Plights of Women in Arranged Marriage
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The Western world is unfamiliar with the aspect of arranged marriage which they hold unpalatable; most people are used to love based on marriage. However, when it comes to the Middle East, Africa, and the Asian countries the practice is familiar and regarded as a cultural practice. The argument is that arranged marriage is used to improve family ties and preserve religious and cultural aspects for a community. In this practice, the main stakeholders are the bride and the groom who tend to have little or no input in the matter; theirs is to follow what the parents and the elders have set for them (Sharma & Gupta, 2012). From a historical point of view, arranged marriage was mostly found in royal and Aristocratic families. It was meant to consolidate power and wealth through creating ties between two powerful families through arranged marriage. Among the stakeholders involved in the matchmaking process, the woman or the bride faces the greatest detriment. For a long time in many communities and countries, including the Western world, women have been given little chance or say in decision making. This is as a result of chauvinistic trends where men are considered to be better than women or divinely superior to a woman when it comes to religious teachings. Apparently, not many women who are forced into these traditional practices prefer them; they just do them to avoid disgracing themselves in the society.
The article will thus present the disadvantages of arranged marriage to a woman as the most disadvantaged stakeholder. It will present an argument on why women should be in the forefront of opposing arranged marriage based on the long-term harm it inflicts on them.
Most cultures outline that a man and a woman should end up together, at least a common ground is formed on that. However, the process of arriving at that ground tends to differ from one community to another and from one religion to another. For example, Christians advocate for a one-man-one-woman marriage, while Islam allows up to four women in marriage (Bhandary, 2017). In all these decisions and traditional marriage statutes, women have no room to decide how to get married; they are discussed as if they cannot be able to express themselves.
According to Alinia (2013), those who support arranged marriage present some advantages that superficially blindly convince us to believe it is the best marriage setting. The first advantage is that it preserves culture, helps those women who may not have gotten a husband get one, it has low divorce rate, and finally, it creates better family ties. Apparently, these aspects may be true, but they come at the expense of the bride’s satisfaction and happiness in marriage.
One thing is clear, the society is a male-dominated arena that makes women vulnerable, and the aspect of arranged marriage proves it all. The pressures of society and family fall on the shoulders of a woman, and she is expected to hold the weight and ask no questions. The society, being led by men, has made a platform that makes women dependent on men in everything, giving men a chance to dominate and at the same time oppress women (Bhandary, 2017).
In an arranged marriage, the aspect of autonomy is denied, the right to make free choices. It would be true to argue that the core factor of a satisfactory and long-lasting marriage is love. However, in this case, the woman is denied the right to choose whoever she loves; the society has programmed her just to obey and ask questions later, even on such serious intimate and personal matters (Alinia, 2013). As a result, the chances of a woman in arranged marriage to face domestic violence and mistreatment is high. First of all, the one she is being engaged to be a stranger and being the weaker sex, she may be walking into a death trap or a lifelong suffering.
I would not consider arranged marriage as a cultural value which is genuine. When the aspect of free will is deprived of a person, and then they are subjected to a lifetime commitment they know so little about, then this is coercion and a suppression of women rights. The Indian community is the best example of the modern day practice of arranged marriage. From a superficial outlook, the practice has been deemed successful. However, from close and internal scrutiny, one of the stakeholders tends to be oppressed, and that is the woman (Bhandary, 2017).
The Indian woman is one of the most vulnerable stakeholders in an arranged marriage, considering that she is highly oriented to the community culture. In general, putting a woman as the core focus on the ills of arranged marriage; one disadvantage is that she is denied the chance for a courtship period. The rules of courtship are unwritten, but they exist in most communities, especially the Western world (Dholakia, 2015). Some cultures are considerate to men, and the son is given a chance to choose between some girls, per say three. He is supposed to choose one of them to marry. In this case, at least for the man, the law of customary marriage is bent a little, but for the bride, she is taken as the object, no room for autonomy in her case.
When courtship is deprived, a woman is just “cast” into a lifetime commitment to a superior gender, a person whom she is not given time to know or love. Considering that arranged marriages are planned by parents from either side, its chances of breaking is negligent; the two are expected to remain together until death (Sharma & Gupta, 2012). It means that if the husband is a wife-beater, she is expected to persevere to the end leading to unhappy marriage. I compare an arranged marriage to an auction market where the groom is the buyer, the bride is the commodity being sold, and the parents are the auctioneers. The only difference, in this case, is that the “buyer” is predetermined, changing the rules of the market.
Secondly, the bride has little or narrowed choices in determining whom they want to get married to. From a historical point of view, men have always dominated women; they were the only ones allowed to go and work in the factories and other jobs regarded as masculine. On the other hand, women have been seen as naive, subservient subjects whose work was to give birth, cook for their husbands and look after the children at home (Dholakia, 2015). Arranged marriage propagates the same mentality of society towards women, where men are given preference.
Apparently, women have to understand that they should be in the forefront of opposing arranged marriage. The aspect of a woman making a choice on whom they want to marry has little or no effect on erosion of cultural values. Some of the traditional and customary practices set are meant to curtail the woman and keep her dominated (Sharma & Gupta, 2012). Another aspect is that when women are taken through this practice, many choices are taken away from them. For example, the chance to school, get employed, and earn a living to support a family is denied on them. This because most arranged marriages require the bride to be young, as a result, most teenage girls undergo the process against their will depriving them a chance to become what they wanted to become in life (Bhandary, 2017).
When compared to a man in an arranged marriage, men can continue their education and get the jobs they want. However, the poor young girls are expected to stay at home, bear children and support the man towards his dream. An arranged marriage can also be viewed as a practice that is superficially managed (Bhandary, 2017). The stakeholders who arrange the process focus on superficial aspects such as beauty, wealth, political ties, and royalty. A man who has stable income is likely to have a lot of influence in determining the choice of woman that is he is going to be matched with. Moral values such as love, honesty, and autonomy are disregarded when making this decision (Dholakia, 2015).
Research conducted in the Indian community, outline that 45.5% of women in arranged marriage silently undergo either physical or sexual violence. This is with disregard of their education and economic status in the society. The report shows that women who underwent semi-arranged marriage have a lower rate of domestic violence marking a 34.8% rate (Alinia, 2013). In African arranged marriages, the chances of promiscuity tend to be higher as sometimes the husband may end up finding the woman less desirable since there is no love. Men, therefore, opt to go and look for other women who please them out there. Women, as a result, end up getting sexual diseases such as HIV (Bhandary, 2017).
On the other hand, some cultures such the Indian ones, the older sibling, in case of two sisters is expected to marry first. In case she delays in getting a match, it means that the younger sister, who might be ready to get married by then, will have to wait. Another disadvantage is that the chance of getting married when one is past 25years is low, especially if one lives in the rural areas (Sharma & Gupta, 2012). This is because cultural traditions marry women as young as thirteen and twelve years; being twenty-five means that the women are too old and will not get a suitor in most cases.
In conclusion, arranged marriage may be good for the community in general, however, as for the bride or women in practice; this is a modern-day “slavery” that should be opposed vehemently. It is an archaic practice meant to dominate women, deny them the chance to achieve their dreams, and create a platform for oppression. It is referred to as “arranged marriage,” but in the real sense, it is an arrangement for the woman while the man gets what he wants. Marriage should be based on love, free will, and morality. Women must stand up for freedom and autonomy in making choices in marriage.
Alinia, M. (2013). Forced or Arranged Marriage and Women’s Responses. Honor and Violence against Women in Iraqi Kurdistan, 109-124. doi:10.1057/9781137367013_6
Bhandary, A. (2017). Arranged Marriage: Could It Contribute To Justice? Journal of Political Philosophy. doi:10.1111/jopp.12144
Dholakia, U. (2015, December 15). How Do Indian Women Fare In An Arranged Marriage? Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-behind-behavior/201512/how-do-indian-women-fare-in-arranged-marriage
Sharma, R., & Gupta, D. T. (2012). Home Without Space: A Study of Chitra Divakaruni’s Women Characters With Special Reference to Arranged Marriage. Paripex – Indian Journal Of Research, 3(8), 42-43. doi:10.15373/22501991/august2014/12