By Kaavya Rajesh
Given a global change in attitudes towards stereotypical gender roles, globalization, and personal freedoms, the outlook of Indian millennials towards arranged marriages is surprising. A recent Shaadi.com survey of more than 7,000 Indian men and women between the ages of 20 and 35 indicated that 59% of them wanted family or parental approval, while 23% opted to select “with a partner I found,” and the remaining 19% were open to an arranged marriage.
Studies reveal that this continued desire for some degree of parental approval could stem from trust in their parents’ decision making or simply the guarantee of family support. Cosmopolitan magazine interviewed several Indian millennial women and found that after bad experiences with dating, they decided to turn to family to set them up to explore other options. A common sentiment was that parents will thoroughly vet potential suitors, making them more reliable. “I don’t want to take the responsibility of choosing a man when I am only 25,” said one interviewee. Some others viewed arranged marriage as a convenient contract resulting in lifelong stability; with many crediting it as the cause for a low 1.2% divorce rate in India as 90% of marriages in the country are estimated to be arranged.
Yet an important aspect to consider is the definition of an arranged marriage. It is no longer viewed by most as an imposition. Unlike previous generations, when compatibility was a lower priority, most arranged marriages today consist of simply agreeing to meet someone your parents consider a good match. This is followed by dates and dinners resembling the modern dating culture of the west. The marriage takes place only with the consent of both the husband and the wife.
Marriages resulting from dates found on dating or matrimonial websites such as Shaadi.com or Jeevansathi.com could also be construed as arranged. Research shows that couples who meet online through algorithms designed to find compatibility are more likely to stay together. According to Gourav Rakshit, CEO of Shaadi.com, “over the last couple of years we have witnessed a rising trend of individuals signing up on the platform, with over 75 percent of members seeking marriage partners for themselves and not for a family member.” This demonstrates a conscious belief and desire for arranged marriage through online matchmaking platforms among Indian millennials. It should be noted however that the data was gathered through online surveys and is hence limited to more urban millennials with access to internet. Therefore, we cannot necessarily assume the same outlook among rural or lower socioeconomic demographics.
While data from surveys on arranged marriage may be surprising to many given views that the practice is outdated or forced, it must be taken into account that the definition of arranged marriage has changed over time. For urban Indian millennials, it is no longer seen as a contract enforced by parents but rather the opportunity to meet someone reliable and possibly compatible. Whether arranged occur through family networks or internet platforms, meeting someone with similar values could lead to long-term stability.
Whether arranged marriage has changed or not, one thing is clear: the mindset towards marriage in Indian society has not changed. While many around the world view it as a formal step towards declaring a couple’s love, Indian millennials continue to view it as a social, and often, business contract.
About the author:
Kaavya Rajesh is a senior at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Along with being a passionate writer and blogger, she also has a deep interest in sociology, economics, and psychology.