years ago, I found none of the women wearing burqas and very few in ‘niqab’ or ‘hijab’ on the streets of Dhaka and Chattogram or even in Cox Bazar. But during my visit to Kerala, I saw the majority of Muslim women walking on the street wearing that black long gown, covering their total body. One of my writer friends told me that these types of scenes were not common in Calicut at least fifteen years ago and the tendency to wear has been growing after the demolition of Babri mosque. After that evil incident, Indian Muslims suffered from an identity crisis and started to accept all religious conservatism as their mark of religious identity. I haven’t visited Pakistan, so it is difficult for me to say what is the status of Burqa there, but I encountered a question asked by an internet user at ‘Yahoo Answers’ site. The user has asked, “I went to India and Pakistan respectively for vacation and surprisingly to my knowledge, I expected Pakistani women to be dressed very ‘Islam-like,’ but from what I've seen, they were all mixing in with men with no head-scarfs on their heads, let alone burqas. Isn't Pakistan an Islamic state?” (See:

I have an idea that the ‘burqa’ was imposed on women when the Taliban took over the country in 1996, but Kiko Itasaka says it was accepted by Afghanistan women before the Taliban when the Northern Alliance took control of Kabul in 1992. It was accepted as a tool to protect them from unwanted male attention as that was the time of violent crimes, many of them committed against women. (See: I don’t know whether it is American propaganda or not but in India we are reading in news that the fundamentalist Muslim militants in Kashmir issue ‘fatwa’ from time to time that wearing ‘burqa’ for women is an essential of the female dress code. Recently in this year, Sesto San Giovanni, a small town in Italy, made national headlines after it decided to ban women from wearing burqas and to which Muslim women of Italy, who generally do not prefer ‘burqa’ came on the street to protest the authority’s decision stating that it is an unfair and unnecessary attack on their freedom of expression.

Recently in several European countries, a tendency to ban this full-body covering burqa or the face-covering ‘hijab’ has been seen and as governments there are trying to outlaw this dress code, which is pushing many countries toward a debate. At the end of April, the Belgian Parliament agreed unanimously on a law that would forbid full veiling in public. But the law must still be approved by the Belgian senate. France is set to be the second European country, after Belgium, to declare the full veil illegal in public places. The French cabinet introduced a bill that would also ban face-covering in public. If parliament agrees on the measure, wearing a burqa or a hijab could carry a fine of 150 euro (about US$188). Besides these two countries, other states like the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Great Britain also intend to introduce a bills in their respective law-making bodies calling for bans on burqas. But the European Council has voiced opposition to the burqa-ban ambitions of these countries and the European Council's Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, has warned that a burqa ban would only increase the tension between religious communities. According to him, “two rights in the convention are particularly relevant. One is the right to respect for one's private life and personal identity (Article 8). The other is the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief ‘in worship, teaching, practice and observance’ (Article 9). Both articles specify that these human rights can only be subject to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are notably necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” (See

Interestingly enough the burqa was abolished from Egypt after the eminent Egyptian feminist Hoda Shaarawi started a movement against wearing veil for women in 1923. The movement was so successful that in 1958, an article published in the United Press Service stated that “the veil is unknown here.” [See: United Press Service (UP) (26 January 1958). "Egypt's Women Foil Attempt to Restrict". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (114): p. 28]. But the veil returned back to Egypt again and in 2007, Michael Slackman, a correspondent for the New York Times, wrote in its 28 January 2007 issue ("In Egypt, a New Battle Begins Over the Veil") that 90 percent of Egyptian women wore a headscarf or a hijab.

In South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, any type of veil for women was not in tradition. In 1994, the Malayasian Supreme Court said in a historic ruling that any type of veil or purdah, “has nothing to do with (a woman's) constitutional right to profess and practice her Muslim religion, because Islam does not make it obligatory to cover the face”. But later, during the rise of Muslim conservatism, the religious fundamentalists introduced ‘burqa’ and ‘hijab.

Interesting to note, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria are some Muslim countries which have imposed ban on wearing burqa for school and university students. Recently, Syria has lifted its ban after the 2011 Syrian Protests. So it is also a fact to remember that all Muslims are not standing in unity with such veils but if anyone forcefully tries to impose a ban, it may gather an emotional attachment with these religious dress codes and people may return to the uncharacteristic cloak as happened in Egypt in the past.

But the question is why are these European countries really showing such interests in banning a burqa and other clothing identified with the Muslim faith? Do most of women show their obligations to these religious dress codes? Many Muslim women born and brought up in European countries do not show any fascination toward these veils. But enforcing any law to prevent these veils may create a crisis in their identity and they can feel themselves to be eliminated from mainstream.

I think it is totally undemocratic to dictate any code of living to anyone. Democracy means freedom of choice! If anyone has freedom to wear jeans, they should also have the freedom to wear ‘burqa.’ Leave women to wear what they want.

If we look at the history of the initiative in France, it was started with a secular view not against only burqa and hijab but also to prohibited all religious garb, including large Christian crosses, Jewish yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans. But the law was enacted with the specific intent to eliminate the Muslim hijab, or headscarf, from French public school classrooms. In March 2004, the French Parliament passed a new law that makes it illegal for students to wear any clothing or symbols that “exhibit conspicuously a religious affiliation” in public schools. On June 22, 2009, during his address to both houses at the Chateau of Versailles, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sparked controversy by saying the burqa is unwelcome on French soil and a violation of “the French Republic's idea of women's dignity.” President Sarkozy's remarks arrived on the heels of a call by cross-party members of Parliament, led by Communist Andre Gerin. The Parliament demanded a parliamentary commission be established to investigate an increasing trend of Muslim women in France wearing the burqa and to determine whether the burqa was compatible with “French secularism.” As a result, a parliamentary commission was created by the French National Assembly, which included 32 members of Parliament from various political parties. After a five-month study, the commission submitted a report stating that “the wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our Republic. . . . We must condemn this excess.” The commission did not call for legislation to outlaw the burqa in public spaces out of constitutional concerns, but did request that Parliament adopt a resolution calling the burqa “contrary to the values of the Republic.”

France’s attitude towards banning burqa or hijab made some fundamentalist intellectuals in Britain (there are a few judiciary people are also attached to the organization) started to celebrate Interantional Hijab Day on September 4 every year [Please see: ] Though Bangladeshi women were not fond of these type of veils, extremist intellectuals were trying to make a global protest for protecting their Muslim culture.

I never think these types of laws are motivated with the idea of feminism but rather, are more Islamophobia and resurgent nationalist sentiment which contribute to outlaw this religious dress code. It is no doubt that Islamic radicalism is a deeply disturbing danger developing in Europe. There is every chance that the of using this cloak may disguise any terrorist and it should be harmful. But we have to remember that accessing one’s face and banning ‘burqa’ are not standing at the same point. State authorities should have the right to check and verify the person disguised under that cloak. But no state should have the full authority to interfere in an individual’s choice and cultural beliefs of any citizen. To legislate against the extremes would be a highly intrusive extension of authority. But to mobilise the mechanism of the state to tackle Islamic fundamentalism via cracking down on the face veil is not the answer, in my opinion. To force a female to remove her veil is just as subjugating as forcing her to wear it. It then becomes a question of numbers: should the behavior of five percent create prejudice or discrimination for the other 95 percent?

In French there is a term ‘Laicite’ which sometimes used in English as "laicity" and dictionaries ordinarily translate laïcité as secularity or secularism. But the term is not exact to ‘secularism.’ To solve the church-state conflicts in Europe, Pope Gelasius I established the doctrine called “Gelasian Dualism,” which denotes with regard to temporal issues, the priest must obey the emperor and in spiritual matters, the emperor must obey the priest. This theory would later develop into the theory of laicism. If we replace the term ‘church’ with the term ‘religious belief’ in this doctrine, then the state should be obliged to allow ‘burqa’ and the ‘burqa-dressed individual should be obliged to obey the state. The state authority should then have a right to access the face or search the ‘burqa’ whenever the cloak poses a safety risk to the person wearing it and those around them.

I think each culture has things that make it special. Why should that right be taken away because a small fraction of the members of that culture ruin it for that culture?

What I find more a gender bias in this law is that this ban, in fact, would reduce the equality between men and women — whereas men are allowed to wear whatever they want, women again have their rights restrained. It is foolishness to think that by making any law or dress code, the institution making its rules can make people obey and follow as dictated. Rather, it usually serves to ignite emotions and increase the impulsive alienated attitude among some communities.

If Toronto can witness ‘slut walk’ for high heels or mini skirts, why couldn’t Europe encounter a march for the veil or ‘veil walk’ in the coming days? It DOES raise interesting questions.

(While blogging on this topic, I asked my Facebook friends whether ‘burqa’ should be banned or not and what they shared with me as their comments and opinions are being posted with FEMININE-FRAGRANCE. It’s needn’t to say that the comments are neither edited nor moderated.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More Change Often Means More of the Same

The Assumption of the Virgin, a fresco at the dome of the Cathedral of Parma, Italy by the Italian Late Renaissance artist Antonio Allegri da Correggio ( 1489 – 1534 )

Who really benefits from chastity and virginity? Will women always remain a hot commodity in a misogynist market?

Will the revolution in Tahrir Square in Cairo show a new light to Egypt or the Middle East or will it be business as usual there and around the world?

Egypt’s Supreme Military Council has been assigned the power to lead Egypt for a while after Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. But on just after one month after Mubarak’s departure, “at least 17 female demonstrators were also detained March 9, along with scores of men. The women protesters were beaten, given electric shocks, subjected to strip searches while being photographed by male soldiers, then forced to submit to 'virginity checks' and threatened with prostitution charges,” as reported by Amnesty International.

Prior to these activities, the Mubarak Hosni’s Government had passed a bill with the aim to ban the “conflict with the productivity of the country.” The law stated girls who failed virginity tests will be jailed and fined a minimum of 500,000 Egyptian pounds. This news made me to write this month’s blog.


Jagadish and I both had been in love for eleven years before our marriage. From my teenage years, I had been in love with him but my parents did not like or accept him. We married legally, with consent of both of our parents, after struggling eleven years in love. During our pre-marital love, we vowed to each other that we wouldn’t involve sex with our relationship and we wouldn’t marry against the will of our parents. And it was true that Shakespeare was only inspiration for us to make such a vow.

In his play “The Midsummer Night’s Dream” Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius, not the one she truly loves. Hermia was in love with Lysander. So she and Lysander try to escape and go to Athens where they could freely profess their love for each other. While in the woods, Lysander tried to make love to her but she protested. At that time, the idea seemed to me that though women were trying to escape from the dictates of patriarchy, but having a mind of their own, they choose what they thought best for them – to remain pure before marriage.

Thus the idea of virginity was in my mind in my early days. Later, when I realised virginity was a word only connecting a theme among cultures as the purity associated with women who have not been marred by the corruption of sexual behavior and there is no such masculine form of virginity, I presumed it was a word created by patriarchy to subjugate women in the name of morality. Here I want to put my ideas about virginity in an Indian perspective.

On Virginity

In Hinduism, like Christianity, virginity is also considered as the highest form of spiritual purity. Though through Brahmacharya, monasticism served as an avenue for a life spent in purity and chastity, as compared to a worldly life of sin and sexual pleasures, but Brahmanical Society always escaped masculine world from such monasticism. In mythology, we have found many male icons are polygamist, whereas females are punished for promiscuity. But is promiscuity a feminine matter in which the male has no role? When Ahalya was punished for her unknown relation with God Indra, (unknown, because Indra came in disguise of her husband to have sexual relations with her) why was no action taken against Indra?

The presence of the hymen in the genital part (introitus) of woman is considered as a proof of virginity, but is not a sure sign of virginity. A woman’s hymen can be ruptured by non-sexual activities like intense sports, dancing, sitting astride on two wheelers, etc. It is not necessary for a virgin to bleed the first time she has sex. In fact, according to statistics, only 43 percent of women do so [Please see: Jean S. Emans’ essay "Physical Examination of the Child and Adolescent" (2000) in Evaluation of the Sexually Abused Child: A Medical Textbook and Photographic Atlas, Second edition, Oxford University Press. 61-65] . With the current advances in medical technology, a plastic surgeon can quite easily reconstruct a layer of tissue to resemble the hymen (called hymenoplasty).

Though a virginity test has been banned in many countries, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s brought about very different attitudes. In 2004, a Zimbabwean village chief, Naboth Makoni, stated that he would adopt a plan to enforce virginity tests as a way of protecting his people against HIV. He explained that he focuses on girls because he believes they are easier to control than boys. But virginity tests for girls are no way helpful to check HIV/AIDs, as sexual activities like anal sex may also cause the disease without losing rupture in hymen and in the case of married women, this testing is totally fruitless. Most Western countries have banned virginity testing claiming it violates the Human Rights of women, but at the same time, they conduct virginity tests on Asian women entering in their countries. Margaret Thatcher’s Government once passed a bill and it was enforced as an immigration law to permit a virginity test for all Indian and black African women upon their entry to the country at Heathrow International Airport. The law was implemented for full three years from 1979-1982. Home Secretary, Merlyn Rees, forced Hindu fiancées to undergo medical examinations to see if each was a “bona fide virgin.” Male doctors performed virginity tests on women entering Britain from India to marry Asian British nationals or residents. If a woman was not “virgo intact,” immigration officers assumed she was not a “bona fide” fiancée. (See: The Guardian 1/02/1979)

For centuries, the concept of virginity in many cultures throughout history has honored or elevated virgins as icons of innocence. Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, possessed a similar quality and position as that of God Agni (Fire) in the Hindu religion. But unlike Agni, Vesta was a goddess and was considered as a virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family and had temples staffed by women who were bound by 30-year vows of chastity. The term "Vestal livery" was created after her name. This term may not be familiar to our readers or to common man; its better-known name is the chastity belt

It is needless to say that virginity and chastity, though they are two different terms literally, are often coined with each other. In Literature, as far I know, Shakespeare was one of the first to use it. Readers can remember Act II, Scene I of Romeo and Juliet, where Romeo showed his hatred towards Juliet’s chastity belt (vestal livery) by saying, “None but fools do wear it,” and asked Juliet to “cast it off.” Here Shakespeare mingled chastity with virginity.

On Chastity

Though the terms ‘virginity’ and ‘chastity’ have different meanings in the dictionary, they both behave like two sides of a coin and these two terms are often associated negatively to the sexual relationship. Did Juliet wear any chastity belt or did Shakespeare want virginity to mean a chastity belt itself? Was it a custom to wear such belts during the Renaissance period? In 1400, A. Konrad Kyeserb, a military engineer, first described it in his book Bellifortis. Though there are not sufficient examples of the use of such belts, strangely enough, the belt has been used throughout the whole world while being overlooked by the eyes of our feminist leaders.

Following, I refer to a chapter from Wikipedia, mentioning about use of Chastity belt in modern world []:

In 1998, racial riots against the ethnic Chinese in West Java prompted the production and sale of ‘anti-rape corsets.’ These were Florentine-type belts of imitation leather-covered plastic fastened with a combination lock. The belts had a solid crotch strap without holes, and were intended only for brief outings.

In April, 2002, the Uwe Koetter Jewelers Company of Cape Town, South Africa completed and delivered a spectacular diamond and pearl-encrusted chastity belt made of gold to a British customer. The belt reportedly cost R160,000 and was a wedding gift from a husband-to-be for his bride to wear at their wedding.

On February 6, 2004, USA Today reported that at Athens (Greece), a woman's steel chastity belt had triggered a security alarm at the metal detector. The woman explained that her husband had forced her to wear the device to prevent an extramarital affair while she was on vacation in Greece. She was allowed to continue her flight to London on the pilot's authority. The incident was said to have happened just before Christmas in 2003. The incident was also reported by Weekly World News.

In November 2006, photographs of Lucio Gubbio's hand-wrought iron chastity belts were published in newspapers including the Seoul Times, and CRI Online. Although Gubbio's company, MedioEvo, claimed designs of their chastity belts were from the Middle Ages on their website, a company spokesperson acknowledged there was no proof that devices such as these were ever actually used.

In 2007, the Asian Human Rights Commission reported that women were being forced to wear chastity belts in the Indian state of Rajasthan.

In 2008, masseuses in Batu, Indonesia were required to wear belts with a lock and key during working hours, to prevent prostitution.

What Has Really Changed?

All over the world today, women have been repeatedly criticized and repudiated for their sexuality by a male-dominated society. The social gurus always have treated the question of women's liberation and sexual freedom only from a negative point of view. They have never tried to compare the question with the status of the male. Sex-positive women were not simply misinformed, or priggish, or neurotic. Rather, they were often rationally responding to their material reality.

‘Virginity’ and ‘chastity’ are both terms aimed to oppress and exercise control over female sexuality. Still, a woman is considered less a human being and more an asset and pride for every male member of a family. Honour killings in some part of South Asia still prevail though the activity is declared illegal in a court of law. Sex outside of marriage is considered ‘adultery’ only for females who are often punished whilst traditionally, males are not punished when committing adultery as it considered part of their normal instincts. In the case of an unmarried woman, her father and brother feel their pride and prestige have been lost and in the case of married woman, her husband thinks his pride and prestige have been lost. These losses exact a high price and in some cases, it causes the hurt males to murder their ‘assets.’ Almost every day, a woman is beaten, clubbed or shot to death for what is euphemistically termed "adultery" or sex outside a marriage. And in most cases, the killer is a father, brother, uncle, or husband.

Circumcision of Females

Female circumcision is another attempt to control female sexuality by male-dominated societies in some Muslim communities in Northeast Africa, in parts of the Near East, and in Southeast Asia. It has been reported to occur in individual tribes in South America and Australia as well. There are different forms of female circumcision. A form of female circumcision called ‘excision’ involves the removal of all or part of the clitoris, and in some cases, other external genitalia as well. In the most extreme form of circumcision, called ‘infibulation,’ the clitoris and both labia are removed and the two sides of the vulva are sewn together- except for a small opening for urine and menstrual blood to go through. Another, less severe form of circumcision involves small incisions in the skin covering the clitoris. Eighty-five percent of worldwide female circumcision involves this less severe form or excision, and 15 percent includes infibulations [Please see: Lori Heise’s essay “Reproductive Freedom and Violence Against Women: Where are the Intersections?" in Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics; 1993, 21, 2, summer 206-216.]


And so our concept of ‘chastity’ or ‘virginity’ remains misogynist in nature and the masculine world possess a double-standard criterion for these purity scales. I feel our sexual themes and taboos are designed to relegate women to a subordinate role in society, assigning them a status somewhere between men and slaves. Female genital mutilation, the excision of the clitoris to dampen female libido, forcing women to wear chastity belts, or subjecting them to a virginity test are still a socially-sanctioned custom in many parts of the world today.

Many of my critics write me from time to time pointing out that now, more women are working than ever before all around the world and are enjoying all rights similar to men and moreover, there are some special laws to protect them. Then they ask, what, then, is the necessity to advocate for sex? I am not in favour of making a sexist society, either female-dominated or male-dominated. But still, there remain many gaps where we find much discrimination and bias against women, and sexuality remains one of them.

My pen runs and will continue to run for these.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who Benefits Most From Arranged Marriages?

Recently, I had to accompany my sister, who was in search of a suitable groom for her daughter. My niece is educated software professional, an engineer by qualification, and is earning a good sum of money. My sister had arranged an address for negotiation from a marriage bureau and she got an appointment with the prospective groom’s parents. The mother of the prospective groom is a teacher in a Government-aided college in Bhubaneswar and his father is a retired doctor. The prospective groom is also working as a software professional in a Metro city.

Though the proposal was selected from a marriage bureau’s matchmaking website, the prospective groom’s family has shown a dominant role by saying that as they are from the prospective groom’s family, they want to interview the parents of the prospective bride first. As my brother-in-law is a busy executive in an oil corporation, it was not possible in his part to attend and my sister requested me to accompany her to the interview.

We agreed to meet at the lady and her husband at the college workplace of the proposed groom’s mother. The lady, who appeared before us an hour late for the interview, came with her husband who, true to my feelings functioned more as a pet than a husband. Seeing me, the lady first declared that she doesn’t like feminists at all as they are the real enemy of Indian culture as well as the real enemy of a happy family life. She claimed that a bride should be sober and should be consumed by modesty so that she could pay regards to her husband and her in-law’s family. It is interesting to note that during the total time period of interview, her husband was very quiet and at last, he had to open his mouth in support of his wife but only after the lady rebuked him for remaining silent over our hot arguments!

The lady, who claims that she had been to America once and could drive a car there, very rudely asked us why my sister had posted her daughter’s photo in the marriage bureau’s website with jeans and a shirt. She again asked my sister, why she mentioned that the girl belongs to a nuclear family.

I asked her what is wrong with a jeans and shirt and is there any relation of personal behavior to what a person wears. Are the girls wearing sarees not garish in nature? Secondly, I asked her what is the wrong with a nuclear family when in most of the metro cities, people are living with that family? The joint-family concept has all but totally been abolished in urban areas and when the lady herself admitted she belongs to a nuclear family, why she has such exasperation for a nuclear family? It was kind of confusing to me.

Arranged Marriages 2011

She told us that they are searching for an ideal bride. So what are the criteria for an ideal bride? In their opinion, the ideal bride is a girl who is highly-educated, could adjust herself to metro city life, and also would be orthodox in mind and mentality, but one who could also put a veil on her head and would manage a large family if required.

The expectations of that lady made me more confused. For what was she actually searching? Does she know herself? Was she looking for a domestic servant who was born and brought up in metro city and who got herself highly educated and employed in a multi national company, and who could behave like an urban girl and could prepare herself as a domestic servant to take care of a large family? How much of a role did the earning capacity of the prospective bride play in the deliberation? Was she expected to bring in a large income yet also take on the full-time task of managing a household as well? Was this a business deal where projected profit and loss was a key component rather than considering the feeling of the two human beings central to the outcome?

I have attended many negotiations of marriage where I find the expectations of the groom’s parents are absurd and contradictory. They need a highly educated girl, preferably a technically-qualified girl, who would be willing to also perform the role of housewife. A large percentage of parents of prospective grooms also want their would-be daughter-in-law to be a fair-complexioned, even if their son is darker skinned. They say they don’t need any dowry, but at the same time, they expect the girl’s parents to give essential assets and jewelries to make proper respect to their prestige.

These dramas are very common in India and whenever an arranged marriage is going to initiate, these dramas are often staged even at the first date of negotiations. Thus the parents of the prospective bride have to bear such humiliation from the prospective groom’s family and relatives. Still, arranged marriages are preferred in India. And that is an irony for me that how it could be still prospering?

Arranged Marriage v. Love Marriage

Many Indians contend that arranged marriages are more successful than marriages in the West, particularly given the staggering divorce rates of the latter. But what are the circumstances driving those staggering numbers? In India, it is believed that romantic love does not necessarily lead to a good marriage and often fails once the passion dissipates while real love flows from a properly-arranged union between two individuals. Besides India, arranged marriages commonly occur in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

In arranged marriages, families choose partners based on compatibility, culture, and upbringing. They focus on issues that will foster a loving and fruitful relationship that will last a long time. So when a man or woman comes of marriage age, people around the community act as headhunters getting a man and a woman together if they see a fit.

Arranged Marriages: Then and Now…East and West

During ancient times of Ramayana and Mahabharata, there were many ways through which marriages could be arranged. Svayamwar was one of them. When a king decided to marry off his daughter, he sent out invitations to all the princes and noblemen that he thought were well-suited for his daughter. They would come to the palace where the princess would then choose her husband by putting a garland around the man's neck, after which, the two would be married.

In Western countries, arranged marriages were happening even in Victorian Europe. With the Industrial Revolution and the end of the second world wars, people's attitudes and perceptions started changing as women started to join the workforce and started to make demands for their rights. In England, for example, most of the kings and queens had arranged marriages up until King George V. The present Queen Elizabeth's father broke tradition by marrying a commoner.

What is different between the two global sides regarding marriage is lying with the basic concept of marriage itself. In the West, it is considered as more independence and freedom; in the East, it is considered more of a responsibility.

In Western countries, the emphasis is more on practicality in their mates. The couple looks for aspects such as sex, love, beauty, integrity, diligence, ambition, humility and generosity, which are the center of the relationships among a couple. But in Eastern countries, an arranged marriage seems to be a business deal among parents, who tend to look for material gain, dowry, security, safety, and also for social prestige. The question of compatibility, love and understandings among partners are left far behind. But there are many situations in the West, particularly among the wealthy and privileged and politically active, which very much mimic the arranged marriages in the East as described in the last sentence. So the common denominators in either area become money and status.

The Rules of the Game: The Anatomy of an Arranged Marriage

There are certain rules that apply to arranged marriages in India. For one, you have to be the same nationality, caste, religion and of the same social status. Horoscope matching of both bride and groom has also played an important role in settling a negotiation of such arranged marriages. The post-wedding stability in an arranged marital relationship more than that of love marriages is due to parents dishonouring divorces, which sometimes resulted in bride burning or suicides by the female folks to get rid of a strained relationship.

Social Conservatives always measure benefits of an arranged marriage over a love marriage particularly by giving the latter's staggering divorce rates. It is true that the countries where arranged marriage is an approved social system, the divorce rates are reduced to very few. But do the numbers really tell the actual story? In India, it is 1.1 percent (see bride-burning and suicide statistics below), whereas it is 1.5 percent in Sri Lanka, and 1.9 percent in Japan. Meanwhile in the USA, it is 54.8 percent, 42.6% in the UK, and 38.3% in France. ( source: Divorces and crude divorce rates by urban/rural residence: 2000 - 2004 published by United Nations Statistics Division)

Among the divorce rates in India, 89 percent of love marriages failed and applied for divorce, and interestingly, 11 percent of arranged marriages end in divorce largely due to issues with the elders and not the couple themselves. But these are just numbers and are normally as good as the opinions of those paying for the studies. It does not play a sufficient role to prove that arranged marriages have less of a divorce rate as the numbers fail to take into account other factors such as bride burnings and suicides. If we believe Ms. Avnita Lakhani, there are 17 bride burning death cases per day or more than 6,200 a year in India, which can be considered as a tremendous setback for arranged marriages. (See: “Bride-Burning: The ‘Elephant in the Room’ is Out of Control” by Avnita Lakhani) (

In India, as love marriages are generally not accepted by parents, these wedded couples usually tackle all their crises on their own, because they might have been separated from their family for cultural reasons or for pride. Conversely, in cases of arranged marriages, the married couple can often resort to their parents or acquaintances in times of financial crises or other problems. In addition, if the marriage proves to be a failure, they have a number of people around them from whom to seek support or on whom to put the blame. In addition, their parents would come forward to solve the problems between the couple, if they have married with the elder's consent. This is the reason why arranged marriages are considered secure for the people in India as many in the family have a continuing role.

The caste system also plays a major role in arranged marriages, though in some matrimonial advertisements, we see there are parents who claim their search contend for ‘caste no bar.’ But still, a major portion of arranged marriages in India are settling between the same caste and many times horoscope matching is also a prominent factor for such marriages. These types of marriages are still being performing with an orthodox mentality, pulling back society to centuries-old backward types of thought and process.

The Role of Pre-Marital Sex in the Arranged Marriage Process

Conservatives in Indian society always discourage teen sexuality, though it is a normal phenomenon but not socially granted. Realism can blur into cynicism, and a jaded attitude can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Social conservatives look at the contemporary sexual landscape and remember that it wasn’t always thus, and they look at current trends and hope that it doesn’t have to be this way forever.

To protect and glorify virginity is also a hidden social agenda behind the arranged marriage, as ‘virginity’ is a word always termed with female sexuality. Also, it is interesting to note that no term has been found in the dictionary for ‘sexually inexperienced man.’ So it is a term derived and used by a patriarchal society. During an arranged marriage negotiation, though it has not been asked directly, it has been always expected that the proposed bride should be a virgin. But nobody dares to expect that the boy should be sexually untouchable and pure. I don’t think how and why our society is so sensitive about sex, or categorically and more correct to say, is sensitive to only FEMALE sexuality, skipping the purity of male premarital sexual status.

Indian society is going through a dilemma and confusion in this regard. Parents hope their children keep themselves from teen sexuality, but when times come to arrange a suitable life partner, they prefer their youngsters should love and choose their partner. Though they are not in favour of premarital sex, at the time of marriage, they prepare to accept pre-marital sex, in the sense that it involves monogamous couples on a path that might lead to matrimony one day. Then there’s sex that’s casual and promiscuous, or just premature and ill considered.

This contradiction prevails in most of the educated middle-class urban parents. And for their youngsters, it is impossible to make them liberal so that they could repudiate the virginity matters from their concepts. They have been taught to give importance to virginity and chastity throughout a quarter of their lives and when they have been expected to remove this idea from their mind, they find themselves incapable in doing so. That’s why most of the young people depend on their parents to choose a life partner for them. Tradition and society have seemed to have confused them greatly.

The Dowry: the Key Negotiating Point…and How It Has Changed

The dowry is another evil open agenda of an arranged marriage, where during the negotiation, it is openly discussed among two parties. The dowry has come a long way since olden times! Today, the groom’s parents demand dowries in the form of lots of money, furniture, jewelry, and expensive household items and now, even homes and expensive foreign holidays to the bridegroom. It is argued that these dowries will help the newly wedded couple to start their ‘new house.’ But the question which is always skipped is why a bride’s parents have to pay these sorts of materials and money and not the groom’s family?

Actually, the dowry is considered as a ‘bride’s price,’ though nobody identifies it in that way.

But have the feminists weighed in on the subject? As there is an absence of feminist discourse in India, nobody, not even a single feminist has raised any question on these arranged marriages. In fact, I haven’t read a single essay in support or against a love marriage or in support or against the arranged marriage system.

The Role of the Boy and Girl in Arranged Marriages

Social conservatives never admit that arranged marriages are a forced marriage but really, is it? They argue that in an arranged marriage, the marriage could not be preceded without the consent of the wedded couple, but is that ‘consent’ by choice or by obedience? But in most cases, we see the parents impose their choice on their sons and daughters and as it is not a matter of heart, either the boy or the girl has to consent on the parent’s will, most times out of respect. So we can say arranged marriage is a polite and developed way of forced marriage. Though today, during the negotiation periods, the boy and girl are often permitted to see each other, are allowed to talk for few minutes and in some cases, parents allowed them to talk over phone or to date socially. But still, there is much more stress and emotional tension on both girl and boy to give consent to their parent’s choice because of family pride, the wishes of the parents, or social obligation.

The boys and girls have been taught by their parents that ‘adjustment’ is the other name of an arranged marriage and that true love will come AFTER marriage from that adjustment. They have to adjust and have to sacrifice, and this sacrifice would bring actual feelings of love among them -- at least that is the concept.

It is a general idea in India that love in a love marriage starts out very high and then over time, it decreases. And in arranged marriages, love starts out relatively low and then it increases gradually and surpasses the love in love marriages at about five years. And after ten years, it’s twice as strong -- or so the proponents say.

In some cases, the bride’s family allows and encourages their daughter to date and make a love relation so that they have to pay fewer dowries and if the daughter couldn’t pursue the boy to convince his parents in dowry matter, the bride’s parents don’t hesitate to cancel the marriage negotiations and even if the engagements would be performed. Arranged marriage, then, seems to be a lot of business dealings between the two sets of parents and as a result the boy and girl have to work accordingly to the wish of their parents; they are almost like pawns and not human beings with feelings. These are just some of the strange factors which make an arranged marriage a forced marriage of sorts and we should have to take them in account. But will we?

This is not a debate on which marriage is better -- the arranged marriage or the love marriage. They BOTH have merits and demerits. It is also wrong to say that arranged marriages or love marriages are social forms related to the cultures from which they are practiced. In 2002, the study reported, 22 percent of Americans aged 15 to 24 were still inexperienced with sexual intimacy. By 2008, that number was up to 28 percent. (Source: National health Statistics Report. Link: But Ross Douthat suggests that this trend may date back decades, and that young Americans have been growing more sexually conservative since the late 1980s due to a concerted effort among health education professionals at schools and beyond. (See: Ross Douthat’s column in The New York Times, published on March 6, 2011) The proliferation of AIDS has also had a dramatic effect on the sexual habits of youth in America.

My goal here is not to certify one kind of marriage over the other. What I want to illustrate is that there are many discrepancies which still remain in marriage rituals and kinds of marriages, and these obsolete ideas can be and should be removed from the minds of the masses.

But either way, one has to question who is the real beneficiary in an arranged marriage?