How Customary Laws, Wealth and Social Class Influenced the Marrying of Young Girls - Essay Example

Published: 2023-10-09
How Customary Laws, Wealth and Social Class Influenced the Marrying of Young Girls - Essay Example
Essay type:  Reflective essays
Categories:  Women Discrimination Social issue
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1721 words
15 min read

The Author tries to bring to life ancient India and how women and young girls were mistreated in male-dominated societies. The Indian society can be referred to as the patriarchal type, since women have no say in society, and they end up getting discriminated against or married off at a younger age. In ancient Indian society, women had no rights and they had to respect the code of laws created by the masculine gender. The women's roles circled between honoring one's family and also the clan. The women were married off at a younger age because one believed that they were young and that one was ignorant and also irresponsible; thus, parents believed that by marrying one-off, one would correct the behavior.

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In India, marriage was like a part of a negotiation conducted between families; women had no right to choose one's spouse or have the romantic type of relationship that they desired. Parents played a part in choosing spouses for their children since most of them believed that when two families get to know each other well, their children who, after some time, will get married will grow to love and understand each other for eternity. Among the Indians, marriage was considered something sacred since it was the actual bonding of two souls, the customary laws played a significant part in ensuring that the marriages were conducted and that women followed the rules to the letter, social classes and wealth also influenced how the young girls got married off at a tender age to satisfy male's selfish interests.


According to ancient India, young girls were married off and that the customs and the laws agreed to this form of discrimination. The laws such as the Manu Laws stated that the minimum age for a young Indian girl to get married was eight years and that eleven years was the age that any girl could get married whatsoever the case. The men also married off their daughters to strangers without conducting a background check on them (Sinha 241). It is because a man's words, clan, or even behavior are not enough for someone to freely give one's daughter to a stranger and also offer the stranger a hand in marriage to one's daughter. It was regarded as something absurd since the girls were too young to choose their spouses; thus, the girl's parents did the choosing. In some parts of India, the families and the guardians employ a man referred to as a "family barber" the barber's primary role is to seek suitable suitors for both the boys and the girls since it was considered as a shameful act for the parents to set off for a journey to seek suitable partners for their children (Puchner 509).

Since the parents did connect the two parties, of which some were total strangers, they depended on the use of astrological methods to choose one's right spouse. The process involved the use of horoscopes to see if both the man and that of the woman matched before they were both united in marriage (Kashyap 82). The main aim of using horoscopes was to ensure the physical and mental wellbeing of the spouses.

The Author tries to outlay how men were heartless and did not consider what their children felt, especially the feminine gender (Sinha 250). The Author gives a story about a man who went on a journey with a wife and two daughters. The man arrived at a river and took a bath, where one noticed a handsome man. Later on, after inquiring about him, one learned that the man was widowed and that one agreed to marry off one of his young girls to him. On the next day, the marriage gets conducted, and after it, the man leaves never to return. The girl's mother, during the end of the marriage ceremony, feels the urge to be closer to the girl while the boy's mother promises her that she will take great care of her. The Author tries to show one the pain that a mother endures to give off her daughter, who is her blood, to be married off. The marriage process of the Hindus was not based on mutual love, but it majorly based on the male's interest and that it was a conjugal type of relationship (Puchner 514).

Customary laws

Unlike other women of the western countries, women in India were not allowed to choose one's spouse. Childhood is the most enjoyed part of life in an Indian woman, and here she gets free to do what she wants, to be jovial, to be happy and also have a free will and freedom to move in and out of the house (Sinha 260). The young girls do not get happy when it reaches one's time to get married, and some may be jovial to get married because their relatives ill-treat them and that marriage is a getaway chance to be free from them.

After the marriage ceremony is over, the girl is taken by the husband to one's mother where she will be taken care of until she becomes old enough to be with one's husband, "delivers her over to his mother, who becomes from that time until the girl grows old enough to be given to her husband" (Puchner 513). When the woman is brought into the husband's house, she gets termed as the lowest member of the family. Here the rules get stricter for her, and one does not get allowed to speak up loudly before the father in law or even any other male relative unless one is given authority to so.

In some parts of India, the women wear veils as a sign of respect to the male-dominated society, here one covers her face and runs to the other room to show total commitment and respect to the males. Some of the women tend to be obliged to stand up when they are in the presence of their husbands or even elders. It is to show that they are discipline and that they respect their husbands.

According to the laws and culture, the young girls are taught on household chores by their mother in law. It is a way of teaching them how to treat their husbands in terms of cooking, washing clothes, and also others. The young brides were scolded whenever they did wrong, and the cultures did not allow the praising of the young girls whenever they did something right, this is because it was regarded as a way of spoiling one's moral upbringing.

The marriage is not set to be built on a foundation of love since the marriage ceremonies got settled down without both the man and the girl agree to each other's interests. The young couples regard each other as strangers in that they hardly talk to each other or show any forms of affection in front of a third party (Sinha 259). The males, however, in this society could remain to be bachelors, but to the women, it was regarded as a zero-tolerance for a woman not to get married when she had reached the marriage age according to the Hindu laws.

Even though both the boys and the girls have no say when it comes to marriage matters, it was humiliating for a man not to get married when one attains the age of twenty-five. However, the laws of Manu stated that when a man's wife dies, one had to marry as soon as possible and that it was non-negotiable (Puchner 509).

Wealth and Social Class

The right age for an Indian girl to get married according to the laws was between the age of eight to around twelve years. When a girl was married off at a tender age, it increased one's chances of getting accepted into society. The issue of social class was also an issue; women from an upper social class had to maintain one's respect in society by marrying a man from the same class. The Author provides a flashback on how she was from an upper social class and how one got married to a man from a lower class. It shocked the community and society in which she lived since it was considered a great taboo for both different social classes to get married to each other.

Most of the parents who came from humble backgrounds ensured that their girls got married to men or boys from well off families. Even though the boys were young and were not taught on how to provide for the family or raised on how to be a better man in terms of skills and also personality, the parents believed that their children would be taken great care of since they will at least be given something suitable to wear and also to eat (Puchner 510). The girl's parents also had a belief that once they had married off the girl, they will not be worried about her fate and that one will secure a reward when they got to heaven.

For the girl to be married to wealthy families, the parents had to secure the wedding by paying a considerable amount of money to the boy's families. Some of the low-income families married off their young girls to older women between the age gap of seventy to eighty years. Most of the families had to consult horoscopes to secure marriages of men from prosperous families, in that if the horoscopes matched and stated that the man would survive the girl's marriage, it was considered as something right and non-bargaining since the Hindus believed in astrology and even gods (Kashyap 75). Thus, the marriage plans started. Nevertheless, if the horoscopes do not make much, then the marriage plans are canceled. It is because they believed that the marriage will not be a success and that the heavenly bodies would fight, "because it is sincerely believed that in that case, the guardian planets will wrestle with each other." (Puchner 510)

Works Cited

Kashyap, L. "Changing couple relationships in India." Couple Relationships in a Global Context, 2020, pp. 71-83, doi:10.1007/978-3-030-37712-0_5.

Puchner, Martin, gen. ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature, 4th ed. Volumes D, E, and F. W. W. Norton & Co., Inc. 2018. ISBN: 978-0-393-60284-5

Sinha, V. "Pandita Ramabai Saraswati (1858–1922)." Sociological Theory Beyond the Canon, 2017, pp. 237-268, doi:10.1057/978-1-137-41134-1_9.

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