To what extent is traditional marriage an outdated concept in Singapore?
Unifying two heterosexual people legally in wedlock, marriage is a customary contract that institutes commitment between them. Recognised as the basis for reproduction, individuals are also bound in matrimony for various other reasons like religious and financial purposes. The institution of marriage is seemingly vibrant in Singapore, with 28,407 marriages registered in 2014, the highest in 24 years. (AsiaOne, 2017) Though officialising one’s relationship in society’s eyes is significant in Singaporeans’ expectations of their life trajectories, the growing awareness of gender equality and rising resistance to social conditioning suggest that the institution’s archaic incarnations are regarded as progressively outmoded.
Closely tied to religious and ethnic identities, the ritualistic facets of marriage exemplify strongly established social behaviours which couples are supposed to emulate. For example, local Indian and Chinese customs continue to uphold the practice of offering handsome betrothal gifts, acknowledging the transactional nature of marriage. Additionally, Chinese brides are expected to pamper her groom with dowry comprising of sewing kits and baby prosperity sets which symbolises her fertility and domesticity. Nonetheless, these tokenistic practices reinforce traditional societal expectations with respect to marriage.
The concept of collective consciousness by Emile Durkheim is useful in explaining the relevance of traditional marriage through rituals. Collective consciousness refers to shared sets of beliefs, moral attitudes and ideas that unifies society. Durkheim claimed that rituals in marriage serve to reaffirm the collective consciousness and it is through collective consciousness that traditions can be carried on. These intangible traditions and the social norms associated with them are anchored in the institution of marriage, thus existing independently of individuals. Therefore, the institutionalisation of marital rituals in society via the collective consciousness suggests that traditional marriage is not outdated.
Moreover, traditional wedlock is pertinent in Singapore as it is commonly a choice exercised in extremely pragmatic conditions. According to Housing Development Board, singles are disallowed to purchase flats before the age of 35. (Housing Development Board, 1991) Thus due to the state’s strict regulations, wedlock is frequently exploited by couples to finance and acquire independent accommodation. Hence, social circumstances reinforce practical deliberations which have typified traditional marriages.
Customs and deeply rooted social expectations possess an irrefutably strong influence over our perception of matrimony. However, signs that highlight modern Singaporean marriage to be anything but outdated are more compelling. With a rising majority of ambitious women weaned on liberal notions regarding women rights, egalitarian partnerships w...