Divorces have increased in India and it is evident in the number of cases for divorce being filed in all courts in India. Many people believe that it is because of the influence of Western media. Has urbanization has broken the family lives on Indians? How has the Church in India responded to this situation?
There are three basic aspects in good relationship. The principle is same in all relationships including husband-wife relationship. The three aspects have been against women in general relationship within families in India. The education and liberation through employment has opened the Pandora box and hence so many divorces.
A bride that comes into relationship with the bridegroom through a marriage ceremony has to face an attitude that is typically ingrained in the Indian culture. First, women are seen as slaves or servants of the whole household. The expectation from the bridegroom and his household is enormous. She has to cook, wash, clean and manage the whole house. If she is working outside, the work quota in home does not diminish. The husband and household behave like taskmasters of Pharaoh who harassed the slave Israelites. The biblical concept of marriage is woman is a help-mate to the man. Husband – wife relationship is that of company, comrade and community.
Second, The husband has total authority over the wife and sometimes the whole husband’s family exercises authority over her. So she could be beaten up, harassed, hurt, injure and even killed. The wife has to be patiently forbear all these injustice and should not indicate this outside the family as the “honour” of the family is at stake. So the wife has no forum or individual where she can seek justice. Bible teaches mutual authority of husband and wife. As husband has authority over wife, so has wife over her husband. They are accountable to one another. Since they are one flesh, hurting one person will automatically hurt other.
Third, Woman is less important or less significant. So women household have to pay a huge dowry at the time of marriage. Though dowry is “illegal” it is not “immoral” from the social perspective. Insufficient dowry is a good reason to harass, torture and even kill the wife. Wife is created in the image of God and is precious in God’s sight. Women are equally candidate of salvation as Jesus died for men and women. So there is no reason for women to be less significant or important in a family. Dowry degrades a woman from a person to a commodity.
The second aspect of relationship is acceptance. In a marriage relationship a husband accepts wife and wife accepts the husband. But in Indian families the acceptance does not happen automatically. The caste equations, status of family and dowry are some of the aspects that paves way to marriage. A daughter-in-law has to give birth to a son to gain acceptance in her husband’s family. If she gives birth to girls she is harassed and ill treated for not being able to produce a male descendant.
So she finds her identity in her son and not in marriage relationship. So an Indian woman is naturally possessive of her son. Even after marriage of her son, she tries to control him. The stories of legendary fights between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is for the possession of son and husband respectively.
Bible clearly teaches that a man and woman should be united together. It also states that man should leave his parents and cleave with his wife. It is not physical leaving or economic leaving of parents but it is emotional detachment from parents and emotional attachment with the wife. When this biblical mandate is not obeyed, there is endless strife, fights and emotional turmoil within the marriage relationship.
Affirmation is acknowledging or recognizing a person. Affirmation builds the self-esteem of a person. Each person craves for self-worth. Wife is not given the needed affirmation. Gratefulness in Indian culture is expressed to people higher in status. It is not expressed to people who are sub-ordinates, youngsters or servants. So, wife is not affirmed for her contribution in the family. Her sacrifices are taken for granted in family.
Bible teaches to encourage others. Words of comfort and encouragement could help to build the self-worth of the wife. Affirmation happens while the burden is shared. Helping wife in household chores is a kind of affirmation that would build a healthy relationship.
Husband-wife relationship within the family in Indian culture is contradictory to biblical values. There is a need for drastic change in the worldview of relationships especially within the family based on biblical principles.