A leading daily today made headlines for taking an important stand on the inherent sexism in matrimonial ads. The Times of India today published a snippet apologising to the Indians while declaring a change in the way matrimonial ads are presented in the publication’s classified section. It begins with a sensational yet equally sensible headline, “Apology to a country that only wants beautiful and fair girls” while specifying that their matrimonial ads will begin with a girl’s qualification and not her skin shade. The snippet is being widely shared on the social media, with many claiming it’s a coming of an age move by one of the widely circulated newspapers of the country and that it might stir the conscience of a groom’s family. If not anything else, it could serve as a primer on how not to look for a bride.

Talking about India’s obsession with skin colour is in vogue. Actresses like Kangana Ranaut have started to decline offers from fairness creams. Recently, actor Abhay Deol published several facebook posts to expose the contribution of the Bollywood stars in selling fairness to their fans. In that light, TOI’s initiative is commendable if not novel.

toi

At the heart of this campaign is the intent to reform the institution of marriage, an arrangement that for long has treated women to be the secondary member of the pact. Women have always been the lesser being in a traditional marriage system, the sacrificial lamb, who must give up her childhood home, her parents, her maiden name, in order to reproduce and take forward the family she is married into. To top it all, she must bring dowry along with her.

All these conventions are being challenged. Women are keeping their jobs, their maiden names and are dumping grooms at the altar of marriage when undue demands for dowry are made. Further, women are increasingly opting for love marriage. And this is exactly where the problem begins. The struggle for women in our country, and for that matter, for men, to get married to a person of their choice borders on impossible. Caste, religion, region, sect, and dialect; the layers of scrutiny the self-chosen candidates must pass to turn a love marriage into a marriage founded on the blessings of both families is insane.

Here are a few examples of how traditional matrimonials are framed. The searches are done either by religion or by caste.

IYER 27/165 KAUDINYA, KRITHIGAI, BE MS, H1B, SANFRANCISCO, TEETOTALLER, SEEKS BE/MS IYER GIRL INTEREST IN FINE ARTS, CONTACT
Categorised Under : Matrimonial > Wanted Brides >
Newspaper: Hindu Published on : 09/04/2017,16/04/2017
Booked on:05-04-17

ORTHODOX BOY 31/165 Entrepreneur settled Bhilai, wheatish MBA M4Marry seek alliance from qualified girl
Categorised Under : Matrimonial > Wanted Brides > By Religion > Christian
Newspaper: Malayala Manorama Published on : 11/12/2016
Booked on:03-12-16

SM4 h’some khatri boy Dec 83/5’11” B.Tech,MBA,Wkg in MNC 15.5 Lakh p.a seeks manglik/non-manglik tall Professional Qlfd girl.Email : ,Phone: +91-
Categorised Under : Matrimonial > Wanted Brides > By Caste > Khatri
Newspaper: Hindustan Times Published on : 20/11/2016
Booked on:14-11-16

Groom for Beautiful Minihas working Girl 5.2 PG 30 Meerut Categorised Under : Matrimonial > Wanted Grooms > Rajput Newspaper: The Tribune Published on : 19/07/2015,02/08/2015 Booked on:06-07-15

Alliance invited for 31yrs Madwa Brahmin boy 5’10 Business pm Trivandrum Kerala Categorised Under : Matrimonial > Wanted Brides > By Caste > Brahmin
Newspaper: Deccan Herald Published on : 19/07/2015 Booked on:11-07-15

None of these guys are specifying the skin shade of the girl and are, in fact, seeking qualified life-partners. However, the ads’ emphasis on the caste is bit of a problem. What if a Rajput guy gets married to a Baniya. How does it even matter? The emphasis of fair skin exposes our racist attitude. Similarly, the emphasis on caste in these matrimonials which exposes our casteist attitude is an equally dangerous social evil, if not more. Our abhorrence for inter-caste marriages is evident in the way community elders treat inter-caste couples. If they are lucky enough, they will be left off to lead their own life after being socially boycotted, devoid of all family support and property. But, if they are really unlucky they are at the risk of honour killing. Emphasising on the role of inter-caste marriages as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar said, “Indeed the only way we can break the caste-barriers is through marriage and giving full acceptance to inter-caste couples. Nothing else will serve as the solvent of Caste”.

Till date, we haven’t been able to realise this remedy given by the one who wrote our constitution. And, matrimonials remain the most casteist space of all places, where we wear our caste preferences and caste prejudices on our sleeves. We might say matrimonials are strictly for those who opt for arranged marriages and that they must have the independence to marry on the basis of caste. But even kids in our country understand the dynamics of marriage and the limits imposed on our individual choices right from the beginning. In a country where parents decide which stream of education you will opt for better career prospects, marriage is not a democratic decision but often an imposed one.

So, if indeed we as media houses want to make a difference in the way each individual is weighed in the institution of marriage, we need to marrymarriage reforms and caste-reforms need. If only, any publications showed the guts of not publishing caste preferences in matrimonials, it would go a long way in making a sustained change in the way we perceive arranged marriages and also bridge caste-based discrimination. But perhaps, for TOI’s modern, educated and gender sensitive reader, it would be too radical a move.