The Child’s Responsibilities|
Uncovering the Challenges of a Young Bride in India|
Arranged marriages are still traditionally performed in many foreign countries. Most people who do not believe in this tradition find it hard to understand how another person could be the determinate of who they will spend the rest of their life with. Some cultures get along well with marital arrangements but there are still some countries still having problems keeping their tradition going without violating anyone’s human rights. India is a country who still carries the tradition of arranged marriages. While many of the marriages are performed with the bride and groom accepting of their new commitment there are still many cases where arranged marriages are being forced, the type of marriage discussed through the paper. In a society where there is little to no regard to a women’s opinion or voice, arranged marriages in another way the women’s’ freedom is controlled. Arranged marriage is a marital agreement without the mutual consent of both wife and groom. Although uncommon to Americans, this tradition is still being performed in different countries along with some foreign citizens living in the United States. The arranged marriages are primarily performed through the parents of the child or children being married off with exception of the few cases where the arrangement may be performed through a relative or non-relative. The Human Rights Watch offers a very detailed publication revealing many of the perils Afghan women encounter in their culture in a chapter titled “Forced and Child Marriage” written by Rachel Reid. In the chapter Reid identifies different types of marital arrangements and many different reasons why parents choose the option of arranging a marriage for their children. Some of the most common forms of the marriages are:
• marriage for compensation of currency or goods with value
• badal (a marriage exchange which generally involves a brother and sister of one family marrying the sister and brother of another family, which can remove the need for the payment of dowries or “bride prices”)
•baad (marriage as “compensation” for a crime)
•marriage to pay a debt”
These different forms reveal little regard for the child being married off and is a factor uncommonly considered. These marriages have no limits on when families can start planning. In certain societies in India, it is seen as another planning process to consider when having a child. “Toddlers married at Akha Teej (a highly religious day in western India) ceremonies in Rajasthan cannot ‘consent’. Nor is consent given in the cases of young girls from very poor homes in the Indian city of Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, sold as wives to rich men in the Middle East” (8 Black, Victoria, and Nicolette). Religiously there are no age restrictions to when a child can be married off and many of the marriages are performed while the child is in their teens or younger. Both males and females can be forced into arrange marriages although cases for the forced marriage of young grooms are not as frequent as young brides. In the articles, there are no examples or mentioning of young boys getting married off to older women. The males are normally the ones looking for the brides and families with girls are in search of a groom as soon as the start of their daughter’s menstrual cycle. The group most affected by the marriages are females between the ages of 10-18. Despite being considered women because of the onset on menses girls are married off with the mentality of a child and “the AIHRC(Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission) and UNIFEM(United Nations Development Fund for Women) estimate that 57 percent of girls are married before the legal age of 16”(Reid). The girls have to make a quick transition into adulthood along with being consumed with the responsibilities of being wives without any prior warning or lessons on what to expect. The girls may learn and practice the chores and role of the woman but they are not informed of the adult decision making or duties because of beliefs that children should not be informed or involved in adult issues. The young brides are not the only ones affected by the marriages, the children of the brides are also in danger. Soon after marriage comes motherhood and “if a mother is under 18, her baby’s chance of dying in the first year of life is 60 percent higher than that of a baby born to a mother older than 19” (11 Black, Victoria, and Nicolette). Because the girls are getting married and expected to have children at a young age, the baby’s chances of survival are lesser than a baby raised by an adult mother. The reason for this is because the mother is not fully developed herself in regards to physical and mental maturity. Their culture finds it acceptable for girls to conceive although girls’ bodies and reproductive organs are not fully developed and because of this “Afghanistan has the second highest rate of maternal mortality in the world, with 1,700 women or girls dying per 100,000 live births” (Reid). Despite evidence of the trouble the girls go through, this leads many to question why this is still being practiced. In trying to solve this predicament of arranged marriage, one has to first begin by understanding the culture and what may be restraining the people from ending the “tradition”. It is difficult to find when and why this practice began and if it is because of traditional or religious reasons why it is still continued. The article titled “Forced Marriage, Forced Sex: the Perils of Childhood for Girls” written by Marium Ouattara, Purna Sen, and Marylin Thomson compare the traditions of arranged marriages in West Africa and India and how the different societies are affected by this tradition. The article is able to contribute other reasons in addition to the reasons listed previously to why arranged marriages are performed, which are: •the girls were required to provide domestic help for the boy's family •grandparents wanted to see their granddaughter settled before they died •parents believed that marriage of girls before menstruation is 'holiness' •the children were forced into marriage because of pregnancy •parents' feared inter-caste relationships or that their children would elope with someone who was unsuitable(29 Ouattara, Purna, Marylin). These are all reasons for arranged marriages in Nepal. Religiously they associate purity and the coming of a menstrual cycle to holiness. This idea gives reason to why the girls are married off early. Keeping the girls confined to the house and under constant supervision ensures the family and the future husband of the girl’s purity and virginity. It seems as if the female’s virginity holds more value than the girl herself. In some societies in the Middle East, girls are withdrawn from school once it is learned the girls have reached puberty because the family is afraid of male exposure by classmates and teachers. In their opinion, this is seen as a protection measure for their daughters. These extreme measures may be expressed as good intentions in favor of the girls when in fact many of the benefits of marrying off daughters fall on the families. In situations involving poor families marrying off a daughter will benefit them in many ways. In one example, the marriage can be viewed as a payoff depending on the size of the dowry the groom’s family would be willing to pay off for the young bride. Along with the dowry, marrying off a daughter also lessens the financial responsibility if the family, relieving the family of one less person to care for and to feed. Indian views on marriage differ from the American perspective because they see marriage and having children as an obligation. With arranged marriage being routine in their culture, they have learned to adjust to the tradition. Writers Jane E. Myers, Jayamala Madathil, and LynneR.Tingle offer another perspective less bias towards the tradition of arranged marriage in their article “Marriage Satisfaction and Wellness in India and the United States: a Preliminary Comparison of Arranges Marriages and Marriages of Choice”. The article provides a better understanding the Middle Eastern society’s perception of marriage because Madathil was o member of one of the social groups they based their research on. For many “love is viewed in a different manner by persons in India and is not seen as a necessary precursor to marriage”(187 Myers, Madathil, and Tingle). While most seek love first and marriage second in arranged marriages brides have to accept the marriage and learn to love and adapt to its conditions. Girls have no choice to deny a potential arranged marriage; their only option is to submit to their parents’ choice to avoid punishment, abandonment or disgracing the family’s name.
Having a tradition like arranged marriage makes it easy to understand why women struggle to find themselves important or having value in a society where they are exchange like property. In arranged marriages:
“Indian researchers on child marriage in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh state that girl spouses suffer more than boys: ‘Inadequate socialization, discontinuation of education, great physiological and emotional damage due to repeated pregnancies devastates these girls.’ If the husband dies, even before consummation, the girl is treated as a widow, nata to a widower in the family. Officially she is then his wife, but in fact under the practice of nata she becomes the common property of all the men in the family”(9 Black, Victoria, and Nicolette). In these marriages the first thing the girls have to give up is their education. Giving up education poses a threat to the bride and her future family. Mentally she has no room to expand her ability to solve problems or to develop a clear sense of logic. Her children will also suffer because they will mainly depend on their mother for a healthy upbringing, knowledge and nutrition but because of the lack of education, the mother will be unable to provide this to them. Young brides and their children are also effected physically since “early marriage leads to early pregnancy, girls are at greater risk of premature labor, complications during delivery, and dying in childbirth” (Reid). These issues may also pose a great threat to the family’s finances. If the mother and infant both get sick medical expenses become a problem along with finding someone to take care of the home while the mother is sick. Other negatives “include being forced into marriage and into sex within marriage, without the opportunity of giving consent”(27 Ouattara, Purna, Marylin). Although Indian law recognizes marital rape little is done to enforce the laws and most women are unwilling to inform authorities in fear of their family’s wellbeing and financial dependence on the husband. Providing evidence of rape is difficult to prove within a marriage and most people are unwilling to get involved in a couples’ marriage. A reason to why Middle Eastern society’s laws provide little help in protecting women from their husbands is because women are seen a property. There is not much protection for the brides especially if the person who is supposed to be protecting them is the person they need to be protected from. Brides may turn to their families for help but often times they are driven away because the family no longer sees the daughter as a priority. The family may also place the blame on the daughter viewing her suffering as avoidable if she was doing what was necessary to please her husband. There are some groups trying to help the rescue the women from some of the challenges of child marriages like the creation of “The Indian Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929 stemmed from a campaign that helped reposition women, family life, and childbearing within modern India”(8 Black, Victoria, and Nicolette). The Act does not stop the action of arranged marriage but in 1978 it added legal rule making it illegal to marry girls until the age of 18 and boys until the age of 21. Laws are made to lessen the negative effects of arranged marriage but there is little to no enforcement of the laws. Child marriage is not a crime under Afghan law but forced marriage is. Proving a marriage is forced will be the responsibility of the young bride. If she does try to report a forced marriage the bride would be risking disgracing her family’s name, support or a home to stay in and her life. Girls have no choice to disagree with the marriage and being married off at a young age they have no other options. Finding a solution and trying to alter the customs of a highly religious and traditional society has been an obstacle may Indian girls have wished changed. In order for a change to occur ideas in relation to women’s choices will have to alter. An obvious step to affect forced marriages would change the males’ perspective on towards women but until a change does occur young girls will continue to be married off against their will. Because women in their society have no voice trying to enforce legal action will have little to no effect. In order to see a change will take unity, sacrifice, and courage among the women. The women are aware of the dangers associated with bad marriages and it will be necessary for them all to join together and protect one another from these dangers. In order to make a true impact the women will have to be a shelter for some of the runaway girls, similar to how some families, during the time of slavery, provided short term shelter and a safe place to sleep for runaway slaves. This may not be a permanent solution but until options do change will offer the women an option if the dangers are extreme and may also save the lives of the some of the girls.
Black, Maggie, Victoria Haeri, and Nicolette Moodie. "Early Marriage: Child Spouses." The United Nations Children's Fund. Mar. 2001. Web. This article gives an overall view of all the countries that are still practicing forced marriages. Some of the main points the article talks about is some of the causes, the impact on the children and what actions can be taken. The writing relates the countries of Asia, India and Africa and the effects on early marriage in regards to health, education, and wellness of the child brides is the main focus. Mikhail, Susanne Louis. Child Marriage and Child Prostitution: Two Forms of Sexual Exploitation. 1st ed. Vol. 10. Taylor & Francis. Print. Relating child marriage and child prostitution and writer, Susan Mikhail, explains their similarities. Mikhail explains how they are both transactions and how in both situations the girl is seen powerless. The article is concluded by explaining the changes in their societies view of child marriages and in law.
Myers, Jane E., Jayamala Madathil, and Lynne R. Tingle. "Marriage Satisfaction and Wellness in India and the United States: a Preliminary Comparison of Arranges Marriages and Marriages of Choice." Journal of Counseling and Development 83.2 (2005): 183-89. Print. The article uses data from a number of surveys given to 22 couples from arranged marriages and choice marriages along with one widower. The data is compared between a society in India and a society in the United States. Their offered a non-bias opinion towards arranged while not entirely agreeing with the tradition. The article offers understanding to why these marriages are still accepted in India. Ouattara, Mariam, Purna Sen, and Marylin Thomson. Forced Marriage, Forced Sex: the Perils of Childhood for Girls. Gender and Development. 4th ed. Vol. 6. Taylor &Francis. Print. This article explains many of the struggles young female brides go through in forced marriages. Explanations of the time chosen to marry girls off and why are explained. The authors use quote from actual brides of their options about their marriage. Included in the article are organizations trying to put an end to arranged marriages. Reid, Rachel. "“We Have the Promises of the World”." Home | Human Rights Watch. 6 Dec. 2009. Web. 18 Apr. 2011. <http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2009/12/03/we-have-promises-world?print>. The writing sufficiently provides detailed statistics about forced marriages in relation to health and physical and mental health of the girls. Using two different stories from girls in forced marriages the writers reveal the limited legal support for women. In the text are the different classifications and reasons for arranged marriages.