BY Ruwan Laknath Jayakody
Educationists and representatives of religions sounded the alarm on the rising trend of suicides among unemployed, unmarried females in the North, in particular in Jaffna.
When queried about the abominable practice of casteism and its prevalence in the North and the despicable custom of the dowry to be given by the fiancée’s family being negotiated between the family of the bride to be and the fiancé’s family when contracting marriages and the relationship between these two factors and unemployment, translator and academic Dr. Subramaniam Jebanesan said that there were incidents where young females below the age of 30 had committed suicide over their inability to raise the dowry amounts demanded by their potential spouses or rather by the families of the males. Girls or women faced with the said predicament lack a sense of security much needed in their lives, he added.
The former Bishop of the Jaffna Diocese of the Church of South India and a former Principal of the Jaffna College narrated a recent tragedy where a 27-year-old girl’s marriage had been arranged along with the provision of a dowry in the range of a five digit figure. However, after the fiance’s family had prevailed upon him, on the basis that the male should obtain the maximum he could at the outset, the dowry demanded had risen to a sum exceeding five numerals. The aforementioned victim could not tax her own sister for the additional money as she did not wish to be a burden on her own family.
He further added that there was also the issue of there being a dearth of marriageable partners faced by females seeking to get married as the majority of the males of marriageable age were eager to migrate and therefore sought partners either locally or from among the Tamil communities domiciled overseas, who were educated and possessed virtues which lay outside the traditional domain of the kitchen, such as linguistic and information technology proficiency. Jaffna has in the recent past seen a proliferation of institutes that teach the Dutch, English, French, German and Norwegian languages.
On the question of employment generation, he explained that job opportunities were solely in the sectors of tourism and hospitality, banking, and transportation.
According to Dr. Jebanesan who is currently a Visiting Lecturer in Translation Studies and Christian Civilization at the University of Jaffna, those gaining entrance to local universities would only stay on if they had been selected to study medicine, dentistry or engineering, and were not interested in pursuing a degree in general sciences or arts as they were instead keen on prestigious job opportunities that paid well. The number of Sinhalese undergrads in the Faculty of Science of the University of Jaffna outnumber the Tamils. Elsewhere, whilst noting the obvious in that caste formed the basic reality in the realm of marriage, where the castes of the two sets of parents are closely scrutinized for so called purity, he pointed out that even the cases of inter-caste love marriages were bound to face hardship owing to the communal exclusion such couples faced.
“Previously, what was expected was someone who was obedient, subservient and served an ornamental purpose. Nowadays, people do not want partners whose sole qualification hinges on being an able cook. They already have people who can cook. At present, it is about the amount of money a wife can bring in. There are not many jobs available in these other sectors. In every household, they have a family member without a job. The suicide rate is going up. The most pathetic group is the unmarried, unemployed girls or women. Something must be done,” he emphasized.