Arranged Marriage and Feminism
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Arranged Marriage, Name Change and Feminism – Story of a Small-Town Girl

 

 

Telephone conversation between two arrange marriage prospects:

 

Guy:

So, feminist han?

I don’t understand what is the problem of feminazis like you?

Why can’t you obey a simple tradition?

Not only in India, but in most of the countries, women take their husband’s surname after marriage. Children get their father’s surname.

That’s how it is. Are they all fools?

 

 

Girl:

But there was a time when traditions like Sati pratha, child marriage, no education for women were considered to be ethical and normal. There were many scholars and enlightened people in the society who followed these customs. Were they all fools?

No, right? They probably just obeyed the tradition without questioning.

 

 

Guy:

It is worthless talking to a feminazi like you. 

Do you even know this is a government law that marriages are not considered to be legal if women carry maiden names?

If a mother carries her maiden name, how is she even part of the same family? Does not that impact children’s mental health?

Do you know, even in a progressive society like the USA, women carry their husbands’ names? 

 

 

Girl:

No sweetheart, It is not a legal requirement in India and many other countries to change the last name after marriage.

 

In India, Article 14 and Article 15 of our constitution, ensure equality and Article 21 ensures the right to personal liberty (subjective).

 

There is no obligation for a woman to change her surname after marriage. Some women use both surnames in social media, but I am not going to do that because if men are not asked to add their wife’s surname, why should the wife need to use or add her husband’s surname? That is really unfair.

 

 Why can’t both keep their own identity after marriage?

 

Now, with respect to your second question, “If a mother carries her maiden name, how is she part of the same family? When a girl changes her maiden name and uses her husband’s last name, does that completely exclude her from her parental family?

 

If you think so, I can’t help it. Marriage does not change the relationship between parents and children (whatever rituals you follow) that is why Hindu Succession Act is amended and now married daughters have equal rights to parental property even in Hindu Undivided Families.

 

 

Coming to your third point, regarding women using their husband’s last name in the USA or other western countries, are you aware of the movement of retaining maiden name started in the USA only by someone named Lucy Stone? She is the one for whom, today women can vote with their maiden name in the USA and there is no legal mandate to change the last name after marriage. The number of women retaining their maiden name in the USA is increasing every year as per their national reports. Have you heard of Kamla Harris, Nancy Mace etc new age American politicians who never changed their last names?

 

 

Guy:

No No No. Wait. I don’t want to hear all those stories. My mom did it, your mom did it, then why can’t you?

 

 

Girl:

My grandma got married at the age of 12.  Can you justify child marriage based on that?

I know many women who did not change their surnames after marriage, but that is not the point. I won’t change it because I don’t want to. I have that personal liberty over my life.

 

 

Guy:

Get lost with your logic and feminism. I earn a lot!. You will understand your mistake soon.

 

He hangs up on her.

 

From the above conversation, you can understand what the outcome was. Yes, this marriage proposal did not work out and the girl received a lot of criticism from elders in her family for being stubborn and arrogant 

 

 

 

Let me take this opportunity to share the story of Lucy Stone, whom I mentioned before. Born on August 13, 1818, the leading suffragist and abolitionist, women’s rights activist Lucy stone dedicated her life to battling inequality on all fronts. She was the first Massachusetts woman to earn a university degree. She defied gender norms when she famously wrote marriage vows to reflect her egalitarian beliefs and refused to use her husband’s last name.

 

 

Lucy Stone
Lucy Stone

She met her dream man Henry Blackwell, a male feminist, who promised her to create an egalitarian marriage. Intended for publication, their wedding vows omitted the then-common regard to wifely obedience and included a protest against marital law. She also set a standard by retaining her last name ‘Stone’. They keep their daughter’s surname ‘Stone Blackwell’. If both parents give birth to a baby and raise them together then why should the kid inherit only the father’s surname? Their daughter Alice Stone Blackwell became a feminist and abolitionist, working alongside her parents.

 

 

She and her husband faced a lot of issues for their protest.

She faced legal issues while purchasing a property using her maiden name.

 

 

She was denied voting rights with her maiden name.

She had to add her husband’s surname for a temporary period to resolve the legal difficulties; society and legal framework were so patriarchal at that time.

 

 

But she continued her protest and legal applications and after a long time when it was proved that using her husband’s name is not required legally, she again changed her name to her maiden name with a public announcement.

 

 

Because of her protest, activism, and long lawsuit cases, today’s women in the US are free to choose whether to keep their maiden name or not.

She worked for many other social reforms including but not limited to the inclusion of women in higher studies, workplaces, politics etc. She created an example, that if a woman can challenge the patriarchal, unequal system and keep up the fight despite insults, trauma, and problems, she can actually make social reforms and motivate others.

 

 

I am proud to be an Indian, where, even if the society is patriarchal, the Constitution tries to ensure gender equality. There is no legal mandate for women to change their surname, children can use either father’s or mother’s surname or both or no surname.

 

 

But that doesn’t really change the social norms and customs. A woman who does not want to use her husband’s last name is considered arrogant, and stereotyped as disloyal to her husband and the marriage. Self Respect, self-identity or personal opinion are not desirable for women and are considered as negative qualities. 

 

 

Recently Priyanka Chopra, an Indian actress married to an American singer Nick Jonas, removed ‘Jonas’ from her name on Instagram and people started divorce rumour.

In a nutshell, if you are an independent woman with a free spirit, personal opinions, logical mindset and if you dare to question any age-old tradition you will definitely be considered as too progressive aka ‘non-wife material’ not only by men but also by most of the women in India. But at the same time, if you keep up your morals and don't surrender to systemic inequality and injustice you can rewrite history and be a change maker. The choice is yours.

 

 

Before concluding this piece, I would like to share the story of the girl I mentioned in the beginning, whose marriage was called off because she refused to change her last name. At the time of that conversation, she was an average software engineer. In the next two years, she not only worked her way up in her career but also gained a lot of knowledge about social injustice, inequality, law etc. Her income increased to a significant extent. Her fight for equality helped her to be a much stronger, more knowledgeable and a better person.

 

 

 

Pritha Chakraborty describes herself as a dreamer, analytics enthusiast, feminist, gender equality activist, logical Indian who dates with data.

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