June begins tomorrow and for whatever reason it is traditionally regarded as the month of brides. Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore has lamented that for the past few centuries in India, marriage has become a form of glorified prostitution. He points out that the parents themselves put their daughters on sale -- something like Rs.1 million for an accountant, two million for a lawyer and four for a medical doctor. This crisis prevails in Sri Lanka also and especially during the past four decades, after we swallowed the globalised capitalist market economic concept, it is not only the dowry problem but also a trend towards spending several lakhs if not millions of rupees on weddings. Facing a bad example set by the rich elites -- with their wealth obtained by legal or illegal means -- even middle class and lower middle class families borrow lakhs of rupees or pawn family jewellery to be used for a lavish wedding ceremony. For months or years later the parents or the couple face additional problems in repaying that loan. Wedding-planning companies have also been set up to add to the expenses with some now even using drones to send greetings.
Thankfully, some enlightened families or couples have opted for a simple wedding without gold, glamour or glitter. Realistically we all know that a good marriage does not depend on a five-star wedding banquet but on selfless love and a sacrificial spirit towards each other.
Important events such as these and the way we celebrate them need to be part of our reflection for the Global Day of Parents which we mark tomorrow. Whatever a self-centred society may say or whatever major religions do not stress, it is the parents who play the key role in guiding the children in the values and virtues of a simple and humble lifestyle. We are reminded of one Indian couple who had received millions from their parents for a lavish wedding. Instead they decided to have a simple wedding and donate millions to Mother Theresa’s Missionaries of Charity. They used the money to care for thousands of abandoned children and others. What a wonderful blessing for the couple and those who were helped by their golden donation.
Young people, keenly interested in revolutions need to understand that a simple wedding without gold or five-star receptions, is a social revolution which will benefit thousands of others.
According to the United Nations, the Global Day of Parents is observed on June 1 every year. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2012 and honours parents throughout the world. The Global Day provides an opportunity to appreciate parents in all parts of the world for their selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship.
Since the 1980s, the important role of the family has increasingly come to the attention of the international community. The General Assembly adopted several resolutions, and proclaimed the International Year of the Family and the International Day of Families.
Emphasizing the critical role of parents in the rearing of children, the Global Day of Parents recognizes also that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding, the UN says.
According to the UN, the central goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the world leaders in 2015, focus on ending poverty, promoting shared economic prosperity, social development and people’s well-being while protecting the environment. Families remain at the centre of social life ensuring the well-being of their members, educating and socializing children and youth and caring for young and old.
In particular, family-oriented policies can contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals 1 to 5 relating to doing away with poverty and hunger; ensuring healthy lives and promoting of well-being for all ages; ensuring educational opportunities throughout the lifespan and achieving gender equality.
Therefore while governments need to play their roles with their leaders being gifted with honesty and integrity and the spirit of selfless, sacrificial and sincere service to the people, families also need to play their roles in bringing about a just, peaceful and all inclusive society.