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Arranged marriage, forced marriage

by Martina Sabra

In brief

Today, many Jordanian students have a say in who they will marry.

Today, many Jordanian students have a say in who they will marry.

Not every arranged marriage is a forced marriage. Terre des Femmes, a human-rights organisation that campaigns against forced marriage, defines an arranged marriage as one initiated by family, friends or marriage brokers but concluded with the full consent of the bride and groom.

In a similar way, the Swiss initiative Zwangsheirat.ch distinguishes between forced marriage, arranged marriage and self-organised marriage. All three can result in forced marriage, if separation or divorce are not allowed.

Forced marriage is a violation of human rights because everyone has the right to choose the person he or she wants to live with. The key issue is whether there is any real or perceived pressure to enter into the marital union. It is therefore vital that those concerned should have the opportunity to say how they see the situation.

According to social anthropologists, elements of arranged marriage are found in nearly every culture. What differs is how much the bride and groom are consulted and how much say they have in key decisions. A distinction is made between three types of arranged marriage:

  • In forced arranged marriages parents or guardians select spouses; bride and groom have no say in the matter.
  • Arranged marriage with partners’ veto rights are initiated by parents or guardians, but depend on the consent of bride and groom.
  • Self-selected marriage with parents’ veto rights mean that bride and groom are not entirely free to make their own choice.

The opposite of arranged marriage are autonomous or self-selected marriages, with parents or guardians not playing any role. At present, arranged marriages are preferred by the majority of the world population. Forced arranged marriages are not the norm, however, and becoming rarer. Most marriages between adults today are somewhere on the scale between arranged and autonomous marriage.

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