Dreams of Annai Maniammaiyar, Crusader of Periyar Movement Come True! – A Fitting Tribute

A progressive news appeared recently in Press Media.
Widows, divorcees break taboo  in Tamil Nadu

CHENNAI: A quiet revolution is sweeping across socially conservative Tamil Nadu. The state is witnessing an increase in remarriages of widowed and divorced women. Society also appears to have become more tolerant of what was once considered taboo.

People in the matrimonial industry said urbanization, financial independence of women and changing cultural values have been the primary drivers of the change. The trend started around 10 years ago and has been growing over the past decade, people said.

Murugavel Janakiraman, founder and CEO of Consim Info, the company behind bharatmatrimony, said there has been a change in the mindset of parents of widows and family members. “Parents themselves are hunting for suitable bridegrooms for daughters who have been widowed early in marriage,” he said.

Remarriage of widows has been promoted in Tamil Nadu for a long time, with the state government extending financial assistance of Rs 20,000 through the Dr Dharmambal Ammaiyar Ninaivu Widow Remarriage Assistance Scheme. The scheme was launched in 1975 to rehabilitate widows and encourage them to remarry. But most remarried women do not apply for assistance under the scheme, social welfare department officials point out. “Only 167 women received assistance from the government under the scheme in 2008-2009 and 181 women in 2009-2010,” a senior official said.

Young widows have welcomed the development. “My first husband died in an accident when I was 27 years old. After a couple of years I agreed to remarry. Life is good now. I married a man who was happy to accept me with my five-yearold daughter. We are leading a meaningful family life now. I hope this change is here to stay,” said K Rohini, corporate company employee.

Janakiraman said the number of profiles registered on bharatmatrimony’s site for remarriage launched three years ago has been increasing by 20 per cent to 30 per cent annually. “Many of the women who have registered on the site are divorcees but there are also around 10,000 widows,” he said. “Chennai has the third highest number of remarriages after Mumbai and Bangalore, and Coimbatore is also among the top 10.” The average age of those who marry again is 36 for men and 32 for women.

S Priya, who operates a matrimonial centre especially for remarriage, said only few hundred women registered when she started the centre. “Now we have more than 1 lakh profiles,” she said.

B Radha, gender and media researcher and professor at Tirunelveli-based Manonmaniam Sundaranar University, pointed out that rural Tamil Nadu has not changed much.
(Courtesy: The Times of India, 14th March 2012)

It is indeed a happy coincidence that the news of such women’s emancipation has come at a time when we are celebrating the Birth Day and commemorating the  Memory Day of Annai Maniammaiyar, Crusader of Periyar Movement. The fact that Tamil Nadu has registered a hallmark of such liberation for women. The opinions of two eminent champions of the women’s cause bring out the fruits of Annai’s lifelong struggles for the same as the response to the following questions.

1.     Are the above changes  an indication of the liberation of women from Indian Male Prerogative?

2.     Do you think the pace of progress is enough?

3.     What do you think the reason for such progress chiefly in Tamil Nadu?

4. Your suggestions to make such progress move faster and also to the rural areas?

Mrs.Arulmozhi, Propaganda Secretary,

Dravidar Kazhagam

l Yes.  certainly.  It is not easy to oppose the male oriented, discriminatory code of conduct imposed on women in Indian Society.  The re-marriage of a woman has been opposed by many of the parents who either subscribe to or afraid of this discriminatory social rule.  The social code of conduct, attaching a divinity or sanctity to chastity has usherped the rights of the women over her body.  The remarriage of a widow or divorcee is a visible move towards social empowerment.

l No.  It is definitely insufficient.  The decisive role of women on their marital life is a rare phenomena in our family system.  The decision for prolonging a marriage which deserves to be dissolved are most often taken by the male members of the woman side whose marital life is in question.  If the father feels “No” for a divorce then the daughters are indulged in vexatious fights just for keeping the ‘bond’ alive.  It indirectly prevents or protects the woman from thinking of remarriage.  If the case is dragged for few years in the courts; thanks to our legal system the woman will turn grey and cross (!) the age even to think of remarriage. Now the family is happy as they have saved her ‘Karpu’  (divine chastity). The progress of course is there but not enough and proportionate to the growth, development and exposure in other fields.

l No doubt it is Periyar, the one and only philosopher who dealt all the aspects of social, religious, economical and political subjugation of women.  Periyar’s resolutions in 1920s demanded equal rights in employment for women with 50% reservation. He claimed priority for women in appointment of Teachers in elementary schools. His social struggles to abolish the Devadasi, and the resolution passed and insisted in 1940s for the rights of women to divorce and remarry were contemptuously received by our society.  Yet, Periyar succeeded during his life time and his movement carries the torch ahead.  Periyar’s followers are living widespread cutting across the organisational barriers and national frontiers.  Hence his philosophy leads Tamil Nadu which has resulted in ascendance of seven women to the apex position in Judiciary as Judges of the Madras High Court which is not possible in any other state in India.  

l 1. The women should be released from the clutches of religious tyranny and economic slavery.

2. The rural women will easily assemble for causes rather than the women in the city.  So special attention should be given to the Gender bias of rural women.  Organising them to fight for their specific rights will develop a common space of women to think and act rationally and to assert their rights in all spheres of the social system.

3. The youth specifically the male members should be trained to address the Gender bias in public fora and to practise the same at home which will give hope to women in general to follow Periyar Feminism.  A deed indeed is more powerful than innumerable words.
Mrs. Tamilselvi, Vice-President,

The Rationalists’ Forum

l Rather than taking the above changes as the indications of liberation of women against Male Prerogative attitude, we can very well find these changes that the strongholds of Hinduism and its traditions are being weakened slowly.

l No, as per the social revolutionary, Thanthai Periyar’s Ideals, women should also be given the right for denying marriage, as well as the widow re-marriage rights and divorcee re-marriage rights . Let us recollect the sayings by Thanthai Periyar that marriage should be made as a criminal  offence.

l For any question on cause for any society based revolutionary changes, the one and only answer is PERIYAR; Like wise the main cause for these progressive changes in Tamil Nadu and other states, is the tireless struggle led by PERIYAR for women’s liberation. Another reason may be the transformation of our conventional joint families into nuclear families nowadays. The match and ward duties that have to be performed by family members over their widowed / divorced female’s conduct are very cumbersome for nuclear family members. This is also one of the reasons for the above progressive changes.

l In my view, widow remarriages, divorcee remarriages are more popular in rural areas than in urban sectors. Since these remarriages in rural areas are not empirically evidenced, there would have been an apparent notion that these revolutionary marriages taking place in urban areas are more than in rural areas. Among some of the underprivileged castes of most backward communities like Vanniar, Devars, and Scheduled Caste community remarriages are socially recognized. Unless or otherwise a genuine, data based survey is conducted in this regard, suggestions in this regard are pointless.

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