As you know by now, I live in a mixed marriage that is – interracial and interfaith. When I met my husband, it was obvious to me that there is no legal obstacle for us being together and getting married given that we lived in Great Britain.
Moreover, I was quite confident that there would not be any major religious difficulties from my side (I am Catholic) and from my husband’s side (he is Sikh). Of course, we were aware there might be some bumps on the way, but that eventually our religions would not interfere in our union.
The biggest issue for us was – the society. I don’t mean ‘the society’ as the general public, but rather our own – small communities and the most important ones, our families. How will they react? What will they say? And the most important question- Will they agree to us getting married and being in mixed marriage?
A mixed marriage is a marriage (in general) between individuals of different races, religions or ethnicities. In most countries today, people are permitted to marry whomever they want. They can mix, blend, and create fabulous fusions. It sounds so simple and easy, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, it was not always like that. In the past, interracial marriages were forbidden and criminalised in several countries of the world. Although the USA is considered to be the finest examples of democracy, freedoms, and equal rights, interracial marriages were prohibited and penalised in many states until a landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision (Loving v. Virginia case) invalidated all anti-miscegenation laws (which were enforcing racial segregation) and deemed them unconstitutional.
Great Britain, which is where I work and live, implemented several anti-miscegenation laws in India (then still a British colony) right after the Indian Insurrection of 1857 (also known as India’s First War of Independence, the Great Revolt, the Sepoy Mutiny or the Indian Rebellion) and were in place until India won independence in 1947. Interestingly, in Britain itself, there have never been legal restrictions against interracial marriages.
In addition to prohibitive laws, mixed marriages also face the challenge of union due to partners’ different religious affiliations. Unfortunately, this issue is still ongoing in certain places in the world. Interfaith marriages are legally banned or restricted mostly in countries with theocratic governments where the legal system is based on religious laws, such as Saudi Arabia. However, there have been implemented changes and improvements towards the right direction- the freedom of choice.
If you are interested, here is my article about Our Happy Multifaith Catholic Sikh Family .
On the positive side, mixed marriages are nothing new. We may not have called them that but they have existed since time immemorial. Millions of our ancestors had entered mixed relationships that helped to shape current world population.
Then why do mixed marriages in some parts of the world still raise eyebrows?
Our history gives us wonderful examples of people from various ethnicities (even races) who have existed side-by-side and created uncountable number of mixed relationships. The best example of this is the Indian subcontinent. While not without its own set of cultural issues, it has a long and significant history of interethnic marriages dating back to ancient times. In South Asia, separate groups of racially/ethnically different people have been intermarrying for centuries. Moreover, this region is also known for its religious diversity where Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism and Zoroastrianism coexist till today. Although Hindu-Muslim marriages mostly don’t happen (or rather are exceptionally rare due to historical issues), mixed marriages between Sikhs and Hindus are much more common.
While a Catholic-Sikh union may not be quite common either, once we started dating seriously, we knew we had to obtain a formal ‘acceptance’ or ‘agreement’ from our parents to continue our relationship before we could get married, because we were with someone outside our ‘normal’ (racial/ethnical/religious/social) group. Fortunately, we both have wonderful parents who accepted our love and agreed to our marriage. I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if they didn’t… Lucky stars and God’s blessings were with us.
However, not every couple is that fortunate. Mixed marriages and mixed kids still sometimes face a sort of stigma- rejection, discrimination, a lack of understanding or just a curious look. I know many couples who cannot get married or get married against their parents’ wishes. Skin colour or a different religion should never be a reason for disapproval even though, sadly, sometimes that is indeed the case.
Mixed marriages are great examples of love, respect, compromise, strength, and courage.
In general, our societies have made a significant progress in terms of mixed marriages. Relationships like mine are more common and more easily accepted than they were in the past. Although there are still struggles and obstacles along the way, mixed marriages are also slowly becoming ‘socially legal’ worldwide.
“We may have different religions, different languages, different coloured skin, but we all belong to one human race”
This article was first published on theParentVoice- online parenting magazine.