It is pretty easy to forget that the the rituals we celebrate in the West are not common place around the world. If one were to state, “I went to a wedding this weekend”, most of us would probably conjure images of teary audience members, open bars, and a general sense of happiness for the couple to wed. Cynthia Gorney’s recent piece on child brides in National Geographic reminds me that our concept of the wedding is not the norm, and that such ceremonies can set entirely different moods in other countries.
Gorney’s piece opens with a description of the pre-wedding scene of a secret late night wedding to take place in India,
“… it was well into the afternoon before the three girl brides in this dry farm settlement in the north of India began to prepare themselves for their sacred vows. They squatted side by side on the dirt, a crowd of village women holding sari cloth around them as a makeshift curtain, and poured soapy water from a metal pan over their heads. Two of the brides, the sisters Radha and Gora, were 15 and 13, old enough to understand what was happening. The third, their niece Rajani, was 5. She wore a pink T-shirt with a butterfly design on the shoulder. A grown-up helped her pull it off to bathe.”
An Indian village has banned unmarried women from using mobile phones. The reason? Village elders fear that unmarried women will use mobile phones to arrange their own marriages behind their father’s backs. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Three words spring to mind here, and I can abbreviate them by just writing – WTF.
The Lank village council has decided that unmarried men can use mobile phones only under parental supervision, whilst unmarried women face a blanket ban on their use. Local womens’ rights groups have criticized the measure as backward and discriminatory, but the council has defended the move, saying that the arrangement of forbidden …
Having grown up in a place that is infamous for its creative forms of marriage, I take great joy in seeing other innovative (I’m about half being snarky and half being serious with the word ‘innovative’ here) responses to a social institution that most societies have settled similarly . The mountain towns of the Himalayas take an opposite approach to the founders of the great state of Utah, and allow many men to marry the same wife; specifically many brothers to marry the same wife. Interestingly, however, the practice has faded within the past generation. The New York Times describes why this is a notable development:
Polyandry has been practiced here for centuries, but in a single generation it has all but vanished. That is a remarkably swift development in a country where social change, despite rapid economic growth, leaping technological advances and the relentless march of globalization, happens with aching slowness, if at all.
So, there are certain questions we all have (or maybe it’s just me?) about sharing a wife among brothers (admittedly, most of mine are sexual, probably because I’m not terribly mature). The article goes on to address a few:
The UK’s Guardian yesterday reported on a triple murder of family members in India that is being said to highlight a distressing rise in honour killings in the country. A new husband and wife, along with the wife’s female cousin, were each shot in the head twice last Sunday evening. The victims had no reason to suspect their murderers –-the murderers were their relatives.
An honour killing is the murder of a (generally female) family member by fellow family members, where the murderers believe the victim to have brought dishonour upon the family, clan, or wider community. The perceived dishonour can be for a number of different reasons; for example a woman dressing in a way that is considered unacceptable, or rejecting an arranged marriage. We’ve covered this topic before on Zelda Lily – back in the November of last year, Dharma reported on the killing of a young woman in Arizona, by her father, for being ‘too Western.’