Arranged Marriage: a Violation of Human Rights?

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Arranged Marriage: A violation of human rights?
Ashley Bowers
December 7, 2011
SOCW 510

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).

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...
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