Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed

Last updated: December 26, 2016

Should arranged marriages be outlawed?

Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

Arranging marriages is an insult to the very nature of marriage, which should be about creating a lo...

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.
No because...
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.

Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

To allow arranged marriages leads to unacceptable pressure on those involved. They are often reliant...

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.
No because...
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.

Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

Arranged marriage is bad both for the individual women concerned and for women generally in society....

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.
No because...
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 Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

The practice of arranged marriage separates communities, helping to stop integration and encourage d...

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.
No because...
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.

Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

Arranged marriage is not a true ‘cultural value’ that is in some sense inviolate. Every major religi...

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.
No because...
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?

Arranged Marriages Should Be Outlawed
Yes because...

Arranged marriage provides a cover for illegal immigration. We attempt to challenge false marriages ...

Arranged marriage provides a cover for illegal immigration. We attempt to challenge false marriages with non-nationals such as mail order brides for just this reason but are 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.
No because...
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.


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