Late Marriage: Causes, Impact, Way-Out
The late marriage has emerged as one of the disturbing trends in Kashmiri society for the past few decades
More than a decade ago, a comprehensive study “Emergence of late marriages in Kashmir” conducted by the department of sociology and social work at Kashmir University had revealed that the average marrying age in males has increased from 24 to 32 years and for females 21 to 28 years in the last two decades. Now, experts say that since then the situation has got more complicated pushing the average marrying age further.
They say a large number of males and females in Kashmir who have passed the ideal marriageable age are now finding themselves over-aged in the marriage market.
Poverty, unemployment, dowry, the tradition of extravagant weddings, roadblocks to higher education, and wait for government jobs are some of the key reasons for the disturbing late marriage trend. Many believe decades-long political uncertainty has also played its part in changing the traditional social value system regarding marriages.
In some cases, delayed nuptials have caused problems such as mental disturbance, psychological and emotional disorders, adverse biological issues, suicides, divorces, pre-marital sexual relationships, and much more.
To have a deeper understanding of the issue and to understand its negative impact on overall society, ‘Kashmir Images’ spoke to some experts and the relevant people.
Fayaz Ahmad (Name changed)
A Srinagar resident
I am 46-Year-old. I was optimistic about getting married until a few years ago, but now I think it is too late. I was a teenager when my father, a carpenter, passed away due to chronic ailments in 1992. Till my father was alive, I had no idea of what a sole breadwinner to a household means. Soon after his death, I suddenly found myself face to face with this hard reality shouldering the responsibility of my mother and two unmarried elder sisters.
Initially, I tried to learn carpentering work with the help of a friend of my late father. However, in a few months, I abandoned the job, thinking that it will not fetch me enough money to support my family. I wanted to become an electrician, as one of my neighbors was in this job. He was of my age and I thought he had a good earning from his line of work. He took me with him to work. We provided electrician services mostly in the newly constructed houses and buildings. It took me two years to learn the skills of laying wiring, cabling, and switchboard installation. In the meantime, we decided to marry my elder sister off. I got some loan from my relatives and friends for the wedding. After marrying off my sister, all of my earnings started going away either to my debt payments or household expenses. There was no scope for savings. Meanwhile, another sister was passing her marriageable age. We started searching for a suitable spouse for her. However, it was not easy because our poverty was visible to everyone. Weeks, months, and years passed and in the meantime, I and my sister started losing average marriageable age. Even the marriage brokers (Manzimyors) stopped visiting our house.
To cut a long story short, finally, my sister was married to a widower. Obviously, it was not a perfect match for my sister, but we were left with no option. I again borrowed money from my friends and relative and the cycle of repaying started again. Now I am living a hand-to-mouth life with my aged mother. I have no savings, neither have I any future plans. I have decided not to marry. I do not want a family just only to face further troubles.
Manzimyor (marriage broker) in Srinagar
I have been working as a marriage broker for a very long time. Earlier people used to tie their sons and daughters in the knot at their younger age. However, now the overall trend, in this regard, has changed. The average marriageable age has increased during past two-three decades. I can give you innumerable examples of people getting difficulties finding matches because of losing an ideal marriageable age.
There are so many reasons for pending or delayed marriages. I think the major reason is roadblocks to higher education and job findings. It takes boys and girls a long time to complete their education and then finding their jobs.
After getting a good livelihood, their choices become complicated, as well. In many cases, well-settled girls do not prefer boys who earn less than they do. Well-settled males too have difficult choices. They wish younger and educated girls as their life partners. Traditional dowry practice too has become quite expensive, causing trouble to the poor and even to people belonging to the middle class. Not to speak of unemployed boys, people who do not have good jobs do not get suitable matches.
Earlier, marriages used to be planned by the parents and all the decisions about match finding used to be taken by the elders but time has changed now. Most of the youngsters, both boys and girls, now make decisions for themselves. They express their own choices and put their own conditions before the marriage brokers.
Unlike the past, people now rarely care about the Seerat (inner beauty) of the boy or a girl. During the match finding process for a male or female, people mostly concentrate on and investigate things like caste, income, academic qualification, family background, earning capacity, and other such things. Urban-rural differences are also a problem in match finding. Even in some cases, people have their preferences about religious sects. Many times people have difficulties with joint families. Girls do not want to be married in larger families. Many people have their preferences for the areas as well. Some parents do not want their sons or daughters to marry someone residing in densely populated or congested areas. I have seen some cases where people take astrology into consideration during the match finding process. Mach finding is not an easy job now. It has become much problematic and the late marriage tendency is one of the offshoots of these problems.
I think the late marriage trend has caused a huge challenge to our traditional fabric. Poor are the worst sufferers of this disturbing tendency.
Islam has emphasized on early marriage. Our Prophet (PBUH) has said, “An-nikah min sunnati fa-man raghaba an sunnati fa-laisa minni (Marriage is my sunnah and whosoever turns away from my sunnah is not of me)”.
Unfortunately, in our society, late marriages have become a normal practice. This tendency has some serious repercussions and the worst one is the moral degradation in society. Timely marriage itself is a need for every man and woman. Young couples are more compatible than those who marry late. Even in many cases, we have seen that late marriages end up in a divorce. Late marriages cause some serious problems in society. It has become a burning issue in our society. Our Ulema and Aima masajid do not pay heed to this issue. It is their responsibility to guide people and inform them about the importance of marriage at an early age. Poverty is one of the main reasons for late marriages. Islam stresses upon simplifying the institution of marriage. In our society, marriage has become an expensive matter. There is a need to cut down the wedding expenses.
Secondly, people who can afford should come forward to help the poor parents monetarily, so that they can get their daughters married. This is a social responsibility for all and everyone should play his or her role to stop the alarming trend of late marriages.
As far as the late marriage phenomenon in our society is concerned, it is not about the girls only. A large number of boys are equally suffering because of their inability to get married at an ideal marriageable age.
Since I have been organizing and arranging mass marriages since 2018, I have come across several case studies and understood the root causes of this worrying issue. While analyzing the issue, we can segregate the concerned people into two categories, rich and poor. The poor are the real victims.
As far as the upper class (in economic terms) is concerned, many girls from this class want to achieve economic independence before entering into wedlock. They pursue higher education and then find jobs. For them, marriage is secondary in their preference list. Unfortunately, many girls ruin their lives in the name of so-called feminism. Even their parents do not persuade them for getting timely married until it is too late.
The poor or those who belong to the lower middle class– are always eager to get their daughters married at an appropriate age. However, the lack of resources becomes an obstacle in their desire. Poor people, who have a hand-to-mouth life, do not have the resources to meet the unrealistic standards set by the overall society for marriages. The girls from this class of our society mostly become the victim. I usually come across the girls belonging to poor families, who have crossed the ideal marriageable age, but they are still unmarried. There is no survey or study available to bear out the exact number of these sufferers, but certainly, there are a large number of girls in our society, who have already passed the marriageable age.
Similarly, there are a large number of boys who want to be married at the right age but they are unable to meet the obligations and norms laid down by society.
We, as a society have either misunderstood the concept of marriage or have deliberately changed the meaning of this pious relationship, which actually is based on trust and mutual respect. I believe that being aloof from the teaching of our Deen is the major cause of our miseries. Our religious scholars can play a vital role in bringing us out of this trouble. People need to be guided and told the real concept of marriage.
Late marriage, itself is not a problem but the reasons forcing the late marriage tendency in society are the real problems. Getting married at any particular age can be a personal choice of an individual and the personal choice of an individual must be respected. The happiness of individuals is important for a healthy society.
In some cases, things considered bad by society are good for an individual. Take the example of divorce. Divorce is considered a bad thing in our society, but in many cases, it proves as a blessing to the concerned. If someone is wedded to the wrong person causing mental agony to him or her, divorce is a way to get rid of a painful life. However, if things like poverty or dowry practice cause delaying in marriages, then these causes need to be addressed. However, it is not only poverty, dowry or unemployment, which are responsible for late marriages. For example, unemployment is considered one of the reasons for late marriages, but sometimes it is employment that causes late marriage. If a boy or girl is well-employed, he or she searches for an equally well-employed spouse. The search causes a delay in mach finding.
I think the main problem in our society is caste and grade system. We have divided our society into many parts and this is the main reason for the late marriage tendency. Our marriages are based on materialism. Secondly, our society is of a patriarchal nature. We always link up the late marriage tendency with the girls only. If a forty-year-old man marries a twenty-year-old girl, we call them an ideal couple. But if the girl is a year older than the boy, their marriage is considered imperfect. This mindset impacts women the most. In Islam, there is no restraint of the age gap between the couple. Elder man can marry a young woman and an elder woman can marry a younger man. But we do not practice it.
Secondly, our society has set an ideal marriageable age for a girl as eighteen. But at this age girls are not even graduated. Does that mean they do not need to study and pursue their career? There are so many contradictions and hypocrisy in our society. We have built a complex system in our society and now it has started showing its repercussions. Marriage has not remained a sacred bond between a man and a woman; it has turned into a materialistic deal.
I think the social problems, including the late marriage tendency, can be fixed only if our youth get enlightened and modify the unjust traditions that emerged in our society over the years. There is no short-term solution to the late marriage tendency or to the other social problems. Everyone has to play a role to improve the social justice system. Otherwise, things will go bad to worst in the future.
The biology in the business of reproduction favors men more than females. With aging, women get problems in conceiving. Late marriage is one of the major causes of infertility in women. The best age for conception in females is between 18 and 28. After the age of 28, fertility naturally starts declining. Ovaries are the production house of eggs in women. These eggs get depleted after the age of late 20s and early 30s. After the age of 35, fertility begins to drop rapidly. Chances of conception become lesser and lesser. Even the eggs in the ovaries of the woman start aging with time and once the eggs are aged the chances of abortions are more during pregnancy. Even when aged women conceive, they are at increased risk of having babies with a chromosomal abnormality. In such pregnancies, hypertension becomes more pronounced and dangerous. Some other pregnancy-related complicacies too occur because of the age factor of the woman.
We have seen that the average marriageable age has increased during the past few decades. Because, unlike the past, women pursue their higher education and career now, which is good. However, they should not let their education and career become a hurdle in their marriage; neither should their marriage become a hurdle in their pursuing education and career.
I have done my post-graduation after I got married and had children. My husband and in-laws supported me in pursuing higher education for a better career.
People should encourage women to pursue education and their career after they get married. Society has to be changed. Society cannot and should not be gender biased anymore. I personally have always been in favor of women’s education because I have seen what happens to the females who are dependent on their spouses for monetary assistance. But at the same time, I am not in favor of late marriages. Women need to maintain a balance between marriage and career.