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Debate: Arranged marriage

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==References:== ==References:==
*[ "Arranged marriage has merits" Smita Saxena, Daily Bruin May 13, 2005] *[ "Arranged marriage has merits" Smita Saxena, Daily Bruin May 13, 2005]

Revision as of 20:19, 29 September 2008

Should arranged marriages be outlawed?

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Background and Context of Debate:

Arranged marriages make up vastly the higher percentage in human history but have, largely in the last century, become unusual and morally questioned in the Western world. Where overt arranged marriages still occur in Europe and the Americas it is usually within immigrant communities. This creates further complications in discussing the issue because it not only becomes caught up in discussions of racism and ethnic rights, but also in the loaded debate on immigration. In 2000, for example, Britain granted 21 300 Entry Clearances for the spouses of British Asians; a large proportion were the product of marriages which were in some measure arranged. The immigration debate in relation to arranged marriage is not essential to the question but cannot be left out because the discussion of arranged marriage is no longer one that can be addressed in the abstract without considering its effects in marking out different communities and maintaining their cultural integrity. In some senses we can see the entire model of multiculturalism in the developed world reflected in this discussion of whether substantially different practices which maintain an ethnically individual community, drawing heavily on outside influences and immigration should be allowed. It is vital to remember, however, that arranged marriage is not some kind of ‘us and them’ immigration issue. It occurs both in religious communities and social groups within Western countries and the debate must reflect them as well. In fact, drawing a distinction between the types of influence that do and do not constitute arrangement is one of the most difficult in this debate.

Marriage stability:Can arranged marriages make more successful marriages?


  • Arranged marriages prevents people from marriages based solely on physical passion. When marriages are arranged,many factors are taken into consideration before contemplating a match between two people,such as up-bringing, monetary equality, background, spiritual beliefs, and tradition and culture.Statistics show that these elements make the most satisfying and enduring relationships.Arranged marriage based on that gives couples a common ground of reference.


  • The success of the couple being a fit is as good as flipping a coin.]] Where love, personality traits and compatibility, respect and honour for each other are given secondary importance in the initial stages, there is higher risk of breakage of something that is rooted on them. Two unknown people get married without knowing and understanding each other.There are even arrange marriages in which the parents who love their children and are concerned about their life take the consent of their children when they decide their marriage.
  • In hinduism and Asian communities the system of arrange marriage originated mainly as the tool of the upper caste people to protect their community and to maintain their social status they wanted their children to marry someone from the same caste and same social background. Therefore arranged marriages have certain ill effects on the society like it is biased over a particular religion, caste and a race. It is not healthy when parents are over protective and control their children's wishes and desires in choosing their partner and statistically there has been enormous number of instances.
  • One of the social evil associated with arrange marriage is dowry in the modern Indian and conservative Asian society. In most part of the country arrange marriage is the best medium to take dowry. Nowadays marriages are more like a trade than a social custom. People find it an easy medium to make money. This is one of the biggest drawbacks of arrange marriages.
  • The parents are usually so confident of their child agreeing to whoever they arrange their marriage with that they don’t bother asking for their opinion before finalizing the proposal. The guy or girl is then left with little choice but to agree.
  • Then there is the emotional pressure or even emotional blackmail. Parents beseech their children to agree to a proposal before they die or make use of other emotional pressures and dilemma. There has been recorded cases of suicide attempts by these victimized children.

Quality of marriage: Is there real love existing in arranged marriages?


Arranging marriages is an insult to the very nature of marriage, which should be about creating a loving and lasting partnership and family. It reduces a central part of what is fundamentally a religious ceremony (and every religion, including Islam, guarantees choice) to a commercial transaction and therefore undermines family values. This is even more an issue where people come into a country where marriage is seen as a central value that should be free, where it is a specific challenge to any moral code.


Arranged marriages are very much ‘real’ marriages. Vastly more marriages than not in human history would fall under any sensible definition of arrangement. More than that, an unusually small number of arranged marriages actually end in divorce. Maybe we should look harder at whether Pop stars marriages constitute ‘real’ marriages if we are about to make that distinction. More seriously, millions of people marry for the ‘wrong’ reasons: financial security, desire for children, parental pressure and lack of choice among potential partners. It is pure romanticism to claim that marriages must be love matches or they should be stopped. This only serves to illustrate that it is impossible to make any sensible division between what is and isn’t an arranged marriage and therefore quixotic to attempt a ban.

  • It's an overgeneralization and unfair to claim arranged marriages reduce a religious/legal ceremony to a commercial transaction. While it is valid that some arranged marriages have problems, sometimes related to finances, it would be a mistake to assume such problems do not occur in dating marriage systems. Prenuptial agreements, the idea of the gold-digger, marrying well, and so on, are all concepts that exist in western society.
  • How can love be measured. Will government officials go door to door and have a clear way of measuring if there is love in an arranged marriage? Love is a complex human emotion, that involves more than lust and sexual access. Arranged marriage systems in general put the dynamics of a relationship to the fore, directly admitting that the marriage of two individuals is more than just two people unaware of what will happen with their partnership.
  • A relationship is not treated lightly. Whereas in the dating system, a relationship is emphasized as an experiment, with marriage being the end result of a successful trial period, in arranged marriages, the marriage is the start of a relationship, a commitment of two people responsibly loving one another and building a family. From the perspective of the arranged marriage system, a couple who dates, has sexual relations with one another, and may even live together, is a type of marriage.
  • People should have a choice about marriage systems. It is quite possible for people to have a choice of what type of general marriage system they want to be a part of (dating or arranged or both), and they should have the freedom of developing within or between those systems in whatever way deemed appropriate for their relationship.

Human rights: Does arranged marriage inhibit individuals' freedom and independence?


To allow arranged marriages leads to unacceptable pressure on those involved. They are often reliant on the parents who wish them to take part in arranged marriages for their futures as well as their current welfare. Moreover, the line between what constitutes an arranged and what constitutes a forced marriage is so hazy it can’t be policed, as is the line between legitimate and illegitimate influence. To protect from the latter we must stop the former. The law can help children who are often seeking bargaining chips to help them evade the pressure to marry from their family and community.


Arranged marriages do involve choice. The difference is merely that whole families are involved together in both considering the best options and in helping to achieve what is wanted. This is particularly fitting in a social system which places high value on the way in which the extended family work together, and ensures that there is family support and shared expectations which contribute to the longevity of the marriage. Many of what we would call arranged marriages are actually either parents just introducing their children to potential partners, or effecting the negotiations necessary for marriage after their children have already chosen a partner. Most importantly, it is totally illogical for the government to intervene to stop people having the marriages that they and their family have chosen in the name of freedom of choice. This is exactly why the distinction between arranged and forced marriages is so important in providing protection for those who really need it without authoritarianism creeping in.

Family violence: Does arranged marriage result in more abuse and marital violence?


  • Arranged marriage is bad both for the individual women concerned and for women generally in society. In the former case this is because they are very vulnerable. Often they are from far away from home, don’t speak the local language or dialect and are totally reliant on the husband’s house and family. The lack of a support network, the language to appeal for help or knowledge of their rights makes women in arranged marriages disproportionately likely to suffer abuse. In the latter case, arrangement commodifies women who are bartered between the male heads of houses. This is not acceptable within an egalitarian model of citizenship and does not fit with a western model of rights.


Arranged marriages in Europe and North America have idiosyncratically low levels of abuse and marital violence. The institution of marriage always creates interdependence and therefore scope for abuse and danger and the police and outsiders always find it more difficult to intervene where violence is within a marriage. This is a criticism of marriage per se, and not arrangement, and we can’t ban marriage. The vulnerability of those without language skills is an accepted fact of immigration policy, again it applies to all immigration and not to arranged marriages. Finally, most marriage organisers are actually women, as in the ‘Auntie’ system in India. They gain prestige and authority through their role. This doesn’t seem to oppress women. What you are really saying is that Islamic societies are patriarchal and that Muslims have arranged marriages. The latter does not in any sense cause the former. They are discrete social facts.

  • Arranged marriages are mistaken as demeaning women. Both men and women are "arranged" or in some systems, "assisted" in their marriage to one another. Moreover, arranged marriages are not simply a fundamentalist Islamic practice; rather, moderate Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, and Christians have varying forms of arranged or assisted marriages.
  • There is no casual link between a marriage system and domestic abuse. Domestic abuse occurs all over the world, in relationships from various marriage systems and even in relationships where there is no "official" marriage. Domestic abuse does occur in arranged marriages, but it also occurs in couples who date, who marry, or who divorce. Stopping domestic abuse is more of an issue connected to violence, power, and control, then a marriage system. Although it is tempting to blame arranged marriages on domestic abuse, because there is an association between parents "controlling" who their children marry, such a view is largely a stereotype and an unfair judgment of all arranged marriages.

Community integration: Does arranged marriage trap the community integration?


The practice of arranged marriage separates communities, helping to stop integration and encourage distrust between communities. This applies largely where it occurs among immigrant populations and helps to maintain a language barrier and an associated cultural ghettoisation. This doesn’t just create a group of people who can feel trapped between two cultures and unsure of whether they have a place in their host society, and a poverty trap associated with the language barrier that creates further segregation. It also helps to foster distrust in the wider community by holding to such a radically alien value, particularly where it is opposed to our notion of equal rights.


It is not just groups practising arranged marriage who maintain cohesive communities. Afro-Caribbean and Jewish people in Western Europe both maintain a distinct cultural life while taking part fully in the life of this country. In fact their cultural contributions are one of the most valuable additions to the societies in which they live. The basis of multiculturalism is to understand the social and even economic value that can accrue from having people with different perspectives and traditions living together. Furthermore, in the second and third generations of immigrant families from the subcontinent we can already see barriers breaking down so that there is greater understanding and cross-fertilisation of the ideas these immigrant communities have brought.

Cultural ghettoisation does not stem from the practice of arranged marriage, but from the history of immigration and boundaries between older communities and new immigrants. Class, race, language, and often the prevailing cultural norms and ruling practices of the older community are also to blame. For example, marriage between classes, between whites and non-whites, and even between, for instance, the British, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh, were problematic issues long before immigration. Colonial attitudes were highly unsupportive of marriages between the ruling white class and the darker-skinned colonized people. Early immigration into Canada included fears from the wider white community who preferred (and sometimes violently) that the immigrant South Asians, for instance, lived amongst themselves.

Cultural freedom: Does arranged marriage breach the principle of cultural freedom?


Arranged marriage is not a true ‘cultural value’ that is in some sense inviolate. Every major religion including Islam guarantees the legitimacy of freedom of choice in marriage. Further, the extent to which this is custom is a product of a patriarchal culture that oppresses women and an element of that culture which maintains the imbalance of power between the genders. Although we cannot intervene in countries that hold to such a value system, we can stop such a system being imported. True multiculturalism itself relies on some basic shared value of commitment to a tolerant and fair society.


Both young and old people affirm the fact that arranged marriage is a cultural tradition and any ethnographic data confirms it, not to mention the frequency of arrangement throughout the world. As we have pointed out there is no conflict between arrangement and a guarantee of free choice, the two are entirely consistent. Who is going to stand up and tell ethnic minorities that they don’t know whether they want arranged marriages and whether or not it really is part of their culture? It is just ethnocentrism writ large. Furthermore, how can we possibly insist that immigrants respect our virtues of ‘toleration’ if that amounts to denying them cultural freedom?

The matter may be of cultural freedom or multicultural freedom. Even within any ethnic community there is variety and difference. It is misleading to treat all arranged marriages as one homogeneous system. Although cross-cultural elements are a part of the debate, this is more than the West versus the East, old ways versus new ways, or patriarchal culture dominating women. A part of the difficulty in understanding the variety of arranged marriages stems from the fact that many western cultures had arranged marriages or types of arranged marriages that were based on finance and patriarchy. This does not mean all arranged marriage systems function in such a manner. Rather, such a viewpoint may be a case of observer bias, where western critiques only see arranged marriages through their own history.

Illegal immigration: Does arranged marriage boost illegal immigration?


Arranged marriage has a value in use for illegal immigration. It is unable to properly examine most overtly arranged marriages because of the danger of being seen as culturally insensitive. Where arranged marriage is truly traditional and not motivated at least in part by immigration it is equally traditional that brides leave home to go to their husband’s house. You don’t see many European or American Asians leaving their home to go and live in their husband’s home country.


We have made pathetically small progress in stamping out mail order brides which just goes to show how completely unenforceable a much more complex system of regulation over arranged marriages would be. More important to remember is that these marriages last in exceptionally high numbers beyond the time required to receive a passport so they would be legitimate even in countries where marriages which are for the primary purpose of immigration are barred. Finally, it is totally legitimate that husbands and wives should be able to choose the country where they have the best chances of making a good life to set up their homes, and this only serves to prove why brides from the third world might make the free choice to marry.

The cause of illegal immigration is not arranged marriages. Illegal immigration is often motivated by the want for a better life using underhanded methods. At times that method may be an arranged marriage, but it may also be a dating marriage, or more likely, it may be finding any way to sneak into a country. Arranged marriages are pretty public, they often involve religious and cultural ceremonies, a great deal of expense (families travelling abroad), and an include an entire network of people; more importantly, in many cultures where arranged marriage is common, the dissolution of a marriage is a shameful situation for the individuals involved, especially if the dissolution stems from something as superficial as trying to get an entry Visa.



  • This house would ban arranged marriages.
  • This house believes a true marriage is a free marriage.
  • This house believes marriage should be for love.

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