There’s More To Them
They say marriages are made in heavens. But, in reality, there is more to marriages than just simple heavenly connection. This “more to marriages” is obvious in societies where marriages have deep social connotations and they are not merely a union of two people at their own sweet will. That social connection is most visible in arranged marriages.
Recently, during the traditional marriage season in Pakistan, which starts September each year and ends during Spring, roughly March); millions of couples tied the knot. Being a social butterfly, I was excited to attend some weddings and most of them were arranged marriages. With our conversation on intimacy and relationships, I was asked to share with our readers my experiences of the mechanics of arranged marriage in Pakistani society.
Arranged Marriages: Cultural Connections
Pakistani society is different from any other Asian country in a number of ways. The traditions and culture prevailing in our country are an amalgam of local customs with a strong religious undertone for a majority of population. With the influence of media (digital and social alike), the culture is fast evolving with glimpses of modernism adding another dimension to an already diverse culture.
This adaptation and influx of other cultures are more evident among the “marriageable age generation,” while the parents of the brides and grooms to be are still relatively conservative. The widening of the generation gap is increasingly getting obvious when it comes to selecting a spouse. The preferences of parents do not usually conform to what the younger generation seeks in their partners. This (at times) sets the marriage on a collision course, especially when the marriage is arranged against the will of either of the potential partners.
Marriages are arranged 99% of the time here in Pakistan. When we say “arranged marriage,” in purely Pakistani social settings it means where the parents of the bride and groom fully consent and endorse the union of the couple. Marriages that happen without the consent of parents are called “love marriages” and are socially rejected. The couple may be considered social outcasts and it can take years to regain social acceptance. In some cases, they never are and the couple may be “on their own.” More extreme cases, although they are increasingly rare now, are the ones where the couple may be subjected to social discrimination, physical harm or even “honor killings.”
Are Arranged Marriages Evil?
Going by the western standards, it is surely evil to force two people to marry without their consent. It is so in our society and Islāmic teachings, the religious code followed by most Pakistanis. The process of arranged marriage as I have explained earlier, follows the consent code in most cases (although not always) among educated middle and upper class.
The custom followed in an arranged marriage is to find a partner of suitable background (education, family standing, appearance and financial viability). The families meet; girl and boy can meet in a joint family sitting (though they do not get to officially date), the families weigh each others suitability. If deemed compatible on all these counts, the union is given a go ahead. Girls are mostly not allowed to dissent to this choice and is expected to accept the parent’s opinion and they usually do, while men have a better chance to differ.
Arranged marriages are mostly successful here as they are the cultural norm, receive social approval and the couples have the support and backing for such unions. “Love marriages” do not enjoy similar successes due to the social pressures and subsequently have an higher divorce rate.
My opinion, despite being a modernist, is that what works well in a given social setting is the best solution for that community of people. Arranged marriages is woven into the fabric of Pakistani society at present, so speaking from our perspective, they work for most people in Pakistan.
What is your experience or perspective about arranged marriages? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below and let us have a conversation.
Neelma Tashfeen is our special Contributor from Pakistan. She brings to our buffet of conversations issues, topics and a perspective from a culture and a part of the world that many of us have not or will never have an opportunity to visit. Neelma is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in English Literature and a Bachelor’s degree in Education and lives in Islamabad, Pakistan from where she has shared with readers stories of the lives of women in that country.
Her most recent article for us was “Spring Has Arrived – In Pakistan.” You can contact Neelma directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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