By Zaid Khartit
By Zaid Khartit
Oklahoma City – While marriage is an intrinsic family value, arranged marriage is antithetical to the ideals of such an institution.
Imagine being stuck in an unhappy marriage. Now imagine being married a stranger that your parents chose for you, without your consent, and unhappy? This is an all-too-common practice that has developed in many regions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Arranged marriage is unethical and should not be encouraged because it deprives the couple of their right to choose their potential lovers; this can lead to unhappy marriages, where women suffer most, and in some cases produces children with disabilities when the couple is related.
Women should have the freedom to choose their potential life partners in order to have a chance at a successful matrimony. This type of marriage should not be encouraged because parents make their choice not based on whether the woman might fit her prospective husband and vise versa, but based on whether she can handle home chores and replace their daughters in case they get married. This is because most of the time the couple live with the family they marry into for a while, before they can settle on their own. Parents in arranged marriages tend to be shortsighted because they value hard work and wealth over love, which is critical for longevity as well as success of marriage. Parents ignore the future of the couple as they make a choice that benefits themselves more than the couple. For example, even though the dowry is just symbolic, some parents would allow their daughter to marry only if she is proposed to by an affluent family, so they can benefit from the dowry.
Similarly, arranged marriage is immoral because women suffer when they are forced to marry at a young age. In her article “Child Brides” in Essence, Amber Jeannine talks about the situation of women in Niger and notes that “arranged marriages between girls as young as 7 and adult men[twice, if not several times their age] are commonplace”(3). Given a woman’s physical abilities at this stage in her life, she is by no means qualified to have sexual intercourse, to conceive nor to perform any hard labor. Any endeavor to escape their suffering, spouses and families has little chance to materialize because they are sexually abused and emotionally imprisoned under the pressure of their husbands and their families, who threaten to disown them if they leave the marriage. This provides the context for abusive husbands to portray women as nothing more than a body to pander to their sexual needs.
Statistics may indicate that the divorce rates in arranged marriages are lower than the marriages that are based on love, but women are likely to suffer more in the former. Take Pakistan as a case in point, according to Women’s International Network News, “almost 90 percent of marriages in Pakistan are arranged by parents without consulting the would-be spouses … Surprisingly to outsiders, however, divorce and separation rates are very low compared to other countries”(1). This does not necessarily mean that the couples are always happy in these unions. Being from a country where arranged marriage is all too common, I have relatives and know many people who were forced to marry and stay with someone they had no feelings for. This is because the parents arranged the marriage based on the reputation of the woman and her family in their social milieu; the result being that the marriage ended up failing in many levels, sooner rather than later, because the couple did not make a perfect match.
A failed marriage is even worse for a woman, who after losing her virginity, often finds it very difficult to remarry, because her virginity is her ‘dignity’ in some societies. It is safe to say that women are held to a double standard. Men can get married easily after a failed marriage without any influence from their previous marriages.
Even in instances where arranged marriages appear to be successful, the woman often endure verbal, emotional, and even physical abuses. Unfortunately, she has no other choice but to stick to her husband for the sake of her children, knowing that she will need somebody to look after her kids since the husband is the breadwinner. In one of the stories about marriage compiled by Shagufta Yaqub, features editor on Q-News in Orbit, Sabiha Kusar notes the following about marriage in her community in Pakistan:
Marriage is seen by women as a horrible thing that has to happen to them. A woman’s life is seen as cycle of suffering, and marriage is just another thing that she has no control over…they had a miserable lives and the only time they were happy was when the women got together to talk about their lives…..it is an unusual type of love based on the idea that the man is worth more.(2)
This testimony is indicative of what women go through in arranged marriage. No doubt, when people read these stories, they don’t have to live and experience arranged marriage to know that women do actually suffer in it.
Women should have the right to choose suitable spouses, so that they do not have to suffer through consanguineous marriages. Because most arranged marriages are done between families of close ties, any misunderstanding between the couple will affect the family relationships. Women in these marriages of close families are led to believe that the marriage will be successful since the in-laws are her relatives, assuming that mutual respect and perpetual admiration will dominate the couple’s matrimony. However, women have to endure any injustice that they might be subjected to because any revolt on her part will be deemed as a disgrace to her family. That is to say, such marriages sometimes are arranged in such a fashion that two families exchange brides and if one marriage fails, the other marriage must fail too.
More importantly, children of forced marriages between consanguineous couples such as first cousins are likely to be born with defects. In her article, “Forced Marriages and Unforeseen consequences,” Susan Easton notes the following:” when first cousins marry, their offspring are inclined to have birth defects far above the national average…the statistics are staggering. For example, one in three of all babies born to British Pakistanis…have genetic illnesses” (3).So, arranged marriage is risky especially when it is consanguineous because not only does it generate “genetic illnesses” but it leads to family feuds as well.
In short, arranged marriage should not be encouraged because it denies the couple’s rights to choose their prospective life partners. This form of marriage, especially when it is consanguineous, violates the norms of marriage as a moral institution, where both parties decide when and who they want to marry based on love. The situation is more dire for women because if they divorce they will lack both emotional and financial support. Also women in arranged unions tend to suffer sexually, emotionally and physically because they sacrifice their happiness for the respect of their families and their traditions. Accordingly, women deserve the right to choose their life partners and should revolt against the traditional marriage.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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