. Arranged Marriage
There are still a few industrialized cultures in which arranged marriages take place. ^arranged marriage
In Iran all marriages are arranged, even those that are based on love (Drew, 2004). A Mamage tlaat is arnang^ by parent or rela
tives and is often not based on love.
young man will visit the home of the woman he wishes to marry accompanied by three members of his family. The woman is not allowed to speak unless directly questioned. A contract is signed and although the couple is not formally married, this contract is legally binding. A formal marriage ceremony usually takes place a year later. (For more information about arranged marriage, see the accompanying Human Sexuality in a Diverse World, “Arranged Marriage.”)
In some cultures, courtship is a highly ritualized process in which every step is defined by one’s kin group or tribe (Hutter, 1981). For example, the marriages of the Yaruros of Venezuela are arranged and highly specified; a man must marry his “cross-cousin”—that is, the daughter of either his father’s sister or his mother’s brother. The marriages are arranged by the shaman or religious leader in consultation with one of the boy’s uncles.
The Hottentots of South Africa also marry their cross-cousins, but here the boy can choose which cousin he wants to marry; once he does, he informs his parents, who send someone to seek permission from the girl’s parents. Tradition dictates that they must refuse. The youth then approaches the girl, going to her house late at night once everyone is asleep and lying down next to her. She then gets up and moves to the other side of the house. The next night he returns, and if he finds her back on the side where he first lay next to her, he lies down again with her, and the marriage is consummated (Hutter, 1981).
For 2,000 years, marriages in China were arranged by parents and elders, and emotional involvement between prospective marriage partners was frowned upon; if a couple appeared to like having their marriage arranged, the marriage was called off! In China, the primary responsibility of each person was supposed to be to his or her extended family. If there was a marriage bond that was very strong outside of that extended family, it could jeopardize the cohesiveness of the group.
This all began to change with the communist revolution of 1949. Through contact with the West, these customs began to erode. Only 8 months after coming to power, the communist leaders established the Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China, in which, among other things, they tried to end arranged marriages and establish people’s right to choose their spouse freely. Today in China, although arranged marriages still take place in the rural areas, people date and meet each other in public places—a condition that was virtually unknown a few generations before.
In many parts of Africa, too, parents used to be involved in mate selection (Kayongo-Male & Onyango, 1984). Marriages were arranged between families, not really individuals, and each family had a set of expectations about the other’s role. Courtship was highly ritualized, with the groom’s family paying a “bride wealth” to the bride’s family. The rituals that preceded marriage were intended to teach the couple what their particular tribe or culture believed married couples needed to know in order to keep their marriage successful. However, young people did have some say in who they were to marry; in many cases, young people would reject their parents’ choices or meet someone they liked and ask their parents to arrange a marriage. One Egyptian boy commented:
We all know the girls of our village. After all, we played together as kids, and we see them going back and forth on errands as they get older. One favorite place for us to get a glimpse of girls is at the village water source. The girls know that and like to linger there. If we see one we like and think she might be suitable, we ask our parents to try to arrange a marriage, but usually not before we have some sign from the girl that she might be interested. (Rugh, 1984, p. 137)
Today, however, mate selection in most places is a much more individual affair. However much we in the West believe in the right of individuals to choose their own mates, there were some advantages to parental participation in mate selection, and the transition to individual mate selection in traditional societies is often difficult.
An alarming practice has been on the rise, especially in places such as Afghanistan, Africa, and Bangladesh. Many poor families have been selling their young daughters for a “bride price” (Hinshelwood, 2002). Usually the girls are sold between the ages of 8 and 12 years old, for anywhere from $300 to $800. These young girls can stay with their families until their future husband comes to claim them, usually around their first menstrual period. Although this practice is against the law, poverty has contributed to its increased popularity. Today many women’s groups in the West have become very concerned about the sale of these girls and are working to stop this practice.