The majority of Nepali society still practices arranged marriage. Arranged marriage is when the bride and groom are pre-arranged by parents and relatives. A huge importance is placed on the “status” of the prospective bride/groom and compatibility is rarely taken into account. Criteria such as job, salary, caste, horoscopes are carefully checked before consideration into marriage. The parents are the ones who run all kinds of checks on each other’s families before talking about it to their sons or daughters. Depending on families, the modern meeting period for the man and woman can last from very few days to 2-3 months. An engagement ceremony is soon followed by a huge wedding party.
The Nepali society is very much based on collectivist culture. Society’s approval plays a big role in every major decisions of an individual’s life. Individualism is barely taken into account and age-old traditions and culture still largely impact everyday lives. The society sees marriage more as a tool of strengthening finances, family ties and reproducing rather than the eternal union and commitment of two people in love.
Arranged marriage is one of the strongest tools of patriarchy. Since patriarchy maintains that the woman should go to man’s house and live with him and his family post-marriage, the groom’s parents are always on the plus. Even the ceremony is a big, jubilant event for the groom and his family while the woman and her family are sad. The mother of the groom actively takes part in perfect
slave bride selection. A traditional, homely woman with excellent cooking and household skills is preferred over the modern, outdoor types. The bride is expected to take care of each and every member of the husband’s family and the household. Woman’s parents don’t have much say because the society is conditioned to believe that the girl’s fate is determined by her husband and his home. Patriarchy also promotes the caste and social divisions.
– I recall a neighbor woman speaking ill of her daughter-in-law who didn’t wash her (the MIL’s) clothes! She was a working woman married to a jobless guy (but with enough parental property). She later moved into her own parents’ place as the compatibility was non-existent.
– One of my extended relatives arranged marriage for their adult, doctor son who was working in Norway. The bride turned out to be modern (she wore jeans in front of in-laws, GOSH! ) The family spoke very ill of her telling to everyone how modern she was, how she didn’t care about how the in-laws felt, how she went to mixed-gender parties etc. They later divorced. The son later got into an arranged marriage with a much-less educated village woman.
– I overheard a conversation when a distant aunt of mine was talking to my mother on how the groom’s family demanded that their living room be furnished and decorated by the bride’s family. The guy was living in Australia and the girl was a medical nurse. They gave in to the demands of course, otherwise their precious daughter wouldn’t be married.
– One of my relatives got married to a woman via the arranged marriage set-up. The girl turned out to be deeply religious and not interested in sex at all and revealed after marriage that she only married to make her parents stop giving her pressure. She refuses a divorce because apparently she likes the husband’s family but just doesn’t need him. The guy is now abroad, working alone.
Arranged marriages are putting the lives of both of our men and women in jeopardy.
Why it is a gamble
The most important foundation in any marriage is love, understanding and trust. When people get into marriage with none of those and expect to build it later, where does that lead us? Love is expected to be developed later and in many cases it doesn’t simply because they might turn out to be different types. How can someone decide to spend their entire lives with someone whom they’ve only met for a few months (or days)? What if the partner turns out to be depressed, homosexual, impotent, controlling and such. And the way Nepali society glorifies “Get-married, Stay-married” makes it very hard to get out of the marriage. Of course, there’s a chance that it might be successful, given the partners are on the same page, but that’s just “if”.
I was recently watching a Nepali program on women issues. One great scholar *eyerolls* on the audience declared that Nepali women are no way treated less than the male counterparts and Nepali marriages are happy and everlasting. He gave an example of the divorce rates and multiple partners in the West world. The society is filled with people like these, who simply refuse to acknowledge the sorry state of society and things in need to be improved. The divorce rates in Nepal are low because women do not stand up for their rights and are taught to endure everything for the sake of staying married because that is taught to be her only destiny. It is NOT because the Nepalese marriages are happy and complications-free. A year long happy marriage is much better than a long, abusive marriage with someone you didn’t even choose in the first place.
Many people argue that there are as many pros to arranged marriages as cons. I do not agree with that at all. I think the cons heavily outweigh the pros. With arranged marriages we are not only giving in to societal and parental pressures and bounding ourselves with the shackles of toxic patriarchy, but we are also not valuing ourselves, our opinions and our individualistic choices. Life isn’t meant to be lived by others’ selfish rules but rather to be enjoyed. If we dream of a modern, free and equal society, we should let go off these age-old traditions. Traditions and rules were simply made to control the weaker ones, and it’s about time to stand up against them.