“We are not myths of the past, ruins in the jungle, or zoos. We are people and we want to be respected, not to be victims of intolerance and racism.”
‘Human Rights’- is a very commonly used term now-a-days. It not only includes basic rights such as Right to freedom of speech and expression, right to liberty, right against torture, slavery etc. but it has a lot more to it. One of the most important aspects is ‘Right to Marriage’.
Under Hindu religion the entire life of a person has been divided into four parts (aashrams) i.e. Brahamcharyashram, Grihasthashram, Vanprasthashram and Sanyasashram. The second part that is of Grihasthashram implies marriage and founding a family. It is believed that the institution of marriage makes a human being complete. Therefore marriage is an inevitable part of the life of human beings. Article 23 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states “The right of men and women of marriageable age to marry and to found a family shall be recognized.”
The institution of marriage is one of the sound social institutions to bring harmony and integration in social fabric. Inter-caste marriages and inter religion marriages are two important social institutions through which secularism finds its fruitful and solid base for an egalitarian social order under the Constitution. Therefore, due recognition should be accorded for social mobility and integration and accordingly its recognition must be upheld as valid law.
The Indian Attitude towards Inter Caste Marriages
For years, Indians had an orthodox mindset. They couldn’t imagine inter caste marriages. They had a conception that marriages are only possible in the same community and caste. Talking about inter caste and inter religion marriages in Indiawas a taboo for most people in the earlier days. However, with time things changed and inter caste marriage also became a part of the society. But a bitter truth still remains the same-the non-acceptance of inter-caste & inters religion marriages. The lower caste community likes SC/ST being the usual targets for atrocities. It is sad that some communities simply boycott and even brutally pester people who give agreement to their children for such marriages. Where the state is trying to pull the status of SC/ST’s on the other hand people are giving their best in diminishing their standards. It is commonly seen that a woman belonging to the Schedule Caste (SC) /Schedule Tribe (ST), marrying a person belonging to forward caste, is abused in the name of her caste by a member of the public or by her husband/or his relatives.
The Superfluous Belief
The set up of Indian caste system makes it clear that “One is born into a caste and this cannot be undone even with the saat pheras of sapt padi (Hindu marriage)”.Marriages are regarded as the most important social custom and hence, were viewed as the best means to remove the barrier of caste system. Today, in Indian society though we can see inter caste marriages, but mostly it is the part of the city culture. The rural parts of the country still have a long way to go. In villages ofIndia, even today people are very rigid in matters of marriages. They prefer that their sons and daughters should marry in the same caste and community; else they disown their son/daughter. Though there have been numerous incidents of the wife attempting suicide or being murdered, this has still not evaded the theory of caste system. People in villages need to be taught about the menaces of caste system and initiatives should be taken to fight against it. After all, a marriage is all about coming together of two souls, irrespective of social background and class.
Supreme Court Ruling in Lata Singh Case
We are living in time where we have a democratic constitution. Incidentally the legal position on such cases of choosing one’s life partner against parent’s wishes was elaborated in one Supreme Court judgment. OnJuly 7, 2006, the S C ruled emphatically that there can be no bar on inter-caste or inter-religious marriages. Those who harass and threaten such couples have to be prosecuted. In Lata Singh’s case SC observed, “This is a free and democratic country, and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whom so ever he/she likes”.
Honor for the Family, Death for the Girl
Parents despite their disagreement have no right or authority on the decision of the adult children. Maximum they can do is to cut off social relations with the couple. By now the cases of married couples being threatened and tortured in various ways are innumerous. The society continues to be gripped by the gender hierarchical notion that a girl cannot make her own choice in the matters of marriage. The patriarch is the one who calculates the caste, religion and social hierarchy before ‘giving’ his daughter. And this position of women is best exemplified in Kanyadaan (gift of daughter) in Hindu marriage ritual. In other religious customs also similar things prevail, ‘giving away the bride’. In Pakistan, the society is in the grip of similar hierarchical notion and many a times when the girl makes her choice and marries according to that, she is killed by her own relatives, and the ‘nice sounding’ but atrocious words is prefixed to that, ‘honor killing! ‘Honor’ for the family, death for the girl! In many parts of the country especially north India the caste panchayats have been deciding the fate of such couples, they are forced to separate, the girl being asked to tie rakhi on her husband’s wrist. The boy or couple being killed at times and in the worst of the cases the girl being raped on the dictates of the panchayat have also been reported. This trend cuts across different religious communities and has most to do with the prevalence of gender hierarchy. Other hierarchical notions, that of economic class, caste angles also get thrown in. In Gujarat many an attacks on Muslim minority were engineered, on the ground that Muslim boys are marrying Hindu girls.
The Villainous Khap Panchayats
In some Haryana villages, the young girls are routinely threatened, abused and killed all under Khap verdicts. It is acceptable for the families to feed pesticide pills to the teenage girls and then dispose off their bodies by burning them without any police records. The entire onus of siblinghood rests on the girl. She is the keeper of village honor. Sometimes rules are bend for the boys but a girl is never allowed to bend the rules. If a couple runs away then the families risk the boycott and hefty fines in lakhs of rupees. Even the other women of the house are abused. In keeping with the khap rules, old villages try to keep the young people apart. Some schools are also forced to have separate timings for the boys and girls. Fearing their daughters would go astray, many parents marry them off at an early age. People have unquestionable faith in the justice of khap. The question of rights for women does not exist any where in the territories ruled by Khap panchayats.
As responsible citizen we need to encourage human rights of each individual. Marriage is one of the Human Right. Then, why we as individuals, society at large not able to digest and tolerate if a person, irrespective of his or her religion, caste, creed, state, language, nationality, gets married into a different religion, caste and creed.The right to choice of life-partner is a matter of one’s own decision. It is attached to the sentiments of a person. After all, the person has to live with the other partner for the whole life therefore he or she should have absolute freedom to chose life-partner. The legislation and judiciary are in favour of such marriages but the orthodox mentality of people needs to be changed by stricter legislation and uniform civil code. They must not be allowed to sway the life of innocent individuals who love each other, the emotion which is lacking the most in the society
So to conclude I would just like to quote saying of MOTHER TERESA
“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.
 Lata singh v. state of UP (2006(6) SCALE 583)
Picture Courtesy- Pratibimb.org