The topic I chose to make my ethnographic inquiry about is marriage. Marriage is a socially or ritually recognized practice between spouses. This union between spouses establishes rights and obligations between them. A marriage is known as a great way to start/expand a family. “Countries encourage married for several reasons, including the advantages of sharing labor market participation and household tasks, better conditions for children, and higher incomes for the households” (Duarte, L. G., & Coavas Blanquicett, S. G., 2016). Even though marriage is a large deal in many cultures, it tends to be different in every culture. Throughout this ethnographic inquiry about marriage, I will talk about different aspects of marriage in India, Colombia, The United States, and Russia.
To an Indian family, a marriage is one of the most expensive events. The parents of the daughter often go into major debt after everything for the wedding ceremony and festivities are paid for. The expenses of these weddings can be more than six times the family’s yearly income. These expenses can “force a family into destitution and bonded labor especially when there are several daughters to be married” (Bloch, 2004). “The economic burden of a daughter’s marriage has been identified as a major cause of gender discrimination and domestic violence” (Bloch, 2004). A large chunk of the wedding money is paid to the grooms family in the form of dowries. The rest of the money is spent preparing for the wedding ceremony and feasts that can go on for many days (Bloch, 2004). In India, most of the women and men get married and it is not seen as an odd thing to get married early on in life. With a child marriage, actual living with a spouse doesn’t happen until many years after the “initiation of the marriage contract” (South, 2016).
Marriage traditions in India have two ceremonies that take place: the wedding and the gauna ceremony. These traditions happen at different times and for different reasons. “After the wedding, the bride and groom do not necessarily move in together, especially when one or both of them marry before the legal age of consent. The wedding is a commitment, but until they are of age, the bride may either remain with her family or move in to live with her husband’s family. The gauna ceremony indicates the start of marital life and the consummation of the marriage” (Castilla, 2018). Marriages in India are usually arranged. They are typically arranged by the parents and sometimes other family members. The men and women getting married often have no say in the picking of their spouse. “Sixty-six percent of the women met their husbands on or around the day of their wedding, and seventy- eight percent knew their husbands for one month or less when they got married. Even among women who felt they had a choice in partner selection, about fifty- five percent met their husbands on or around their wedding day” (Andrist, 2010). “These marriage practices are deeply embedded in a largely patriarchal cultural system in which families’ exchanges of daughters and sons through marriage results from, and further solidify, familial, community, and kinship bonds” (South, 2016). These arranged marriages usually “form alliances between two families that are aimed to enhance family prestige, status, and normative kinship order” (South, 2016). Young girls are matched with their partners as young as a couple years old. “The UNICEF report on the world prevalence of child marriage indicates that India has the largest number (thirty- three percent) of child brides in the world” (Castilla, 2018). In November of 2007, the government enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act in hopes of decreasing that number.
The act establishes a harsh punishment for anyone trying to engage in child marriage and allows the following parties of a child marriage to get an annulment. It has been found that child marriages have negative impacts on the health of the bride as well as her autonomy, economic opportunities and her children’s health. It affects her autonomy “over contraceptive use and fertility resulting in a higher likelihood of early and high risk pregnancies, being at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, and experiencing intimate partner violence” (Castilla, 2018). Child marriage also makes young girls more helpless. Lastly, Children that take part in marriage when young are often less likely to go to school (Castilla, 2018). Throughout United States history, marriage has been seen as a social good, not as much for the men as for the women though. It is seen as a concern if marriage rates for a specific group of women go down. Less than ten percent of women don’t marry that are able to in the United States. “While marriage has significant social, phycological, religious, and cultural dimensions, these have often been overshadowed by legal definitions. The historical trajectory of marriage is often described as a shift from marriage as a status to the notion of marriage as a contract, but both status and contract coexist in conceptions of marriage” (Robson, 1998). No matter what the marriage is seen as, it is regulated by state law. Since colonial times, state laws have govern marriage. State laws have control over who can get married and what age you can get married. “The legal age for marriage with parental consent ranges from twelve years for females and fourteen years for males in some states and without parental consent the ages range from sixteen to twenty- one for females and eighteen to twenty- one for males” (Robson, 1998) In the United States there is a huge controversy with people who are already married who try to enter into another marriage. This is because of the Mormons’ acceptance of polygamy.
“Although marriage is within the province of state rather than federal regulation, the federal government conditioned Utah’s entry into the Union upon abolishment of its laws permitting polygamy, causing the delay of Utah’s statehood until 1896, more than forty years after the initial application” (Robson, 1998). Another big controversy in the United States is same- sex marriage. “This controversy over same- sex marriage not only implicates laws and legislators but feminist theorists have also divided over the issue” (Robson, 1998). Although child marriage is seen as a violation of human rights that affects the health and well- being of children around the world, in the United States, it is legal under some circumstances. “The marriage of minors remains legal throughout the United States. All states ostensibly set the minimum age for marriage at 18, but exceptions can be granted in every state under various circumstances, most commonly parental consent and some measure of judicial approval” (Koski, A. and Heymann, J., 2018). Just like in India, girls who marry as children in the United States have lower education achievement. Marrying at such a young age also increases the risk of poverty. Girls who marry young are also more likely to start having children of their own at a younger age. This puts them at a greater risk of having mental health issues and substance abuse disorders. “Early marriages are also much less stable than those entered into later ages. Marriages also involving girls and boys younger than 20 have a lower probability than those involving any other age group of remaining intact after five years; they also reported to being less satisfying” (Koski, A. and Heymann, J., 2018).
In Colombia, marriage wage premium is a big deal due to the differing social norms and labor market structures. “Being married may raise worker productivity and increase the probability of remaining in a job and, as consequence, obtaining a wage premium. Yet, this effect may be different for males and females. Marriage creates the need to rethink the way men and women participate in the labor market due to the interdependence of the decisions that individuals have to make once they decide to be together” (Duarte, L. G., & Coavas Blanquicett, S. G., 2016). This is the reason that in the United States, policymakers build family related provisions into welfare legislations. This interdependence affects the employer’s behavior because of the associated factors like trustworthiness, stability, and the productivity of the employee. This creates the treatment of non- married and married employees to be different. “Moreover, employer behavior may be different for individuals of different genders due to the different roles that males and females have within households. While there is some evidence that shows a wage premium independent of the individual’s gender; other studies indicate that married men earn more than non- married men, but married women do not earn more than non- married women. This phenomenon for females is called the motherhood penalty” (Duarte, L. G., & Coavas Blanquicett, S. G., 2016). In Colombia, women who do not have children earn a little bit more than women with children (Duarte, L. G., & Coavas Blanquicett, S. G., 2016). In Russia, there is a crisis in marriage and family relations due to social change. “The demographic crisis, which has griped Russia at the turn of the century, confronts a challenge to the sociologists to seek ways of influence on the process of human reproduction.
This crisis in Russia manifested in the reduction of fertility on the background of high mortality” (Khairullina, N. G., Ustinova, O. V., Garabazhii, V. A., Tretyakova, O. V., & Bogdanova, J. Z., 2016). Marriage rate is affecting the reproduction of the population in Russia. The number of marriages that are unregistered in Russia are increasing year after year. “There are new types of marriages- trail marriage, weekend, or guest marriage, when the couples lives separately and do not maintain a common household, marriage at a distance when the couple live in different cities, and periodically visit each other” (Khairullina, N. G., Ustinova, O. V., Garabazhii, V. A., Tretyakova, O. V., & Bogdanova, J. Z., 2016). These are associated with the change in moral values and morals of youth. “If earlier the family as a social unit was controlled by the church, state and society, today such control is minimized. Young people become self-centered, and the highest values are achievements, success, and professional growth” (Khairullina, N. G., Ustinova, O. V., Garabazhii, V. A., Tretyakova, O. V., & Bogdanova, J. Z., 2016). Due to this, marriage rate is going down in Russia and if it keeps going the way it is going, the population of Russia will drop to a dangerous level by 2050 (Khairullina, N. G., Ustinova, O. V., Garabazhii, V. A., Tretyakova, O. V., & Bogdanova, J. Z., 2016). As you can see, marriage is huge in these countries but each in their own unique way. In India, weddings are a huge deal. It is not just the bride and groom getting married, it’s the families that are getting married to each other. A wedding in India is not like a typical wedding that you would see here in the United States.
Marriage is so important that families have their young children get married even though it actually causes a lot of harm for that child in more ways than one, especially to a young girl. India has one of the lowest ages for marriages. Even with the act that was put into place in 2007, the “mean age at marriage for women is still below twenty years old” (Andrist, 2010). In the United States, marriage is seen as a social good for women and it is concerning if the rate of marriage goes down for women. There is also some controversy when it comes the same- sex marriage and child marriage in the United States. In Colombia, marriage wage premium is a big deal and affects households. Lastly, In Russia, marriage rate is going down which is hurting the population because there is not a lot of reproduction.
- Andrist, L. (2010). Gender Scripts and Age at Marriage in India. Demography, 47(3), 667-687. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://muse-jhu-edu.jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/article/389288 Bloch, F. (2004).
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- Political Role Models and Child Marriage in India . Review of Development Economics , 22(4), 1409-1431. Retrieved November 5, 2018, from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/rode.12513
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- Koski, A. and Heymann, J. (2018). Child Marriage in the United States: How Common Is the Practice, And Which Children Are at Greatest Risk?. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 50(2), pp.59-65.
- Robson, R. (1998). Marriage. In W. P. Mankiller (Ed.), The reader’s companion to U.S. women’s history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved from http://jproxy.lib.ecu.edu/login?url=https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/rcuswh/marriage/0?institutionId=4258
- South, S. J. (2016). Demographic Opportunity and the Mate Selection Process in India. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 47(2), 221-246. Retrieved November 4, 2018, from https://www.jstor.org/stable/44109620?pq-origsite=summon&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents