Social Norms Are Always Changing

(Amrit Pal Singh ‘Amrit’)

Chandu was a high official in Mogul royal court during the rule of King Jahangir in Delhi, India. After the engagement of his daughter with (Guru) Hargobind Sahib Ji, the son of Sri Guru Arjun Dev Ji, the fifth Guru of Sikhs, he (Chandu) used disrespectful words for the Guru. Sikhs there heard these words and felt very humiliated. They asked Guru Ji not to accept this marriage proposal. Guru Arjun Dev Ji did what Sikhs wanted.

The marriage between Chandu’s daughter and (Guru) Hargobind Sahib never took place. As was the norm of the upper caste Hindu society of those days, Chandu’s daughter remained unmarried till death.

It was unacceptable for an upper caste Hindu woman in those days to think of any other man, once her name is associated with a man. Once a woman is engaged with a man, no other man would marry her in case her engagement is broken. Such were the norms.

In those days, it was impossible for a Hindu widow to get remarried. Sikh Gurus encouraged marriages of widows, so that they could start their new lives. It was intentional change in social norms.

In this day and age, we can observe how the Indian traditional society has changed itself. Broken engagements, or even broken marriages are not a taboo anymore for girls, despite the fact that many people still exist who are not pleased with these transforms.

On a social network website, I came across a message in Hindi, which goes like this: –

In previous days, girls used to say, “I first passed B.A. 1, then B.A. 2, and then B.A. Final. Or, I first Passed B.Com 1, then 2, and then Final. Or, I first cleared B.Sc. 1, then B.Sc 2, and then B.Sc. Final.” Now-a-days, a modern girl says, “I first had my engagement (first), then my engagement (second), and then my engagement Final.”

While many socially respected families till today take it very humiliating if their daughter’s engagement is broken, many others do not take much notice of it. Girls are married even three or four times and they are almost accepted in ordinary society.

This news is now old that a film actress in Mumbai had a baby from a foreigner cricketer even without marriage. More and more people are adopting live-in relationships, even if such relationships have not been socially accepted in a big part of India.

However, it seems that social norms are now going further with more changes. In the landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India framed guidelines for bringing live-in relationship within the expression ‘relationship in the nature of marriage’ for protection of women under the Domestic Violence Act. The Supreme Court says that live-in relationship is neither a crime nor a sin and Parliament should frame law for the protection of women in such relationships and children born out of it.