What is a Social Institution: Social institutions are an integral part of society, shaping its behavior and norms. These institutions include the family, education, religion, the economy, and government. They serve to facilitate smooth functioning within a society by providing a framework for social interaction and the fulfillment of basic needs and desires. In addition, social institutions provide a sense of stability and continuity by establishing expectations for behavior and shared values and beliefs for guiding actions.

Marriage

TYPES OF SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS:

Social Institutions are as diverse as it can get. Few prominent ones are
  • Marriage
  • Kinship
  • Family
  • Education
  • Religion
  • Education 
  • Polity

MARRIAGE AS A SOCIAL INSTITUTION:

Marriage is a legally recognized relationship between two individuals that is typically characterized by monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence. It is often considered a cornerstone of personal and social stability and may come with legal and economic benefits. The definition and requirements for marriage vary across cultures and have evolved over time. It may be viewed as a spiritual or secular union and may carry legal rights and responsibilities, such as medical decision-making authority and inheritance rights. Marriage is often seen as a way to establish a committed personal relationship and create a family unit.

CHARACTERISTICS OF MARRIAGE:

  1. It is universal and permanent
  2. Relationship between man and woman, it requires social approval
  3. Marriage bond is enduring and it creates mutual obligation
  4. It is associated with civil or religious ceremony
  5. It is a religious and social institution

TYPES OF MARRIAGE:

1) POLYGAMY:
     It is the custom of having more than one mate at the same time. It can be of two types,
  • Polygyny
  • Polyandry

POLYGYNY:

The practice of having more than one wife at a time. It is more popular than polyandry but not as universal as monogamy. It has prevailed among the ancient Hebrews, Assyrians, Babylonians, Indians and others. It is in practice among the Eskimo tribes, Crow Indians, Baigas of India, African Negroes, the Nagas, etc., However, it is permitted in Muslim Community.
Polygyny is classified into two types. They are sororal and non-sororal.

I) Sororal Polygyny:
    "soror"- sister
In this the cowives are sisters and they are often preferred because sisters are thought to be mutually supportive and less argumentative. Also called as sororate. The death of the wife or childlessness is compensated by a new spouse who is the sister of the wife.

II) Non-Sororal Polygyny:
In this the wives are not related as sisters. For social, economical and politcal reasons both the type are practised.

Causes of polygyny:
a) More women less man
b) Economic advantage
c) Desire for more children
d) Capturing women in wars and fights
e) Enforced celibacy

POLYANDRY:
The practice of having more than one husband at a time. It is practised among Tibetans, Bahama of Africa, tribals of Samoa and others. In India tribes such as Toda, Kota, Khasa too practise this kind of marriage. Earlier Nairs of Kerala used to practised such form.
Polyandry is classified into two types. They are fraternal and non-fraternal.

I) Fraternal polyandry:
The husbands in the polyandrous marriage are brothers, this practice is called as fraternal or levirate polyandry. It is prevalent among Todas.

II) Non- Fraternal polyandry:
In this all the husbands are not related to each other. The woman lives with her different husbands in turns. While she lives with one husband, others have no right or claim over her.

Causes of polyandry:
a) Scarcity of women
b) Social customs
c) Extreme poverty
d) Bride price
e) Desire to keep the property intact (Tibetians)
f) Desire to control population

2) MONOGAMY:

It is the form of marriage in which one man marries one woman. It is found among the primitive as well as civilised people. It is one of the universal practice at present.
It is practised among the tribals such as santals, the Hopi, Andaman Islanders, the Vedas of Ceylon and others. Ancient Hindus regarded monogamy as the most ideal form of marriage.

ADVANTAGES:

I) Universally practicable:

It deals with one-to-one ratio (one man to one women), and only it can provide marital oppurtunity and satisfaction to all the individuals. Neither polygyny nor polyandry can equally satisfy all.

II) Economically Better Suitable and promotes better understanding:

No man of ordinary income can think of polygamy. Only monogamy can adjust itself with poverty. It contributes to family peace and happiness. Vatsayana, an authority on "Kama Sutra" remarked,

     "At best a man can only please one woman physically, mentally and spiritually, therefore the man who enters into polygamy marriage voluntarily courts unhappiness and misery"

III) Contributes to Stable family:

Here, the family bond is more stable, stronger and long lasting. It is free from conflicts which are found in polygamous families.

IV) Helps to better socialisation:

Since Husband and Wife have better understanding, they can give greater attention to socialisation and special attention to their children. Under polygyny the husband cannot devote himself fully to each of his wives and children because they are too numerous.

V) Aged people are not neglected:

In this old parents are protected and looked after properly. In polygyny, old wives are often discarded and in their place younger wives are brought in.

VI) Provides better status for women:

Women are given only a very low position in polygyny. Their rights are never recognised, they can be divorced. But in monogamy, women enjoy better social status, in the modern societies they enjoy almost equal status with men.

CHANGING TRENDS IN MARRIAGE:

I) Change in the form of marriage:

Monogamy has become more popular and practised, compared to polygamy and group marriage. The recent trends of unconventional marriages like Gay marriage, homosexual marriages are being practised.

II) Change in the process of mate selection:

Earlier parents used to select the boy or girl, the opinion of their children was barely asked. Nowadays, parents fix the marriage with the consultation of their children. Sometimes, the boy or girl match their spouse on their own without the intervention of their parents.

IV) Change in the age of marriage:

Child marriage is been declining. The legal age for marriage is 21. The legislation like Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006, Education, Media, Awareness have delayed the marriage age.

V) Change in the agencies of marriage:

Few decades ago the alliance was fixed in consultation with relatives, brokers, etc., but now various marriages are fixed online through many matrimonial columns in the media, newspaper, etc.,

VI) Change in rituals:

There are several "Samskaras(rituals)" that were observed but now not all these rituals are observed inspite the continuance of faith that marriage is made in heaven and bondage is for seven janmas among many. Kanyadhana and Mangalyadharana were the main ceremonies that are observed. And usually in the olden days marriage ceremonies used to take place for about 3 to 7 days but now these got reduced to 1 or 2 days.

OTHER FEATURES OF CHANGING TRENDS:

  1. Increase in divorce cases
  2. Attraction towards gay, homosexul marriages, living together concepts
  3. Inclination towards love, inter-caste and inter-religious marriages.
  4. Change in stability
  5. Married couples having fewer children
  6. Marriage counselling on the rise
  7. Decline in the rates of marriage