ARRANGED MARRIAGES

BY: VAIBHAVI MENON

Arranged marriage is a type of marital union where the bride and groom are primarily selected by individuals other than the couple themselves, particularly by family members such as the parents. In some cultures a professional matchmaker may be used to find a spouse for a young person. Arranged marriages have historically been prominent in many cultures. The practice remains common in many regions, notably South Asia, though in many other parts of the world, the practice has declined substantially during the 19th and 20th centuries. Forced marriages, practiced in some families, are condemned by the United Nations, and is not an arranged marriage. The specific sub-category of forced child marriage is especially condemned. In other cultures people mostly choose their own partner.

Arranged marriages were very common throughout the world until the 18th century. Typically, marriages were arranged by parents, grandparents or other relatives. Some historical exceptions are known, such as courtship and betrothal rituals during the Renaissance period of Italy and Gandharva Vivah in the Vedic period of India. In China, arranged marriages sometimes called blind marriages were the norm before the mid-20th century. A marriage was a negotiation and decision between parents and other older members of two families. The boy and girl were typically told to get married, without a right to demur, even if they had never met each other until the wedding day. Arranged marriages were the norm in Russia before the early 20th century, most of which were endogamous. Until the first half of the 20th century, arranged marriages were common in migrant families in the United States. They were sometimes called “picture-bride marriages” among Japanese-American immigrants because the bride and groom knew each other only through the exchange of photographs before the day of their marriage. These marriages among immigrants were typically arranged by parents, or relatives from the country of their origin. As immigrants settled in and melded into a new culture, arranged marriages shifted first to quasi-arranged marriages where parents or friends made introductions and the couple met before the marriage; over time, the marriages among the descendants of these immigrants shifted to autonomous marriages driven by individual’s choice, dating and courtship preferences, along with an increase in interracial marriages. Similar historical dynamics are claimed in other parts of the world. Arranged marriages have declined in prosperous countries with social mobility and increasing individualism; nevertheless, arranged marriages are still seen in countries of Europe and North America, among royal families, aristocrats and minority religious groups such as in placement marriage among Fundamentalist Mormon groups of the United States. In most other parts of the world, arranged marriages continue to varying degrees and increasingly in quasi-arranged form, along with autonomous marriages.

A woman who refuses to go through with an arranged marriage, tries to leave an arranged marriage via divorce or is suspected of any kind of immoral behaviour, may be considered to have dishonored her entire family. This being the case, her male relatives may be ridiculed or harassed and any of her siblings may find it impossible to enter into a marriage. In these cases, killing the woman is a way for the family to enforce the institution of arranged marriages. Unlike cases of domestic violence, honor killings are often done publicly for all to see and there are frequently family members involved in the act.

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