After the High Court struck down the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate A Asuvathaman opposing the amendment in the Hindu Marriage Act, Self- Respect marriages have garnered interest and support.
Tamil Nadu is the only state in the country to have amended the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 under which Self-Respect Marriage Act 1968 was enacted that shunned wedding rituals such as saptapadi ( Seven steps ) around the holy fire, blessings by the priest , Sanskrit verses and tying of mangalsutra and entailed that if the bride-groom exchange garlands or rings in the presence of three witnesses, it would be a valid marriage.
Self-Respect marriage or Suyamariyathai was brought into effect in 1967 during the tenure of then Chief Minister Annadurai.
Talking about the need to bring the amendment V.Jeevagiridharan , A High Court lawyer and a member of the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) said, “We are Dravidians not Hindus, why should we follow rituals that were thrusted upon us by upper-caste Brahmins. The amendment has been made to uphold the Dravidian culture.”
The abolishment of such rituals during wedding ceremonies was propagated by EV Periyar during the self-respect movement in 1925. His movement aimed to bring the lower castes at par with the society and achieve equality between men and women.
Explaining how the act upholds equality for women, P.K.Langowan a DMK spokesperson said,” Mangalsutra or turmeric thread was worn by married women as a symbol of their betrothal but men did not wear anything to show the same and that gave them the liberty to indulge in indecent acts and get away with it , whereas women were persecuted due to this identity .” To put an end to this unequal practise the amendment includes shunning of mangalsutra.
He also added,” Sanskrit is not our mother tongue, therefore the practise of Sanskrit verses was abolished as they did not make any sense to us. We were tired of blindly following rituals that we could not relate to. “
However, this amendment has been condemned by several Brahmins in the state, Narayanan Sharma a Tamil Brahmin priest said,” This utter nonsense is nothing but political manoeuvring to garner vote banks. It is our duty to uphold the Hindu culture. Holy Matrimony is incomplete without Sanskrit verses that bless the couple and the family with prosperity and good health.”
The Act has been in effect since 1968, Self-Respect Marriages are now gaining momentum in the state, P.S.Kothandaraman a HC lawyer added,” My family has adopted the Self-Respect marriage approach. I married under this act and I urge our generation to do the same.”
The Self-Respect Marriage Act annuls only the wedding rituals, all other sections that govern laws pertaining to inheritance and divorce are to be followed as laid down under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955.