About Arranged Marriage
WHAT IS ARRANGED MARRIAGE?
Arranged marriages take many forms, but typically in such unions the parties’ families arrange for the couple to marry — rather than the parties themselves taking charge, as they would in a “love marriage.” Often a matchmaker arranges the initial match, with communities varying widely on how much choice the parties then get.
Sometimes one or both parties is forced to marry without any say in the matter. Even when the parties get some choice to say no to a match, they often face intense pressure from their family and society not to do so; sometimes they are also coerced, threatened or beaten. In some communities, the parties are young and inexperienced and are not given the time or tools they need to make an informed decision.
HOW COMMON IS IT IN THE U.S.?
Tens of thousands of women in the U.S. are currently in arranged marriages, in Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, Sikh, South Asian and African communities. The exact number of women involved is unknown, because little research has been done on the issue.
A survey released in September 2011 by the Tahirih Justice Center – the first nationwide study of its kind – found 3,000 known or suspected cases in the last two years alone of girls in the U.S. as young as 15 who were forced to marry under threats of death, beatings or ostracism. The study noted that this problem remains vastly underreported and that the American legal system provides little recourse.
WHY IS UNCHAINED AT LAST NECESSARY?
A woman sometimes faces limited or no choice not only when she enters an arranged or forced marriage but also if she wants to leave it. Often she is shunned by her family and friends, who believe divorce is shameful — and who might even openly support her husband. She might receive threats from leaders of her community that they will kidnap her children or that they will testify in court that she is an unfit mother. In certain communities, a woman who wants to leave an arranged or forced marriage typically has no money and no understanding of the American legal system, and she likely has been married since she was a teenager and cannot imagine a different life for herself.
Unchained At Last helps women overcome those challenges and leave their arranged or forced marriage.