Passport

India to Young People: The Internet Is for Finding Spouses, Not One-Night Stands

The Indian government has issued new guidelines for online marriage sites.

An elderly man sits on a bench next to an advertisement for a matrimonial website at a bus-stop in Mumbai on February 9, 2012. Marriage -- or "shaadi" in Hindi -- remains a cornerstone of society in conservative India, with hundreds of matchmaking sites concentrating on finding their members suitable life partners rather than casual dates. Arranged marriages are largely still the norm and dating is often frowned upon, but matrimonial websites have become big business in the past decade. Would-be brides and grooms can be selected by age, caste, religion, language or where they live.  AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)
An elderly man sits on a bench next to an advertisement for a matrimonial website at a bus-stop in Mumbai on February 9, 2012. Marriage -- or "shaadi" in Hindi -- remains a cornerstone of society in conservative India, with hundreds of matchmaking sites concentrating on finding their members suitable life partners rather than casual dates. Arranged marriages are largely still the norm and dating is often frowned upon, but matrimonial websites have become big business in the past decade. Would-be brides and grooms can be selected by age, caste, religion, language or where they live. AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE (Photo credit should read INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

Each year, millions of young Indians log on to matrimonial sites and begin to search for a spouse. Users can make their match by identifying criteria like ethnicity, caste, and religion, which offers them some middle ground between casual dating and traditional arranged marriages.  

But now the Indian government worries that sites like Bharat Matrimony and Shaadi are being “misused,” and that instead of sifting through options online and choosing a spouse quickly, young people may be logging onto matrimonial sites looking for dates, not marriage.

That’s why Ravi Shankar Prasad, India’s minister for communications and information technology, announced new guidelines this week that will require users to state they are creating accounts strictly in order to seek out a lifelong partner, not a one-night stand.

“We have approved the standards to check cheating on such websites,” he said. Those standards including confirming “the user’s intent to enter into matrimonial alliance” and that “the user information is correct.”

The new government advisory will also require the websites to clarify that they are “for matrimonial purpose only and not a dating website and should not be used for posting obscene material.”

The sites themselves already make pretty clear what they’re there to do. On the front page of Shaadi, for example, the registration form says “Meet someone for keeps!” with a photo of a young, smiling couple in the background. Bharat advertises its sign-up sheet as “the 1st step toward a happy marriage!”

According to Bharat, each month some 50,000 people get married with the help of their site. And in a 2015 interview with the New York Times, Bharat’s founder and CEO boasted about how the two parties looking for a match are the ones who are primarily involved in the process.

“Twenty years ago, parents chose the matches,” he said. “Now parents are largely playing supporting roles, and the brides and grooms are in the driver’s seat.”

But as parents take more of a hands-off approach, the government is moving towards a hands-on one. Maybe it’s just the American obsession with Tinder, the app that allows for easy one-night stands, that the Indian government is trying to avoid. And if that’s the case — can we really blame them?

Last year, Vanity Fair followed a few New York twenty-somethings as they spent a night swiping through the app to look for casual sex.

“You could talk to two or three girls at a bar and pick the best one, or you can swipe a couple hundred people a day—the sample size is so much larger,” one of the young men said. “It’s setting up two or three Tinder dates a week and, chances are, sleeping with all of them, so you could rack up 100 girls you’ve slept with in a year.”

Photo credit: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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