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Alternate Uses of Arranged Marriage
The pattern of arranged marriage can be employed for other reasons besides the formation of a promising new family unit. In such marriages, typically economic or legal reasons take precedence over the goal of selecting a well-matched couple. Criticism of arranged marriage usually targets abuses such as Forced marriage and Child marriage.
- In a Forced marriage , the parents choose their son’s or daughter’s future spouse with no input from the son or daughter. Occasionally, even if the son or daughter disapproves of the choice, the marriage takes place regardless, overriding their objections. In some societies, in order to ensure cooperation the parents may threaten the child with punishment, or in rare cases, death. Motivating factors for such a marriage tend to be social or economic, i.e., the interests of the family or community goals served by the marriage are seen as paramount, and the preference of the individual is considered insignificant.
- In a Child marriage, children, or even infants, are married. The married children often live apart with their respective families until well after puberty. Child marriages are typically made for economic or political reasons. In rural India and several other countries, the requirement of providing a Dowry for daughters is generally acknowledged to be a contributing factor to Female infanticide .
- In a shotgun wedding, the bridegroom is forced to marry the bride due to unplanned pregnancy (or other reasons). It is given this colloquial name from the traditional method of force used; holding a shotgun to the groom’s head until he is married. This can also be classified as a forced marriage. Although it is worth noting that the concept came about before the invention of the shotgun. Laws in ancient Israel said that a man and woman (who were not engaged) caught in extramarital sex were forced into marriage by law. This was done to protect the families from sexually transmitted disease. Failure to marry would mean that the man and woman would be stoned to death.
Coercion to marry is commonly considered a violation of fundamental human rights in most Western societies, primarily because of its usurpation of a choice that, in most Western thought, belongs solely to the individuals involved. People can “find themselves stuck in marriages with persons decidedly not of their own choosing…whom they may find personally repulsive.” (Xiaohe and Whyte, 1990). A further condemnation of the practice of arranging a marriage for economic reasons comes from Edlund and Lagerlöf (2004) who argued that a love marriage is more effective for the promotion of accumulation of wealth and societal growth.
Abuses aside, it is ordinarily a fundamental tenet of arranged marriage that the union is a choice made voluntarily by the two people involved. The main variation in procedure between arranged marriages is in the nature and duration of the time from meeting to engagement. In an introduction only arranged marriage, the parents may only introduce their son or daughter to a potential spouse. The parents may briefly talk to the parents of the prospective spouse. From that point on, it is up to the children to manage the relationship and make a choice. There is no set time period. This is still common in many parts of the world and especially in India . The same pattern also appears in Japan . It should be noted that this open-ended process takes considerably more courage on the part of the parents, as well as the prospective spouses, in comparison to a fixed time-limit arranged marriage. Especially women, but also men, fear the stigma and emotional trauma of going through a courtship and then being rejected.
To contrast, a traditional arranged marriage may be finalized in the first meeting. The parents or matchmaker select the pair, there is no possibility of courtship, and only limited conversation between the prospective partners is permitted (while the parents are present, of course); then the prospective partners are expected to decide whether to proceed with the marriage. The parents may exert considerable pressure to encourage the potential bride or bridegroom to agree to the match. The parents may wish the match to proceed because the son or daughter is beginning to engage in courtship (and the parents disapprove of courtship), the parents believe that they know best what kind of partner will make a happy marriage, the parents seek to fulfill the desire for parental control, or for other reasons.
A more moderate and flexible procedure known as a modern arranged marriage is gaining in popularity. Parents choose several possible candidates or employ Matrimonials Sites. The parents will then arrange a meeting with the family of the prospective mate, confining their role to responsible facilitators and well-wishers. Less pressure to agree to the match is exerted by the parents in comparison to a traditional arranged marriage.
In some cases, a prospective partner may be selected by the son or daughter instead of by the parents or by a matchmaker. In such cases, the parents will either disapprove of the match and forbid the marriage or, just as likely, approve the match and agree to proceed with the marriage. Such cases are distinct from a love marriage because courtship is curtailed or absent and the parents retain the prerogative to forbid the match.
A love marriage involves a couple who find each other without parental approval and choose to get married. In some cases, the parents end up approving the marriage and in other cases, they continue to remain opposed to the marriage. There is a considerable debate on the pros and cons of love marriages vs arranged marriages. No scientific data is available to prove or disprove the benefits of either of the approaches.
A Culture of Arranged marriage
In cultures with few possibilities to meet prospective partners, arranged marriages perform a similar function, bringing together people who might otherwise not have met. In such cultures, arranged marriage is viewed as the norm and preferred by young adults. Even where courtship practices are becoming fashionable, young adults tend to view arranged marriage as an option they can fall back on if they are unable or unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to find a spouse on their own. In such cases, the parents become welcome partners in a hunt for marital bliss. Further, in several cultures, the last duty of a parent to his or her son or daughter is to see that they pass through the marital rites.
In some cultures, arranged marriage is a tradition handed down through many generations. Parents who take their son or daughter’s marriage into their own hands have themselves been married by the same process. Many parents, and children likewise, feel pressure from the community to conform, and in certain cultures, a love marriage or even courtship is considered a failure on the part of the parents to maintain control over their child. In such cultures, children are brought up with these cultural assumptions do not feel stifled. They experience them as natural boundaries.
Parents in some communities fear social and/or religious stigma if their child is not married by a certain age. Several cultures deem the son or daughter less likely to find a suitable partner if they are past a certain age and consider it folly to try to marry them off at that stage. In these societies, including China, the intragenerational relationship of the family is much more valued than the marital relationship. The whole purpose of the marriage is to have a family (Reaves, 1994).
Typically only high castes marry high castes. If caste is judged of great importance then only persons of the same caste may be considered for a match. Intercaste marriages do happen in India either as arranged marriages when the parents themselves are from different castes/religions or if they are influenced by progressive thoughts. Intercaste marriages that happen against the wishes of the parents (usually a love marriage between two people who belong to different castes) face considerable societal pressures and difficulties.
On the other hand, Indian families who consider the caste system as an artificial excuse for social inequity have the opposite preference. They prefer to marry persons of differing caste and tend to avoid matches within the same caste. It is believed that intercaste marriages weaken the caste system. Such families are also often open to marriages across national borders.
In few arranged marriages, one potential spouse may reside in a wealthy country and the other in a poorer country. For example, the man may be an American of Indian ancestry and the woman may be an Indian living in India who will move to America after the marriage. Alternately, the man or woman may be a citizen of the United States of America and the other person is in Russia or another country and is willing to move to the USA after the marriage. The arrangement may be accomplished by a business created for such a purpose.
- Xu Xiaohe and Martin King Whyte: Love Matches and Arranged Marriages: A Chinese Replication. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 52, No. 3. (Aug., 1990), pp. 709-722.
- Lena Edlund and Nils-Petter Lagerlöf: Implications of Marriage Institutions for Redistribution and Growth, *[http://www.usatoday.com/money/2006-02-13-valentine-cover-usat_x.htm USA Today article
- Jo Reeves (1994): Marriage in China Not So Different than in the West. Asian Pages. St. Paul: May 31, 1994.Vol.4 (18); p.4.
- Love Marriage Vs Arranged Marriage – A Comprehensive Analysis
- Child marriage
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