Arranged marriages in Nepal

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.

Cases:

– 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.

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12 thoughts on “Arranged marriages in Nepal

  1. I’m glad you said all this. Whenever I say it I’m just accused of bias and bagging on Nepalese culture but because you’re from Nepal, you probably won’t get as much flack haha. I will post this on my Facebook page too in the future 🙂

    1. Thanks! I can understand why the Nepalese do that when you raise the topic, I face the same backash too as there are a lot of people who disagree with me, but maybe not as much.

  2. A nicely structured article strictly directed to the point but also spiced with passion. I got the feeling that you are personally touched by that topic. Truly outstanding!

    You told me that you were about to write an article for a Nepali newspaper, Is this the one? Did you succeed with your wish writing in Nepali?

  3. Good to know your view. I do agree with most of the things you wrote and the examples you have give but at the same time, I hope you agree with me that there are lots of arrange marriage with happy ending with loving family and life long relationship. I believe like in any relationship, there are failure and success in arrange marriage. I do not agree giving dowry to groom or his family but it depends on individual family. During my wedding, my parents gave me money to buy our own place in Australia (just because they want to and they could.We really didn’t want them to do that) but noting else in Nepal as we wee not going to love there.
    Do read my post about it and share your opinion. 🙂
    http://nepaliaustralian.com/2012/01/27/arranged-marriage-my-perspective/

    Take care.

    1. Hi! I read your post and I am not completely against arranged marriages where the most say is with the adult children who are getting married. Some do turn out well, and hence the gamble. Also like you said, love marriage doesn’t automatically guarantee a successful marriage either. But I am absolutely against not giving your grown children choices and upholding traditions such as dowry even if you don’t want to, but society expects you to. I think with the growth of dating and choice marriages, all these problems will become less and less common.

  4. Very interesting topic and well written! To me this idea, arranged marriages, feels so strange, coming from a culture which is quite disconnected regarding families and relatives, unfortunately. And then again, almost half our self-chosen marriages end in divorce, too. I didn’t realize you were Nepalese, I think you might be the first I’ve known 🙂 (Maybe you don’t know that many Finns, either??) One of hubby’s dreams is to visit Nepal, he loves mountains

    1. Hi! Thanks 🙂 It is a strange idea, even for someone who grew up in that culture such as myself. Yes, sometimes they’re a success but I believe that most often they’re not because you simply do not know enough about the person you’re marrying. Pros and cons to both Eastern and Western marriages 🙂 Well I know few Finns from my student days in Finland. There is actually a sizable Nepali community mostly made of students in Finland! Oh great, I confirm that Nepal is a great travel destination for people who love mountains 🙂 I hope you and your hubby make it there sometime!
      Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  5. I’m Canadian born and have lived in Canada my whole life. My mother was a picture bride. As adults my parents me via by exchanging photos and corresponding by letters (this was 1950’s). This went on for just a few months. My mother met her future husband when stepping off the airplane in Toronto airport which my father had bought the ticket. My father had immigrated as a single guy toCanada, 7 yrs. prior to my mother. I guess he wanted a woman. 🙂

    I was born 1.5 yrs. later. Then there were 5 more children. My mother was incredibly lucky to have husband who was considerate and trustworthy even though he was abit traditionalist. He wanted his daughters and son to be university educated…so anyway, the rest happened.

    In the last few decades, I think my parents’ marriage got abit stagnant but they always shared throughout their marriage a lot of long dialogues exploring issues and making decisions together.

    1. Hi Jean. Thanks for your long, interesting comment on the topic. It is nice to know that your parents had a successful marriage despite having not dated each other before it. Many couples who marry arranged style do have success: I think the bottom line here is that all kinds of marriage can be hard without putting any effort to maintain it. If the arranged setup gives choice to the couples to agree/reject before marrying, then I don’t think it’s all that bad because some people may just find hard to date, so it’s kind of easier if someone (your family) arranges a match for you. I personally would never go for it however.

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