The world has squeezed too much in the current digital age. Nations and societies that were hitherto largely exclusivist are drastically being affected by this new age.
Kashmir that has a 5000 year old history and boasts of unique culture and ethnicity is also being impacted by the globally prevalent socio economic and political dynamics.
This beautiful but conflict ridden region of South Asia is struggling to keep intact its exclusive ethnicity and cultural traditions. But the strength of the new influences is so strong that it has upset many traditions.
A lot of evils like early marriage have dissipated but acquisitive nature of materialism and cultural diffusion from dominant nations has brought in some new trends, the “late marriage”.
In 2007 a study by Dr Bashir Ahmad Dabla, a professor of sociology at the University of Kashmir titled ”Emergence of late marriages in Kashmir” revealed that during the past three to four decades, the average marrying age has increased from 24 to 32 for men & 21 to 28 for women. The average age of marriage in Kashmir used to be 23 years for males and 20 years for females.
There are various causes for this increasing age for marriages. But the basic reasons considered for this phenomenon in certain sections of the society are unemployment and pursuits for higher education. For instance when a boy or girl chases for Ph D his her age crosses 30.
Afterwards he or she searches for a job which is a very hard feat to achieve in Kashmir, keeping in view its economic underdevelopment. The private sector especially the corporate sector is almost nonexistent. This accordingly results in the rise of late marriage.
Recently a survey was conducted by Falahul Muslimeen, a nonprofit organisation which revealed that nearly 50000 women in Kashmir have crossed the normal age limit of marriage.
The NGO planned to arrange and bear the marriage expenses of one hundred unmarried poor women. But during its survey it found thousands of women had crossed the acceptable threshold of marriage.
Most of these women belonged to the underprivileged families and had fallen prey to many new social evils. A senior functionary of the NGO told me that most of the women that were not getting married even after attaining the required age limit were hailing from south Kashmir.
In its survey the NGO also came to know that certain customs like dowry associated with the marriages have deteriorated the situation. Presenting and offering of gifts like golden jewellery items, copper ware, garments, serving of wazwan, the sumptuous meals at wedding ceremonies, and many other customs have made this pious institution of marriage a burden. It crushes under its weight the parents who have scanty resources and are unable to manage the liabilities of one or more daughters.
Another survey ”Youth in India2022” conducted by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation let slip the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has exceeded the usual age of marriages. 29.1 % of its youth were unmarried, the survey said.
According to the survey the state turned union territory has the highest percentage of unmarried youth as compared to other states of India. The demand of dowry items by the groom’s family has prevented many families from getting their daughters married.
The phenomenon of late marriages has many other sociological reasons. People prefer marrying their son or daughter in their own caste, said sociologist Irshad Ahmad Bhat. The expert confirms the fact that dowry is very much a domineering reason preventing timely marriages despite efforts by the administration to ward off this evil.
The said evil has given birth to many other issues like infertility. National Family Health survey data 2019-2021 spilled the beans on this issue. It said Jammu and Kashmir had the lowest total fertility rate in India at 1.4. So it is time to fight against the evil reasons behind the late marriages before it subdues us all.
The matter is discussed and debated everywhere. It is the need of the hour to fight against this evil. The best remedy is to inculcate logical, rational and ethical values in our families. In certain cases girls themselves delay their marriages due to their aspirations for higher studies.
If she enters a nuptial knot at a right time let she be given liberty to continue her education by her husband or her in laws in cases of a joint family system.
This liberty to pursue education at in-laws would reduce the issue of delay in marriage in a fair number of cases. These ladies also need the support of their spouses and in- laws if they do not want to remain confined to their homes and wish to venture out for the sake of jobs.
Besides, grooms in our society are looked out on the basis of their incomes and material assets. It must not be the criteria for the pious relationship of marriage because it is social contract between two individuals and not a financial agreement.
People across the socio economic spectrum need to be sensitised about the causes, consequences and after affects of late marriages. It needs a wider publicity in the print, electronic and social media.
Community leaders, NGOs and religious institutions can largely contribute in this regard and help eradicate the evil of late marriages from our society.
(Ulfat Jaan pursues PhD in English Literature at RIMT university Chandigarh)
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.