The Concise History of Arranged Marriages

Throughout the civilized world, most cultures have adopted some form of the institution of marriage to protect bloodlines, set down some rules for family life as well as to ensure the propagation of the species.

The traditions surrounding these laws have been varied and complex, fearsome even. While many cultures considered the woman and man to be equal, this concept was not always practiced. Throughout medieval Europe, for example, men and women held very different roles and responsibilities to the family, and to the established religious system.

Arranged marriage was a common practice. These imposed unions were more often to seal deals between important families, consolidate wealth or other reasons beyond mutual attraction. There was not much choice for those involved, however, consequences for refusing to commit to an arranged marriage were scathing indeed.

In previous chapters of human history, the arranged marriage was a great way to ensure the strength and prestige of families. Furthermore, people didn’t get out as much as they do now, it was more probable that a father or mother could find a kind and caring spouse for their child who probably knew little more than farm life.

The consolidation of power and family social status was also dependent on the choice of spouse made by a son or daughter, and you can imagine how much the family would weigh in on these decisions. The desire for gain is another great benefit to a suitable match and dowries were expected from a bride hoping to climb the social echelons.

The practice faded from many cultures with the great improvement we have made in communications and social advances. Nevertheless, there are many cultures in existence throughout the world that still rely on the decisions of family elders for marriage decisions.

Even though there may have been some advantages to arranged marriages in the past, today they have been known to be seriously problematic. The absence of any mutual attraction in an arranged marriage can lead to all kinds of conflicts that will not be resolved in any mutually respectful way.

The greed of family elders can lead them to aggravate these issues with threats of violence and worse if children do not agree to a lucrative arrangement. As a rule, there is very little consideration for either spouse, but more typically the wife’s wishes in the arrangement. Many arranged marriages are actually conducted for girls as young as 13 and boys as young as 14.

Many of these same cultures have poor standards of equality between the man and the woman. It is common practice for everything the wife owns to be given to the husband including herself and children. Whether they planned on it or not, the decision to have children is out of the woman’s hands and they are under the full control of their husband. This often leads to many instances of physical abuse and non-consensual sexual relations.

As if the consequences of an arranged marriage were not bad enough, the consequences for refusing could be even worse. Men could face being disinherited in some cultures and disemboweled in others. Women were often subjected to family rejection, shame, beating and in many cases it would be the responsibility of the father or another family member to execute the rebellious young lady.

These “Honor Killings” or brutual accidents were performed to preserve the family honor and send a warning to other such individualists. The saddest part of all this is that many cultures still practice this archaic tradition.