An advertisement in Tamil for a Kerala-Tamil Nadu marriage service
Chennai, May 30: Facing a shortage of brides, a female foeticide belt has turned to a neighbouring state with the highest sex ratio and best social indicators in India.
The increasing marriages between women from Kerala and desperate Gounder-caste grooms from Tamil Nadus western Namakkal district has been welcomed by Namakkal collector U. Sagayam.
Only when they find it difficult to get a bride will the men realise the importance of the girl child. Since women from Kerala are an emancipated lot, they would be a good buffer against this heinous practice in this belt, he said rather hopefully.
The number of young women in Namakkal has fallen since the 80s because of rampant female foeticide, mainly among the districts large Gounder population, said Muruga Ravi, a wedding broker who has arranged scores of these inter-caste, cross-border marriages.
These marriages are taking place despite generations of politicians having successfully raised passions in either state over their river disputes.
Gounders spurn the girl child because they have to pay a hefty dowry to marry off their daughters, Ravi said.
The 1990 census found the sex ratio in Gounder villages — 625 girls for every 1,000 boys among children aged 0-6 years — to be one of the most biased in the country.
I could not find a suitable bride within my Gounder community. A broker got me a bride from Keralas Palghat, said E. Ponnusamy, 40, a wealthy farmer. We married four years ago and have not faced any cultural clashes. We celebrate Onam and Pongal and both of us can speak Tamil and Malayalam.
The paucity of brides had forced frustrated Gounder men to declare they were ready to marry outside their caste, but even this proved difficult in Tamil Nadu.
So, when broker Ravi learnt that girls in Kerala —which has a sex ratio of 1,058 — often struggled to find grooms, he put one and one together. I have made more than 60 cross-border matches and still have 40 Kerala brides in my data bank, he said.
Most of the brides are Ezhavas, a Most Backward Caste like the Gounders, from the four districts of Trichur, Palghat, Idukki and Malappuram. What started in the towns has spread to the villages, with Namakkal becoming the trend-setter. It has witnessed more than 100 cross-border weddings in the past three years.
The Kerala brides are not too demanding. They dont ask for horoscopes or mind the age difference. They only want an understanding husband with steady finances, said K.R. Chandran, another marriage broker.
The brides, however, impose two conditions: the groom must produce a medical certificate showing he is not HIV-positive, and the wedding must be held in Kerala so the marriage can be registered in their home district.
Its understandable. Namakkal, the Souths truck-building centre, was notorious for its HIV-infected truck drivers till a few years ago. And the experience of many Kerala brides, deserted by their Gulf-based husbands, has compelled these girls to make sure their marriage is registered, Chandran said.
M. Anandan, a well-off farmer from Namakkal who married Suja from Trichur six months ago, said this was the first inter-caste wedding in his family. At 35, when I could not find a suitable Tamil bride, I decided to look towards Kerala. There is much in common between our two languages. But we do have to make minor culinary adjustments since she needs coconut for everything, he laughed.