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  Robert JC Young    New York Poco


‘Could you arrange my marriage for me please?’


I’ve often wondered quite what it is that makes people in Europe and North America so obsessed about the idea of arranged marriage. People always seem to assume that by definition arranged marriages are bad things, and that it is the general duty of the western world to force the rest of the world into making this benighted practice obsolete. The way that it is generally presented is that it is women in particular who are forced into arranged marriages and that women should be encouraged to rebel against this rather than submit. I don’t by contrast find much sympathy for men who have arranged marriages, and I can’t remember reading any novels in which men run away rather than be forced into a marriage that they don’t like. Presumably, though, in any marriage arranged by other parties both participants are being equally obliged to go through with it. Maybe the men are just submitting to it uncomplaining.


Of course there are oppressive practices associated with arranged marriages, such as the Indian Hindu requirement of dowries for brides and the spectre of bride burning for those who are subsequently deemed not to have brought enough cash, or child marriage, but these are not features that necessarily define arranged marriage as such. Such practices understandably give arranged marriage a bad name, but they do not have to be intrinsic to the form. An arranged marriage is not a synonym for a forced marriage, as Westerners often complacently assume.


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Feb07 254

the first wedding: Chandigarh