Blurred Lines between Arranged Marriages and Forced Marriages in the United States

Blurred Lines between Arranged Marriages and Forced Marriages in the United States

In our society, when we think about marriage, our first thought is of love and our decision – our choice to be with the person that we love. That is the major distinction between many cultures where decision and choice are more of a luxury than most Americans can fathom. With the diverse and varied cultures that make up the American melting pot, different traditions and their attitudes toward family and marriage may have many similar ideas in common, but also can be extremely different as well. Arranged marriages and forced marriages can be common in many cultures. As Americans, we do not realize that these arrangements are not exclusively abroad, but that many families in the United States were created through family arrangements as well.

What is an Arranged Marriage?

Arranged marriages, as described by a writer discussing arranged marriages in India and Southeast Asia, are created by families rather than the children who will enter into the arrangement. The choices of who their children will marry are based largely on socioeconomic class, faith, geographical priorities, education, and the relation between the two families. At times, marriage “resumes” are prepared whereby the families can review the credentials of the selected partner and decide his/her match potential. Usually, there is a meet-and-greet between the families where the potential couple might speak with each other for a few moments, and a few months later a wedding may be planned.

Arranged marriages may also be seen in Orthodox Judaism where potential couples meet a few times under supervised terms (men and women in the Orthodox Jewish faith may not spend time alone with each other without supervision) before deciding to become wedded.

Difference between Arranged Marriage and Forced Marriage

Arranged marriages do not automatically equate to forced marriages. Forced marriages generally refer to a marriage that has been coerced or induced by a threat of force or deceit. Sometimes a forced marriage may be created so as to settle a debt, to compensate for a death, for dowry payments, or for some other purpose or economic reason.

Many forced marriages create a situation where the forced party is subject to abuse and exploitation and may lead to domestic or sexual servitude or as part of a human trafficking scheme. Being a victim of human trafficking is at one end of the forced marriage spectrum. At the other end of the spectrum, there is a blurring of lines between arranged marriage and forced marriage, as being placed in an arranged marriage, though may not subject the individual to any sort of sexual or slave labor, may involve coercive forces.

For example, someone may be born into a specific culture and feel the pressure of participating in an arranged marriage. The person may not have a gun placed to his or her head, but he or she may be excommunicated from the family and the community for refusing to participate in the tradition. That would be extremely coercive, especially if his or her financial stability is linked with the family. Not going into an arranged marriage could mean familial and financial ruin.

Global Condemnation and Criminalization of Forced Marriages

Many countries have taken steps to criminalize the act of forced marriage. The United Nations has declared it a violation of human rights. The United Kingdom passed the Forced Marriage Act of 2007, but as of its passing, there have only been a few cases of conviction for forced marriage. The U.S. State Department, though recognizing the problem, has yet to enact legislation to protect victims of forced marriage. Currently, the only avenue that arranged Americans might have is through state laws regarding domestic violence and sexual abuse, but proving this type of abuse and violence could be harmful to not only the victim and her children but also could ostracize the victim and children from their community.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in Mount Pleasant, Charleston Area

Arranged and forced marriages can be extremely complex in the United States as the couple must find common ground between old country traditions and America’s modern lifestyle. There can be a considerable amount of friction between a couple that has been brought together through an arranged or forced marriage. It is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney at Klok Law Firm LLC when deciding whether to get a protective order or divorce from your spouse. Contact Klok Law Firm LLC today for an initial and confidential consultation.


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