Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Discussion of the changing issues regarding marriage among South-Asian males and females

By Sudipa Sarkar

Marriage can be defined as an act through which a legally accepted relationship among two individuals has been established by the virtue of an intention to live together as sexual as well as domestic partners within a social setting. In that sense, marriage can be seen as a phenomenon to accomplish personal happiness not only through sharing life with a particular individual in question but also to manage fundamental qualities of family unity in terms of family togetherness, family concord, family cohesiveness and through sharing universal family objective and values (Medora, 2002). The marriages in general can essentially be conducted following two norms, arranged marriage and love marriage. There is another type of marriage, known as love-arranged marriage, the type beyond the scope of this pilot study. Arranged marriage refers to the kind of marriage in which parents select prospective spouse for their children with the consideration of the family values, culture, education, occupation and social compatibility (Nanda, 1995). On the other hand, love marriages can be seen as a means in which the prospective spouses themselves take the decision to stay together irrespective of their corresponding family concern. In South-Asian context, the last decades of the twentieth century has brought an increasing radical shift in changing the perspective of marriage pattern and corresponding decision-making policy. The aim of the study is to find out the views of young South-Asian males and females on marriage, to find out whether there are any gender differences in approach and to find out reasons accounting for the differences.
Background of the Study

In Asian context, especially in South-Asia, the arrangement in the changes of socio-cultural and socioeconomic pattern have facilitated the increasing acceptance of “freedom of choice” among young individuals in terms of changing from arranged marriage to self-selected or love marriage (Tsuya, 2001). The current study is focusing on finding out to what extent self-selected marriage or love marriage is desirable and the changing pattern of attitude for the selection of partner by the candidate himself or herself or still left for the parents to settle on for the children to follow. However, the radical shift from arranged marriage to love marriage being observed especially during last decades suggests the possible link between dowry system and arrangement of marriage system. The change in the attitude governing the dowry system, central to the arranged marriage, may act to be responsible for, or to dent the family’s function in marriage, hence affecting the marriage pattern (Caldwell, 1988, 1999, 2001). Asia has been specifically identified with very early marriage pattern, described as ‘eastern marriage pattern’ (Hajnal, 1965), contribute to being involved into arranged marriage system. On the other hand, in recent decades the age for women getting married has been substantially increased due to socioeconomic development and growing industrialization (Jones, 2004). Although, there are studies which suggest that the most far-reaching in changes from a conventional family-based society such as with Muslim, Hindu and Sikh in which all the members of the society marry and the marriage has been usually arranged by the families of the individuals in question rather than by themselves (Jones, 2004).
Key Concepts Defined

Love and Arranged Marriage
Arranged marriages are quite prevalent in pre-industrial societal framework, where, some researchers believe that, parents actually exploit their adult children for a stable source of income and wealth (Cheung, 1972). In this pilot study, arranged marriages will be defined as the marriages in which parents introduce the future partner and approve the future marriage. On the other hand, love marriage will be defined as the marriage where two individuals get into touch with each other without parental intervention and the marriages get conducted with or without parental consent.
Target Group

However, the study is a pilot study and cannot be generalized in true sense. But the target group for this study will be concerned with Asian individuals, especially South Asian males and females from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India as well as their subjective view on marriage pattern.
Aim of the Study

The aim of the study will be
To find out the views of young South-Asian males and females on marriage
To find out if there are gender differences in approach
To find out reasons accounting for differences
Methodology of Study

This pilot study will be conducted with 20 participants with males and female in equal distribution (n=10). Their ethnic status is South-Asian and their age group may range from 16 years to 24 years. Hence, the participant’s mean age is 20 years.

The process will be started with a primary introduction as well as essential information regarding the process involved in the study and as provided by the tester to the participants. The participants will be provided with 12 semi-structured questionnaires [see. Appendix A] along with plenty spaces for writing the points that they would like to cover during the procedure. However, the participants will reserve all the rights not to answer any of the questions that they find not suitable for them, however, the ethical issues will be employed under strict consideration with an understanding that the marriage as a system is a crucially significant and delicately sensitive issue to the individuals and their families as well. The respondent will carry the right to be placed under no physical harm or potential danger of any kind. They possess the right to be asked for their informed consent and to have sensitive issues to be dealt with sensitively, especially if there is any possibility of raising anxiety or aggression level, which is in the study, may be the case.

The data revealed that 6 male participants out of 10 are aligned to get married with the consent of their family, whereas, 4 female participants showed the same interest. This reveals that females are more willing to select their partner for themselves compared to that of males. According to the data found through this pilot study, it has been found that 7 males believe that arranged marriages last longer than love marriage, whereas, only females out of 10 believe that this is the case. This result clearly defines that the majority of the males believe in the stability of arranged marriage and the majority of the males holding this view are much greater than the females holding this view. On the other hand, the majority of the females believe that arranged marriages may last longer as compared to love marriage. The findings also show that for 7 male participants, they have their parents get married through arranged marriage, while for the other three this is not the case, as one of them was unaware of his parents’ marriage pattern, one did not and the other one stated it as love marriage. On the contrary, the parents of 4 females had arranged marriage, 4 females had love marriage, 1 had no idea and the other one chose ‘other’. This finding may imply the fact why majority of males were actually fond of arranged marriage compared to female participants. Quite evidently, it seems that majority of the male participants were brought up in families where arranged marriage was a tradition. Data reveals that 5 males believed that parents should introduce them to their potential partner but not being supervised their future meetings, 1 answered that parents should introduce and supervise the future meeting and 4 believed that parents should not get involved in finding the partner for them. On the contrary, none of the females answered that parents should introduce them and should supervise the future meetings. Among the group of the females, only 3 answered that parents should introduce but not supervise the future meetings, and 7 female participants believed that parents should leave it on their children to find out the partner for them. While analyzing the family perspective regarding the marriage pattern, we could see that 7 male participants believed that their parents would not mind them having love marriage. This shows however a majority of males were giving their consent to an arranged marriage and their parents had no objection of them marrying someone that they have decided to marry, implying that they had the trust in their parents finding them the suitable partner. Three males out of 10 believed that their parents would not allow them to have a love marriage meaning that they have no choice but to marry who their parents introduce. The statistics found from females, 6 of the females’ parents would support the decision of them having a love marriage; however, 4 of the females’ parents would not support them. The finding shows that a majority of the females would be supported and this may resulted in why the majority of the female participants were aligned to love marriage. On analyzing the interracial marriage perspective, 8 male participants believed that their parents would have no objection of getting married outside of their own caste and 2 believed that they would. This implied that majority of the male participants considered caste as no barrier in getting married and regarded as an old-fashioned custom. All of the male participants believed that their partner being from a different culture would not matter and 8 male participants believed that having a different religion would be a point of objection for their parents. On the contrary, 7 female participants the caste matters and their parents would have no objection and 3 believed the caste not a matter of question, 6 female participants believed that culture must be a constraint whereas 4 female participants believed culture not a matter of question. The high number of females’ parents who would not object may be because that living in one community, culture has almost vanished and that a new culture that everyone follows has come in place that everyone has adopted of the British society. Although, all female participants believed that their parents had problem having them partner from different religion. All male and female participants believed that more love marriages are taking place within South-Asian individuals compared to 20 years ago, which corresponded with the statistical report. The majority of male (n=9) and female (n=7) participants agreed that they knew individuals going through love marriage. Among them 4 male participants reported that although they knew people having love marriage, they had conflicts over their decision. On the contrary, 7 female participants reported experiencing conflicts over their decision regarding love marriage. These findings showed that few individuals still experiencing conflicts regarding their decision. All male and female participants agreed with the increasing acceptance of love marriage among South Asian parents and among young South Asians.
The results show that there is a growing evidence of acceptability towards changing pattern of marriage from arranged to love among South Asian individuals. In South-Asian perspective, marriage as a system is as much a concern of the families as it is of the individual (Mullatti, 1995; Nanda, 1995). Many young South Asians still consider that they do not possess the ability in terms of knowledge or experience to choose the right candidate for them. In marriage, the traditional belief coincides with the selection by virtue of the culture, education, occupation and social class compatibility by the respective parents on both sides (Nanda, 1995). Another significant key factor contributing to the selection of prospective candidate is the concern for similar socioeconomic background of the family in consideration (Medora, 2002). However, it is prevalent that the entire South Asian community promotes racism through the practice through its practice of arranged marriage, thus it can be contended that arranged marriages prevent social mobility, leading to the stagnancy in the deviation from established practices. By preventing the social mobility, arranged marriage actually reinforces the status quo within the family system. As a result, conventional unjust social practices – mistreatment of women, children, as well as other ethnic and religious minorities; for example, remain unconcealed within the societal framework. On the other hand, ongoing changes have been escorted in by religious, social as well as cultural restructuring. Industrialization, urbanization as well as technological advances have been influential in altering family structures, values and lifestyles. In South Asian context, especially middle and upper class families in urban settings were experiencing a dramatic revolution because the younger generation is inquiring power issues, conventional roles, hierarchical associations, obligations, allegiance and deference for kinsmen and elderly (Misra, 1995).
From the findings we can conclude that a significant shift has been prevalent among young South-Asian males and females. The majority of the female participants are actually aligned towards love marriage and the ratio is higher than that of the male participants. Now the prevalence of love marriage over arranged one has been triggered due to various significant factors such as educational level, intelligence, religion, social background, age and physical attractiveness (Becker, 1991). However, the universal characteristics of marriage not so long before was to offer males with legitimate children whereas females with a livelihood (Edlund & Korn, 2002). This may contribute to the thinking of the pragmatic aspect of marriage rather than a romantic institutionalization. The increasing alignment among female candidates towards love marriage corresponds to the rise in employment opportunities for women and the contraceptive evolution than the marriage institution (Edlund & Pande, 2002).

The findings also showed that majority of the individuals believed in their parents would agree with their decision to get married according to their own selected candidate, however, males were more aligned to get married to the candidate of their parents’ choice compared to that of the female participants, among which majority believed to get a hold in the decision regarding marriage should be in their hands only. The data shows that the female candidates perceived their prospective support from their parents as well as family members regarding their decision. As family support is considered to be one of the most essential ingredients for a successful marriage, which corresponds with the participants’ belief that there is an increasing rate of love marriage during last 20 years. The most common reason attributing to the occurrence of love marriage is of course contributing to the factor relating to females’ developing educational system as well as freedom of choice. This is not the fact that families do not have any role rather parental support is still very important.

However, the pilot study conducted here is too small for generalization. But it may reflect an idea on the current trend of shifting the view of South Asian individuals in terms of marriage decision. In previous societal framework, arranged married was found to be more beneficial as the local economy was largely agrarian, leading to put more emphasis on family attributes compared to individual attributes. The changing perspective of family involvement also attributes to the roles of in providing livelihood and education rather than preparing a child especially a girl child for prospective ‘good marriage’. In South Asian community, the role of women over the societal framework has been changed significantly that essentially contributes to a relinquishment of the parents to get a control over marriage to a larger extent by virtue of recognizing young, especially young women in particular, tending towards companionship other than parents’ selected marriage.
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