Love is in the air
To westerners who put a lot of emphasis on love and marriage or shall we say ‘ love before marriage ‘ love is the only thing you need to be happy. But for societies who believe that arranged marriages will flourish and endure forever, love, at least for the time being, can take the back seat.
Arranged Marriages: Fact # 1
Arranged marriages are viewed as a social and economic necessity, the terms of which are agreed upon by the families of the future groom and bride. The question of whether the bride and groom are in love is not a priority; what’s important is that the marriage is stable with staying power.
Point of clarification: indeed, love makes the world go round. We all want to be madly and passionately in love. But just because arranged marriages are not premised exclusively on love, it doesn’t mean that it does not exist in the relationship. It may be born on day 1 of the marriage or can grow after a few years. We should not be misled by the notion that spouses in arranged marriages have no say about their partners. In some countries the man or woman can refuse a selected spouse. Because consent by both is imperative, who is to say that love does not or cannot exist?
Arranged Marriages: Fact # 2
Arranged marriages are an accepted practice in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Japan and India, Bangladesh and some Muslim/Islam countries. Arranged marriages have another name: Sheri and Bob Tritof also call them pragmatic marriages. They are successful traditions in many cultures. Although no statistics are available to prove it, about 60 to 80 percent of arranged marriages in Afghanistan are of the forced kind. This means that the consent of the marrying parties does not carry any weight. Of that percentage, many succeed.
Point of clarification: it is unfortunate that arranged marriages are taken in a negative light by western societies. This is attributed to a lack of knowledge about the whole concept of arranged marriages. Not all these marriages are forced. Parents ensure that their sons and daughters are satisfied with their parents’ choices. The children’s consent is vital, and should a prospective partner be refused, parents will simply have to find another suitable choice. A courtship period is also allowed by certain cultures, and in more modern societies like India, the couple is encouraged to go out on dates so they can get to know each other better.
Arranged Marriages: Fact # 3
Sadly, it is a fact that despite the few and isolated stories covered by the media of young women being forced into marriages, there are equally, if not more, successful arranged marriages. The argument is that because parents know their children best and have the wisdom and wherewithal to select the best candidate, the marriage will benefit from the support and encouragement of their elders and hence will be durable and permanently. There are significantly fewer divorces or separations between people of arranged marriages.
Point of clarification: we need to be careful about taking arranged marriages from the perspective of the divorce rate. It is true that only a few arranged marriages end in divorce, but is the reason really the arranged marriage itself or the fact that in more traditional and conservative societies, people usually don’t get divorced anyway and stay within the marriage hoping to work things out.
Arranged Marriages: Fact # 4
The general belief is that arranged marriages in Muslim religions are very restrictive and encroach on the personal freedoms of women. This belief is a little erroneous because in many Muslim countries, the consent of both parties is required and couples must ‘see each other’ before marriage but must never be left alone, unsupervised. There is a dowry involved (like in India) and four witnesses are needed (two males and two females).
Point of clarification: Muslim religions believe consent is important; however, it discourages modern western practices such as dating, living-in and long courtships.
Arranged Marriages: Fact # 5
Arranged marriages also exist in China and Indonesia and in cultures where Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism are the predominant religions. Again, couples do not date. They may spend 15 minutes meeting each other and then wed in a few months, as reported by Del Jones in a USA Today article dated February 2006.
Point of clarification: Keo Mony wrote that the Buddhist culture in Cambodia dictates that it is the sacred duty of parents to marry off their children to good families. Arranged marriages have survived to this day, thanks to the pervasive influence of religion and tradition. In Cambodia, children are expected to repay their gratitude to their parents for finding them suitable partners. Fulfilling one’s marital obligations is one of way repaying that gratitude. The rituals and protocol of arranged marriages may vary from one country to another and from one religion to the next.
In rural parts of China, arranged and semi-arranged marriages are still common, although the Chinese government introduced a new Marriage Law in 1980 setting the legal for women (20) and men (22) to marry. The law confirmed the government’s approval for free-choice marriage, right to divorce, and the abolition of child marriages. The free-choice marriage is limited to urban centers.
No one will argue that there are more than five facts regarding arranged marriages but we have mentioned the more common ones. These facts could be skewed depending on the country and the religion so that what may be true in say Sri Lanka may not necessarily apply to Bangladesh.
Remember too that arranged marriages are also practiced in western societies, especially among royalty and the aristocratic classes. You may be aware that the marriage of the Prince of Wales and Diana Spencer was in a way arranged, since Queen Elizabeth had no doubt screened several women and assessed their potential to be the wife of Prince Charles. Decades before that, King Edward had to abdicate his throne because he married a divorced American commoner.