I love weddings. I love watching them. I especially love performing them as a minister. The beauty of seeing two people meld their lives together and embark on the adventure of life satisfies the romantic nature of my soul. Recently, while in India, I observed family members and guests who were attending two separate, traditional Indian wedding ceremonies at our hotel. Marriage and wedding customs are different in India. Marriages are mostly arranged so the bride and groom may not know each other well.
The traditional Indian wedding clothing is spectacular. Vibrant colors and elaborate designs. As I watched guests arriving and mingling around the lobby area, I longed to take pictures and capture the beauty of the event. Feeling it would not be respectful, I tempered my shutterbug habits. What caught my attention and has haunted me since my trip was the countenance of each bride. They were lovely young ladies adorned in wedding finery, each sticking close to a woman I presumed to be her mother. Most brides are a little nervous, but the looks on these faces held more fear than simple bridal anxiety. Not what you’d expect at a wedding. Why might an Indian bride be fearful? Gendercide and spousal abuse are rampant in India.
In their culture, a young bride leaves her family and joins the groom’s family. Unlike in western culture where the bride expects to maintain close interaction with her birth family, an Indian woman may be separated from them. Tradition and custom put her under the protection and control of the groom’s family. In some cases, this opens the door to mistreatment and abuse. One gentleman we met while there shared the story of his own daughter who was beaten and cast out of her home with a six-month-old child. Her family was then threatened. God watched over them, but this story is not uncommon. In India, many women are victims of domestic violence.
No wonder a bride might fear her wedding day. She may not know what type of husband or family she is joining. She doesn’t know if her future holds joy or pain, acceptance or ostracism. American women are blessed with freedom, choices, and relative equality. I am praying for change in India. Will you join me? Confused cultural values cause women to be undervalued and mistreated, but history has shown that such situations can be changed when people of courage step forward and lead the way. Women in India are speaking out and the government is involved in calling for change.
Western women can help their Indian sisters by praying, learning about gendercide and supporting ministries in the field working to save mothers and female children. What have you heard about women’s issues in India?