For 28 year old Sheetal, the most painful thing is to attend marriage ceremony of a person younger than him. “People there talk about my marriage. They ask me if there is any progress. Give blessings in return for my negative answer,” says Sheetal.
Women in J&K get married later than women anywhere else in India. The average age at which women in the state marry is nearly 3 years more than the mean age of marriage in India, and a year-and-a-half more than in Kerala — the state with the next highest mean marriage age for women. (see image)
A study by the sociology department of University of Kashmir – “Emergence of late marriages in Kashmir” says that the average marrying age has increased from 24 to 32 years in boys and for females 21 to 28 years. Experts cite the following reasons for the persisting trend.
Unemployment & education
With society holding employment as the basic ‘prerequisite’ for getting married, the drying up of government jobs – biggest employer in the state – has rendered thousands of educated youth ineligible for marriage.
“Unemployment creates the sense of insecurity and frustration among bachelor boys and girls leaving them with an uncertain future,” says Yuaish Qureshi, an unemployed post graduate.
The desire of attaining higher education has added to the rise in average marrying age in Kashmir, as higher education followed by “proper” employment is a highly time-taking process in Kashmir.
Gynaecologists say that many couples who visit clinics are in their late thirties and early forties. With age the quality of eggs reduces that is the main reason of the increasing infertility among Kashmiri couples. Children born to late married couples have higher chances of carrying congenital diseases or birth defects. Since late married women are more likely to have hypertension and diabetes, surgery has become a rule. The increase in infertility among women is another reason for quick separation of the couple. No counselling or treatment is sought before. Higher levels of marital disagreements leading to depression is a universally accepted fact. Due to late marriage, a person gets lot of time for personal growth that makes him or her resistant to change, enhancing chances of marital discord.
Late marriages alter social fabric
Late marriages alter social fabric with premarital and extramarital affairs creeping into the society. Modernization gave rise to materialistic outlook and highlighted the ill effects of early marriage. But absence of a partner can result in the committing crimes, immoral activities and drug addiction.
Apart from financial uncertainty and political instability, many young boys and girls hold their parents responsible for their delayed marriage by compelling them to go for extravagance. Besides dowry and pomp and show, the benchmark of the expense at marriage functions increases every year with people exhausting their bank balances to put up a grand display of the marriage function. The hugh money needed for a typical marriage is collected by the time bachelor reaches his late 20s and then blown in a night. Humility and modesty is looked down upon, apparently projecting a low stature of the family which is wrong.