Looking up the Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, arranged marriage is defined as a kind of marital union, where two people are married in accordance to the arrangements made by a third party, usually the parents of the bride and groom (O’ Brien 40). In arranged marriages both prospective spouses agree to have the assistance of a third party, e.g their parents, and identify a husband or wife respectively. Although arranged marriages differ from forced marriages, which occur when either the bride or groom or even both of them are married against their will, they still should be considered unacceptable. We live in a new era and a world that has made important steps in regards human rights, and choosing who to marry should be and remain a fundamental right to everybody, regardless race, ethnicity and cultural background.
Arranged marriages are in sense the exact opposite to love marriages and deprive people from having control of their lives and make decisions that affect them. Parents are “assigned” to choose the most appropriate spouse for their son or daughter, with little participation from the future bride and groom (University of Florida). Even though the potential rejection of the parents’ choices is respected and initiates a new spouse-pursuit, the core principle in arranged marriages is that parents know best (University of Florida), which in fact cancels any opposition from a future spouse on their parents’ selection.
Arranged marriages occur conforming with some particular societal factors and the economic background of the future spouses’ families, which cultivates a concept that a spouse’s character and distinguishing traits are not essential to bond with another person for life. Unlike western societies, the families in the eastern world that accepts the institution of arranged marriages perform a number of investigations to identify the status quo of the future spouse’s family, their wealth, the potential future spouse’s appearance, the family’s values, medical status and religion (University of Florida). In some cases, horoscope compatibility is also an important factor to choose a spouse (University of Florida). In other words, arranged marriages are perfect for poor families that want to reduce the total of mouths that need to be fed per day (Engel 955-961). In today’s world, people need to spend much time with one another and determine whether they make a match and proceed to the final stage of a relationship, that of marriage. Picking a spouse, just like traders chose their merchandize, should not be part of a life’s decision.
Arranged marriages do not only take place among adults, but also children, which comprises a violation of the human rights. UNICEF, among many other international organizations, has campaigned for countries passing laws that would ban arranged marriages of the underage (UNICEF). Indicatively, it is estimated that “Every three seconds, somewhere in the world, a girl under the age of 18 is married” (UNICEF 3), mostly via arranged marriages. It becomes obvious that arranged marriages break a number of laws, including women’s marital rights, which are clearly defined and protected by Article 16 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, as adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, ever since 1979 (UN Women).
Finally, divorce rates may be lower in countries like India (Lee), where arranged marriages are an institution, compared to autonomous marriages in the U.S and Europe (CDC; Eurostat), but there are deriving issues that require further analysis. Arranged marriages are not more stable than autonomous marriages, simply because it is very difficult for spouses that have been married via marital arrangements from a third party to actually have a divorce (Lee). Imagine what it is like to ask for a divorce in a country where being divorced individual calls for societal marginalization. For that reason, many people prefer to suffer in dysfunctional or even abusive marriages than having to confront people’s outcry (Lee).
Arranged marriages can never comprise an accepted institution within modern societies for more reasons than one. They not only encroach human rights and women’s rights, but also force people live their entire lives with a complete stranger, only because their parents have chosen their spouse as the ideal mate for them. It is already hard enough for couples that have known each other a number of years to co-exist under the same roof and share a common life; no one can say that it would not be twice as hard for two strangers to start a family and see eye-to-eye. Moreover, arranged marriages that are often performed among children is an outrage and should be forever banned. Children need to be free to live their childhood through and reach to both physical and emotional matureness before they select their other half to spend their life with. Concluding, if people have the right to choose a life’s partner, they should also have the right to step away from them, should circumstances require to do so. There is no law that accepts people being abused, and emotional abuse within a marriage, not to mention physical, are hard to identify and deal with, but require immediate measures. Human are given a life to live it as they please. And if it is to make mistakes, it should be them who would be responsible for them and no other third party choosing for them.
CDC (n.d). “National Vital Statistics System: National Marriage and Divorce Rate Trends”. Last updated: February 19, 2013.Web. Sep. 27, 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/marriage_divorce_tables.htm>
Engel, J. W. (1984). Marriage in the People's Republic of China: Analysis of a new law. Journal of Marriage and the Family, pages 955-961
Lee, Ji Hyun (2013). “Modern Lessons From Arranged Marriages”. New York Times. Web. Sep. 27, 2013 <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/20/fashion/weddings/parental-involvement-can-help-in-choosing-marriage-partners-experts-say.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&>
Eurostat (2012). “Marriage and divorce statistics”. Web. Sep. 27, 2013 < http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Marriage_and_divorce_statistics>
O'Brien, Jodi (2008). “Encyclopedia of Gender and Society, Volume 1”. Print. SAGE Publications. ISBN 978-1412909167
UNICEF (2012). “World Day of Prayer and Action for Children: A note on Child Marriage”. Print. <http://www.unicef.org/policyanalysis/files/Note_on_Child_Marriage.pdf>
U.N Women (n.d). “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women”. Web. Sep. 27, 2013. <http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/text/econvention.htm>