Right to choose

The trend of runaway marriages is on the rise in our society, giving birth to many social and legal problems. According to a report published in this paper, the number of cases in the courts related to runaway couples that marry by choice has considerably increased. More and more such couples are approaching the courts, pleading for solemnising their marriages and/or providing them protection from the wrath of their families and the police.The rising trend of marrying by choice focuses attention on our ages-old social set up in which parents or the elders of families had the sole prerogative to select spouses for their children. This cultural tradition produced many forced marriages. In these decisions, girls particularly had no say and they had to marry the men of their parents’ choice. The issue of compatibility between the spouses was seldom given much importance. The practice still continues. A majority of our people are still married into the families of their parents’ choice.

However, as our society is evolving and gradually getting modernised, many marriageable people have started going against their elders’ will. They are more educated and aware of their rights and choices now. The increasing interaction between the two genders at educational institutions and the workplace has significantly changed the social fabric woven with the idea of sex segregation.

The present situation has a fundamental conflict with the traditional culture, its norms and values. For many parents who believe in the old values, it is still a foreign idea. When their children express their desire to marry a person of their choice, they think it humiliating for them and a violation of the accepted social code of conduct. These circumstances lead the young couple to elope and solemnise their otherwise forbidden marriage. However, mostly these ‘banished’ couples have to face the anger and estrangement of their families.

At times, such couples hailing from more conservative backgrounds even have to pay the price of their right to choose with their lives. In many cases, the girl’s family registers a kidnapping case against the boy. The police usually take sides with the families, harassing and threatening the couple with grave consequences. That is why such couples have to increasingly have recourse to the courts for legal protection.

There is a need to understand that a love marriage or marriage by choice is not a sin but forced marriages are. Our religion, Islam, gives clear directions in this regard. Marriage is a contract between two mature persons who freely choose each other and are also free to part ways in case their marriage fails. If we look at it from a human angle, it also makes sense to every sane person.

The changing social dynamic demands an improvement in our social system regarding the institution of marriage. Parents should give due consideration to their children’s desires. Our legal system has to be improved and strengthened. It needs reforms so that runaway couples get legal support, necessary for protection of their lives and rights. – Dailytimes