Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Living Happily Ever After-More Ways Than One


This post is a preface to a post on bigamy written by a senior legal colleague, which follows soon.

Out of the 50 or so types of marriages, the most interesting I found was the walking marriage,  where the women from the Mosuo community in China welcome their lovers in the evening but let him toodle off to his mom the next morning to work for her in her home or fields. That's the way to do it. Enjoy the beggar and let mama scratch his other itches.  

Unfortunately we do not have walking marriages in India. Prevalent even today in India are mainly four forms of marriage-  Polygamy, polyandry, monogamy and same- sex marriages.

Polygamy- marriage between one man and several women, like all other marriages, came into being because of the socio-economic conditions prevalent in society at the time.   The proportion of women to men being higher, it was necessary for one man to marry several women both to provide protection and also sexual and emotional fulfillment.  Polygamous marriages are practised in the Bhil community of Mewar and are valid in India under the Muslim law.  

While modern non-muslims in India tend to turn up their noses at polygamy, it is a well known fact that Hindu kings, warriors and gods routinely took more than one wife.  Even today it is not uncommon to find many Indians of all faiths marrying a second time and maintaining both homes in relative peace.  Remarkably, despite bigamy being a crime under the Indian Penal Code, the instances where anyone has actually been charged with it is very very rare. Many illustrious Indians- men and women have sought partners outside marriage and lived happily, if illicitly, ever after.

Draupadi's marriage with the five Pandav brothers is a telling example of polyandry-marriage between one woman and several men.  The proportion of men to women being lesser, one woman had to serve many men in order to maintain order in society.  Even today in the remoter rural areas of North India, the scarcity of women necessitates one woman marrying more than one man, usually brothers. Interestingly the tribals in Himachal Pradesh -Kinnaures, still practice polyandry where a bride is often married to several brothers.  As the proportion of women to men increased, this form of marriage fell into disuse, but with female foeticide decreasing the proportion of women to men, polyandry is making a comeback in the remoter areas of India.

Nature to propogate humankind has not made man monogamous.   It was St. Augustine who insisted on one man one woman marriage and the spread of Christianity over the globe, is  the reason why the idea of monogamy as the only valid form of marraige has also likewise spread.

Same sex marriages are illegal in India where sadly, homosexuality still remains a crime.  But gay and lesbian marriages  do take place .  In the metros, gay partnerships and  marriages are not only accepted but even celebrated.  Unfortunately this is not the case in non metros where lesbian couples are known to have even been killed. However, the next couple of years will definitely see a change.  

Interestingly, the Yunan Province in China did not recognize marriage at all.Yunani women had “visitors” and in a lifetime a woman could have as many as 200 sexual partners.  Each partner could also have two or three other partners.  The society was a matriarchal one and the children of such liaisons were looked after by the mother.   

Lastly, there is  open marriage.  Of recent origin, the term describes a perfecly legal marriage  but one where either partner is free to make and maintain sexual relationships with another partner.   It is said that up to 6% of marriages are open marriages and  a number of well known personalities follow  open marriages.  Many open marriages lay down “ground rules” to maintain the relationships and deal with jealousy issues.

So take your pick or what the hell, just live in sin because guess what, that's recognized by the Code!  


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