The Constraints of Marriage – periyar

The Constraints of Marriage

The excerpt from the feminist, or proto-feminist, writings of E.V.Ramaswamy speaks of the burdens placed on women by that most durable of human institutions, marriage.

The married life of a man and a woman in our country is very bad; in no other country it is so bad. The marriage principle, briefly, involves the enslavement of a woman by her husband, and it is nothing else. We conceal this enslavement under cover of marriage rites and we deceive the women concerned by giving the wedding the meaninglessly false name of a divine function.

Generally speaking, not merely in our country, but in almost all countries of the world, as far as marriage is concerned, women are subjected to unnaturally harsh treatment. This will be accepted as true by all impartial people. But, in this, our country is far worse than other countries.

If this  wickedness against women continues, in the near future, that is, within another fifty years, marriage rites and connected relationships will cease to be; we can be sure of that.

Realising this, intelligent people in other countries are gradually relaxing the harsh treatment of women. Our country alone is obstinately clinging to the old practices. Therefore an unconventionally drastic agitation of women has to take place.

Last year (1929) at the Chengalpattu conference a resolution was passed stating that men and women should have the right to be divorced from their partners. And then in the Women’s Conference held in Madras recently there was a demand for a law to enable women to have divorce when necessary.

The so called social reformers raised a hue and cry against the resolutions in the two conferences. But after the Chengalpattu resolution, in some part of India and in other countries divorce laws have been enacted. In Russia marriage itself is treated as a daily contract.

All of us know that in Germany, if there is no agreement between a man and his wife, they can be divorced without assigning any reason. The Baroda government also has enacted such a law. In many countries of the West, such a law is in force. We have to say that it is foolish on the part of the government in our country not to have enacted such a law.

Newspapers report that in South India many husbands have killed their wives suspecting immoral behaviour. Sometimes the husband’s suspicion of his wife’s character has led to many murders. Those who believe in divine dispensation do not have the brains to ask themselves why marriages conducted according to religious rites and the approval of god, end in this fashion.

If the world of the women should progress, if the human element should develop in women and if men should have contentment and happiness and if they should experience real love, it is essential that we should give our people the right to seek divorce when it is necessary. Otherwise men and women will have no scope for independent living.

Many of our ‘social reformers’ raise a violent cry of protest if a man marries two wives. It is not clear what makes them raise this cry. Is it their devotion to religion or rationalism or their interest in the welfare of women or the freedom of human beings or the righteous conduct of human beings? We will discuss this question on another occasion.

“If the world of the women should progress, if the human element should develop in women and if men should have contentment and happiness and if they should experience real love, it is essential that we should give our people the right to seek divorce when it is necessary.

Now, I wish to ask the people who object to a man marrying more than one wife these questions : Is marriage intended to give pleasure and satisfaction to man or is it just a formal rite? If by chance a man gets as his wife a woman whom he does not like, who does not co-operate with him and who cannot give him physical pleasure, then what should the man concerned do? In the same way, if a woman happens to get a man unsuitable to her in every way, then, what is her lot? What is she to do? If marriage has anything to do with divinity, and if it is really dissoluble, will such complications arise in it?

When these things are considered it will be clear to any kind of man, that the talk of divinity is utter falsehood. Therefore, if divorce is not facilitated in our country by law as it is done in other countries, we will have to do propaganda against marriage and also for more than one partner for each married man and woman.

The apart, at present, we wish to urge the man who find their wives non-cooperative, and useless for giving pleasure and satisfaction, to come forward to marry the women they like. Only then the suffering that results from bringing together, in the name of divine sanction, men and women who do not know each other and who have not given their consent for the alliance, will end.

Why man is born and why he dies are questions with which we are not concerned. What we are convinced about is that as long as human beings live, they must enjoy pleasure and satisfaction. For this, a woman must have a man and a man must have a woman.

When this is accepted, if difficulties which cause sorrow between the couple crop up, it is the first duty of any sensible man to get rid of those difficulties. Those who work for the pleasure and satisfaction of other human beings must do this service.

Without getting rid of the difficulties if men and women suffer dissatisfaction and pain, telling themselves that simply because they are married, they must patiently put up with everything, I would say that they betray absence of the essential human qualities and also want of self-respect.

– Original Source : Kudiarasu, 17 August 1930

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