Do arranged marriages violate human rights as they are protected by international humanitarian law? Marriage is a vital part of the social and economic life of a person’s life. It forms the foundation for a continued family line, and the backdrop for raising children. In most societies, marriage is an important relation both between the two people and between the person and the society, and there are many rituals and traditions tied to the marriage.
In many parts of the world, arranged marriages are still common, and are the expected and accepted way to find someone to share a lifetime with. Definition A definitive distinction between arranged marriages and forced marriages is difficult to define, as the division is fluid. One distinction is to say that arranged marriages are marriages planned by parents, guardians and brokers, based on what they believe is the best for the spouses, but in this case, the intended future spouses hold the final say in whether to go through with the union of marriage.
Forced marriages, on the other hand, completely lack the element of free consent, either by lack of given consent or because consent is given under duress. The right to refuse an arranged marriage is perhaps not part of reality, since the spouses are brought up in a family environment where forced marriages are expected, and family bonds have powerful sway over individual decisions. “The question that arises, therefore, is essentially to establish whether one or both future spouses have consented, and if so, whether the consent was full and free with the aim of entering into married life” (Zapfl-Helbling, 2005).
History Because marriage is such an important part of human life, it is discussed and described in religious writings. Arranged marriages have been instrumental in maintaining royal families and dynasties through history, and in some cultures, such as the Indian, arranged marriages are still common. Marriage in the Bible At the time of many of the stories in the Bible, arranged marriages were very common. The pair that was to be married often had little power in deciding who they would marry; they would have to do as their parents decided.
In the same way as in royal families, marriage tied groups together in alliances, bringing different communities together. Several verses in the Bible refer to women being given by their fathers to men in order to create alliances, in a sign of good faith and friendship, or as a reward. The Bible does not directly set forth rules governing arranged or forced marriages. The same is true in other religions, such as Islam. Genesis 24 speaks of an arranged marriage, where a servant is sent to find a wife for Abraham’s son Isaac. Rebekah is brought from her homeland to marry Isaac.
She is given to Abraham’s servant by her father Bethuel and brother Laban, to marry a man she has never met. Isaac is in the same situation as Rebekah, since he also does not know the woman he will marry (The Holy Bible). Marriage in Islam While the Qur’an does not directly discuss arranged marriages, Islamic law and the writings about the Prophet’s teachings do mention the subject. In these writings, forced marriages are very clearly forbidden, but arranged marriages in the understanding that both potential partners have the opportunity to refuse the marriage, is not banned.
The family helps find a suitable candidate for marriage, and arrange meetings between the prospective spouses. Dating in the Western sense is not allowed in Islam, since two people of the opposite sex who are not related or married are not allowed to be alone together. “Whenever a man is alone with a woman, Satan is the third among them” (Dodge, 2003). Dates are always chaperoned by family members to prevent anything inappropriate from happening between the courting couple. If, at the end of the courting process, the pair wishes to marry, they will. Arranged Marriages in India
As in every other culture, marriage is a vital part of culture in India. In the same way as arranged marriages are an established and expected part of Islamic culture, arranged marriages are very common also in India, where Hinduism is the leading religion. Most marriages here are arranged, but importantly with” the consent of the bride and the bridegroom and the blessings of the elders” (http://www. hinduwebsite. com/hinduism/h_marriage. asp). Also here the question of consent is very important to provide a distinction between arranged and forced marriage.
This focus on consent has been a modern development of this ancient tradition. In the past, consent from the spouses was not necessary for them to be married (http://www. culturalindia. net/weddings/arranged-marriage. html HHHHHjjlafdkdk. ) Arranged marriages are set up by friends and family, and sometimes by a matchmaker that sets up the marriage. But the bride’s father has the most responsibility in arranging marriage for his daughter, and is the one who approaches the father of a potential bridegroom.
Important aspects when considering a possible match are financial status, caste, and the bride and bridegrooms horoscopes matching. The role of astrology is important, and if a Hindu priest finds that the horoscopes of the potential spouses do not match, they will not marry, and must begin the search all over again (Livermore, 2009). India’s view of marriage first and then love is very different from the Western view where love comes before marriage, seems to be successful. The divorce rate in India is at 1. %, compared to the divorce rate in America, which is at 50 % (http://www. divorcerate. org/divorce-rate-in-india. html. ) These statistics may, however, be skewed, since divorce is socially not acceptable in parts of India. The NY Times had an article a couple weeks ago that supported the idea that people from India who are have had an arranged marriage have built a stronger relationship. Though divorce in not acceptable the bonds seem to only grow stronger as the years pass (Joseph, 2011). It is more than a silly tradition to those who take part in arranged marriage.
The philosophy of “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” is very much alive for this culture. The traditions are what have kept this country strong and unified. Declaration of Human Rights The right to only marry with the free and full consent of both spouses is set forth in several of the international agreements concerning human rights. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) concerns the right to marry. Part two of article 16 states that “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses” (Reichert, 2006).
Two other articles help in explain why arranged marriages can be ruled as against the human rights of the spouses. Article 24 of the International Bill of Human Rights covers the rights and requirements of marriage. “People of full age have the right to marry and to found a family. Men and women are entitled to equal rights at marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses. ” (Reichert, 2006)
Article 27 declares a right to privacy, which provides that it is a human right to live without unnecessary interference by the government. “Everyone shall have the right to privacy in his or her home, hotel room, vehicle, or vessel and to have interpersonal relations as they choose. This right includes all communications between people, in public or private that they intend to keep confidential. Eavesdropping is forbidden without a court order as part of a criminal investigation. Such order shall only be issued upon evidence submitted in writing to the judge issuing the order. ” (Reichert, 2006)
Article 27 also provides that everyone has the right to “have interpersonal relations as they choose,” which could be interpreted to protect the right to participate in arranged marriage, particularly in those cultures where arranged marriages are common and viewed as a natural part of the union of marriage. For those raised with those values, being denied the right to find a spouse in the way that is common in their culture would be an invasion of privacy. Theories Systems theory seemed an appropriate choice for its use of key concepts such as boundaries, differentiation, homeostasis, roles, and subsystems (van Wormer & Besthorn, 2011).
In researching the custom of arranged marriages within the Indian culture, boundaries must be considered. There are many cultural as well as gender specific boundaries at play. Differentiation, separating from one system as you move toward a more mature system, takes place as these women leave their family of origin and enter into their new family. An attempt will be made to recognize the other systems in place to create the homeostasis to allow this custom of arranged marriage to continue. Homeostasis is the giving and taking of certain systems in order to keep a balance.
Also, as immigrants are acculturated to western ideologies, systems must change in order to ensure the continuation of this custom. For example, will the arranged marriage disappear as the family becomes more “Americanized”? While the systems theory is applicable in this situation, it isn’t without its shortcomings. Because of the endless systems, subsystems, and roles which could be considered, applying this theory can be daunting and have little use in one interview. This theory may also neglect any past situations or biological issues the client may be dealing with.
The other theory being applied for this research is the feminist theory. Perhaps for a topic such as this, feminist theory may be most appropriate for the way in which it is used to examine discrimination and oppression (van Wormer & Besthorn, 2011). Ideas of feminist theory that must be examined are: considering where the knowledge came from, examining the patriarchal system of the group, and examining the gender roles ascribed to the women of this culture (van Wormer & Besthorn, 2011). Examining the ways women have become more empowered since immigrating to western countries.
This theory will be applied in order to see how the custom of arranged marriage dictates what is appropriate therefore perpetuating the inequality of the women, i. e. whom they can marry. Another hope is that the theory can raise awareness of the ability to demand equality and begin to see areas where progress needs to be made on a micro as well as macro level. As is with systems theory, there are concerns about feminist theory also. The major complaint is that the focus is mainly on women which may actually become oppressive in itself by singling out problems specific to women.
In actuality, feminist theory can apply to any situation of inequality or oppression which many critics fail to realize. The feminist theory is also based on western ideologies which may prevent it from being appropriately applied due to cultural differences. Conclusion While I, as a Western European, do not properly understand the tradition of arranged marriages, many places in the world it is common. I do understand that arranged marriage is a part of many cultures, and it will probably never be possible to fully ban the practice.
What can be done is to protect the rights of the intending spouses as much as possible, which is done through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The duty set forth for every marriage to have free and full consent from both of the intending spouses will always raise the question as to whether both of the intending spouses really have the right to protest and the right to say no. Both the culture people are raised with and the family environment they live in influence their views of arranged marriage.