In India, Get Paid to 'Marry Down'

Recent attempts to eradicate the caste-system in India have led the government to pay inter-caste couples for their marriage. A $250 cash award and certificate of appreciation is the prize for marrying someone outside of your social class.

But for Madhavi Arwar, marrying Chandrashekhar, her husband and member of India's "untouchable" caste, was a personal decision, one embedded in love. The sum they were paid was not a decisive factor.

India’s cast system has existed for thousands of years, though its exact origin is debatable. The four groups people were divided into consisted of a priestly class (Brahmin), a ruler or warrior class (Kshartiya), a merchant class (Vaishya), and a caste that worked in the agricultural and manual services (shudra). The “untouchables” (Harijan or Dalit) were considered so low they were not even included as part of the caste system, and usually took jobs that were otherwise seen as degrading, such as cleaning toilets and other sanitation-oriented tasks.

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For many decades, marrying outside of one’s caste system was seen as a sin. At times it was even punishable by death. Relatives would conduct “honor killings” in an attempt to maintain the honor of the family’s name. Some inter-caste couples were disowned by their families, a seemingly lesser degree of punishment for the “crime of love”.

The Arwars were high school sweethearts and battled through thick-and-thin to see their wedding day. Perhaps the money award and certificate being offered by India to its nationals is a way to help them see love truly has no barriers.