Volume 94, Issue 38

Tuesday, November 18, 2000


Arranged marriages: A true family affair

Breaking the cultural boundaries

Racism still prevalent in families

Arranged marriages: A true family affair

By Leena Kamat
Gazette Staff

While many Western students assume they will marry someone of their own choice for love, there are some people who may not marry for these same reasons.

Arranged marriages are quite common in many faiths around the world. Marriages are often not only between the husband and the wife, but between both families. Therefore, the entire family is involved in the marriage preparation right from the beginning.

Love marriages are common in Canada among Islamic people, said Nina Karachi-Khaled, correspondence secretary for the National Executive of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women. Arranged marriages are more common in other countries, like Pakistan and India and in rural communities.

Karachi-Khaled said her parents had an arranged marriage, but her own was a love marriage. For many Muslim women living in Canada, the love aspect of marriage is paramount. Still, many people regard love as being the most important aspect.

"People have a very stereotypical view on arranged marriages," said Fariha Tayyeb, a third-year honours economics student at Western. "What an arranged marriage is, is an introduction to a guy through your parents. It's like a blind date."

But the definition given to love today greatly differs from what is needed to keeping a marriage successful. "We're given the implication that love is all sex," Karachi-Khaled said. "Love is also working on communication skills and raising a family."

Some cultures accept arranged marriages because the family is involved in the decision Karachi-Khaled explained. "People say your parents know you the best," Karachi-Khaled said, adding parents may know their child's likes and dislikes, personal habits and preferences.

In the Islamic faith, the family's support is critical. "If family wants this marriage, then we're not alone," she said. "You need your family and friends' help."

Being introduced by family members ensures parental approval of the husband. "I wouldn't mind marrying someone who my parents introduced me to," Tayyeb said.

Arranged marriages have become a topic of discussion with the recent trial of Saskatoon dentist Alpna Patel, who was found guilty of manslaughter in the stabbing death of her husband. The couple had an arranged marriage and the unhappiness in their marriage was brought out as a defence during the trial.

Peter Chimbos, professor of sociology at Brescia College, said one case should not imply arranged marriages are more violent than others and the couples are more unhappy. "I cannot make that assumption on one or two cases.

"There is no data indicating arranged marriages are more lethal than individual mate selection," Chimbos said. "The majority of spousal killings occur among lower socio-economic classes."

In the Patel case, there could have been many incidents which led to the unhappy marriage and it cannot be assumed the arranged marriage played a significant role, he explained.

Arranged marriages have been criticized because most timesthe couple does not know each other well. However, Karachi-Khaled said she did not think people who marry for love always know each other really well before the wedding either. Even living together before marriage does not ensure a happy and successful union, she said.

Ping-Chun Hsiung, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, said people cannot assume an arranged marriage is one without love. Also, a non arranged marriage does not guarantee love.

Other criticisms surrounding arranged marriages centres on the woman in the relationship having no say in her future. Karachi-Khaled said this is not a concern in Islamic marriages as the woman has to agree she wants to marry the man. During the wedding ceremony itself, the bride is asked three times for confirmation she wishes to marry her groom.

Tayyeb said not too many people have arranged marriages in which the couple has no say in whether they will finally marry or not. Those types of marriages are only found in small villages, amongst the lower class population, she explained. "There, it's a duty [for the parents] to get their daughters married off."

The freedom associated with non-arranged marriages should also be looked at more closely. "Even in non-arranged marriages, how much freedom is there?" Hsiung asked. "When people are dating, there is so much pressure to either continue or not continue the relationship. There is so much pressure after marriage."

Hsiung explained even in "love" marriages, people tend to marry within their background. The criteria used to find mates are generally the same in both types of marriages. "You cannot deny that people use criteria when finding their spouse."

"Even love marriages are arranged," Karachi-Khaled said. "Look at want ads." People specify everything they are looking for, including the possible mate's height, skin colour, religion, likes, education and job.

To Contact The Campus and Culture Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000