The shift in arranged marriages

Table 1

In the rural, agricultural hub known as Greenfield, California, the District Attorney’s Office in January charged a Mexican immigrant from what Greenfield Police Chief Joe Grebmeier initially described as a case of “human trafficking” (Chawkins, 2009). Thirty-six-year-old Marcelino DeJesus Martinez allegedly attempted to sell his 14-year-old daughter to 18-year-old Margarito DeJesus Galindo for $16,000, 150 cases of beer, 150 cases of soda and Gatorade, and several cases of wine and meat. What’s more, Martinez was the one who brought the case to the Greenfield police, complaining that Galindo failed to come up with the goods. As a result, Martinez was charged with providing a child for lewd acts, aiding and abetting statutory rape, and causing or permitting cruelty to a child – two felonies and a misdemeanor (Parsons, 2009).

Newsrooms around the world – including Australia, Romania, South Africa, and India – put a spotlight on this interesting case. Some journalists denounced the deal between the father and the intended groom, with a United Arab Emirates blog asking, “What are you worth?”(Kipp’s Blog, 2009). However, virtually all of the articles, following journalistic guidelines for fairness, included at least a sentence about Martinez’ Mexican Triqui culture, in which arranged marriages are common.

The people involved in the case, including Martinez and Galindo, are some of the several thousand Triqui immigrants in Greenfield (Chawkins). The Triqui , or Trique (pronounced TREE-key) are a tight-knit, indigenous group of Oaxaca, Mexico, with strong ties to the earth and persisting traditions (Grasman, 2004). Like many indigenous tribes, the Triqui are of low social status and are mistreated by the general public (Szustek, 2009). According to linguist Barbara E. Hollenback, “Local speakers of Spanish tend to look down on all speakers of Indian languages, but especially on the Trique, and the local Mixtec also look down on them, leaving them at the very bottom of the social pecking order” (as cited in Szustek, 2009). Members of the group are often married as teenagers, and their bridal price is negotiated in four visits between families. Usually, the price determines the success of the marriage. Polygamous marriages are not uncommon. Overall, pressure and derision from the general population cause this and other social norms to remain entrenched within the Triqui community (Szustek).

Gaspar Rivera, a native of Oaxaca and project director of the UCLA Center for Labor Research and Education, said that the legal age of consent in the Mexican state is 16, though women as young as 12 have been known to be married off (as cited in Chawkins, 2009). Additionally, legal ramifications are often not an issue so long as the involved parties are all in consent; otherwise, arrangements are canceled. In the Greenfield case, the 14-year-old girl willingly vacationed with her intended suitor for a week in Mexico and apparently made no objections to the marriage (Szustek, 2009).

According to Andres Garcia, a Greenfield fieldworker and community activist, the Triqui in the Greenfield area have struggled to adapt (as cited in Chawkins, 2009)."Our people get discouraged because they don't understand, they don't speak English or Spanish, they don't read -- so they figure what's the use?"

Martinez speaks no English and only limited Spanish, resulting in delays in his arraignment (Chawkins, 2009).

While Martinez’ immigration status was not officially released, federal immigration agents put a hold on him, indicating that he is an illegal immigrant and is subject to deportation proceedings after local prosecution (Parsons, 2009).

After the incident, Grebmeier planned to have meetings with the town’s Triqui population to discuss the cultural differences behind this incident (Parsons). "You hate to demonize these folks," he said. "It never occurred to anyone involved they were breaking the law." He added, I’m trying to be culturally sensitive, but I also took an oath to enforce our law” (as cited in Taylor, 2009).

Mexico is by far not the only nation where cultures observe the tradition of arranged marriages. The International Center for Research on Women recorded the countries with the highest percentage of girls married before age 18 (see Table 1); most of the nations are African. Fifty-one million girls ages 15 to 19 worldwide are married or promised, often to older men (Amber, 2008, p. 185).

In Niger, arranged marriage is a tradition that has endured for centuries (Amber, 2008, p. 146). Girls as young as 12 are married to men as much as three times older than they are. Such marriages are encouraged for economic reasons, as famine is a constant threat; 85% of the land is incapable of being farmed, and in 2005, a food crisis affected more than 2 million people. Therefore, families try to arrange for their daughters to marry older men who are more likely to be able to provide for them. Also, as in other cultures, families with children who are not married by a certain age are stigmatized.

Proponents of arranged marriages credit them for their stability, compared to “love” marriages; the divorce rate of arranged marriages was 5-7%, compared to 50% in the United States (Seth, 2008, p. 78).

Public outcry against arranged marriages has increased over the years, through the media and the work of organizations and individuals. Such protests are based on the ideas that real consent cannot be given by young girls, and that arranged marriages “pose serious societal, economic, and health risks for girls, who are often pulled out of school when they are wed and impregnated before their bodies are fully developed” (Amber, 2008, p. 146). In Niger, one in seven women die during pregnancy or childbirth, compared with one in 4,800 in the United States; such risks are magnified for girls ages 10 to 14 (Amber, 2008, p. 148). Additionally, there are only 500 doctors to serve the Nigerian population of 13 million.

Activists and politicians work to end arranged marriages worldwide (Amber, 2008, p. 46). Organizations such as UNICEF and Save the Children condemn the marriages as abuse and violation of human rights. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced legislation in 2007 to reduce the incidence of child marriage, saying, When young girls become wives, it is socially sanctioned sexual abuse” (as cited in Amber, 2008, p. 146). Efforts to educate girls or provide them with jobs to help steer them away from arranged marriages are lauded.

In some cultures, arranged marriages are in decline. For instance, in the urban Chinese city of Urumchi in 2005, data has shown a rapid decline in arranged marriages for two Chinese ethnic groups, Uyghur Muslims and Han Chinese (Zang, 2008, p. ). The same trend is seen in Japan. Before World War II, weddings often took place between people who had never met before the ceremony. Since then, omiai, or arranged marriages, have been increasingly replaced by “love marriages.” Half a century ago, nearly 70% of Japanese marriages were arranged; today, less than 10% are (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1998).

For centuries, arranged marriages have been a customary norm in South Asia, considered ritual and sacramental unions by many Asian cultures (Bhopal, 1999). Today, more than 90% of Indian marriages are arranged (Gautam, 2002, p. 32). While purely romantic love is still generally considered “impractical, unnecessary, and dangerous,” the nature of them is changing toward more dominant, Western ideals (Desai, McCormick, and Gaeddert, 1989, p. 94). Though trends vary by social class, middle-class marriages have particularly developed to be more companionate (Fuller, 2008). They have “progressed” so that parents and children choose a spouse together, following an ideal of “companionate ‘emotional satisfaction’ that is not premised on young people’s unfettered personal choices.” According to Canadian political theorist C.B. MacPherson, companionate marriages reflect a rise in a kind of “affective individualism” that is less extreme than that of Western society, which can be considered as “possessive individualism” (as cited in Fuller, 2008). Additionally, University of Chicago economist Divya Mathur sees “love” marriages as capable of spurring economic growth in India; in traditional arranged marriages, parents prefer that daughters be less educated so they can have more control over household affairs, but if more women hold college degrees, they can provide for themselves and help redistribute resources more evenly in society (The Agenda, 2008, p. 31).

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Comments 38 comments

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Glassvisage, thanks for drawing attention to this unusual case and the issues that it raises. It's interesting that in mainstream American culture, teen pregnancy is frowned upon, even when the young woman is married and chooses to become a mother. In traditional cultures, most young women marry and have children at a very young age.

I think that more emphasis should placed on the choice of the young woman, and less attention should be focused on what the parents did. Statutory rape charges de-emphasize lack of consent as part fo the basic definition of rape. Choice and consent should determine the outcome of any such case.


Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very very good article on current changes in our society


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Good hub! I think it's unusual in that it was made into a case. I guess it depends on where you live, but this occurs a lot more frequently than people realize here in the U.S. especially in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Lousiana, and Southern California border towns. Usually, it just doesn't make the news.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

very interesting hub. I don't think the consent of a 12 or 14 year old is relevant, though, unlike a previous comment.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, the consent of an underage minor is not relevant, if the parents did not consent, because that would violate the rights of the family to govern itself. But in the case of an emancipated minor, who is no longer governed by adults, or in the case of a child whose parents have already consented to the marriage, it makes a world of difference. It's the difference between being sold into slavery and willingly entering into a new life as part of another family.

If both the wishes of the child and of the parents are ignored, who gains from prosecuting such a "crime".


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I don't think a 12 year old is capable of giving informed consent for sex or marriage.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

I am just happy to report that my hand in marriage did not come because of a boat load of turnips being delivered along with dozens of chickens. Ha!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, the age of marriage varies from culture to culture. Also, the age of physical maturity varies considerably. Some twelve year olds are just little girls. Some are children in name only.

But the real question is what is the best outcome for this particular young woman. If her parents go to prison, her marriage is annulled, her parents-in-law are also imprisoned, as well as the man she married, then she will end up in child protective custody. Believe me, that is someplace that no child, mature or immature, wants to end up. It is a very tough spot to be in even if you are fluent in English and totally assimilated into the American culture. Now imagine a girl who does not speak English or Spanish or any language for whom an interpreter can easily be found. Can you imagine how much of a nightmare that would be?


RGraf profile image

RGraf 7 years ago from Wisconsin

Very informative article! Wonder what I would have been worth?


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

Seems a sin to me...why not allow a child to be a child...I personally don't care where you are from...this is 2009 not 209...G-Ma :o)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

G-Ma, when you mention sin, this brings to mind an abstract standard of conduct that doesn't change with time. Do you think that something that was not a sin in 209 became a sin in 2009? The people we are talking about belong to a culture that has maintained earlier standards of conduct, which were in effect worldwide not so long ago, and are certainly sanctioned in the Old Testament. The question is not is this a good thing for our own children. The question is what is to happen to these people as a result of following their own traditions and what is to become of this young girl if everybody she has known and loved is taken away from her and she is left without a single person she can trust in a land where she is an alien.


fishskinfreak2008 profile image

fishskinfreak2008 7 years ago from Fremont CA

Arranged marriages suck. Cheers. Thumbs up

Bowen


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

"LondonGirl, the age of marriage varies from culture to culture. Also, the age of physical maturity varies considerably. Some twelve year olds are just little girls. Some are children in name only."

Physical maturity is one tiny, tiny part of being ready for marriage.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, I'm not pushing for arranged marriages or early marriages. or for any marriages at all, for that matter. That isn't the point at all. This has already happened to the young woman in question. She was a wiling and happy participant in a rite of passage sanctioned by her entire community. It's after the fact. Do we now tell her that it was wrong, maybe even that it was a sin, the way G-Ma put it? Do we tell her that her father and her mother were bad people who should go to prison? Do we tell her that her entire people and their culture are backwards,  and that she needs to forget about them, and she needs to be "rehabilitated" and "de-programmed" until she believes what we believe, feels what we feel and belongs completely to our world?


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

How do we know she was willing and happy? We don't.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, to be honest, we can never know for sure if another person is happy or not. That was why the test should be consent, not happiness.  If the girl had run away and had asked for asylum, then the situation would be completely different. Here's what we do know, according to Glassvisage's writeup: "Additionally, legal ramifications are often not an issue so long as the involved parties are all in consent; otherwise, arrangements are canceled. In the Greenfield case, the 14-year-old girl willingly vacationed with her intended suitor for a week in Mexico and apparently made no objections to the marriage (Szustek, 2009)."

It was you who questioned whether consent of a fourteen year old is important. I agree, it's not important, if the parents don't consent. I also think the state should not get involved if all parties consent, because in that case, we have a victimless crime.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I think we have to agree to disagree. I think age of consent laws are to protect 14 year olds (and 12 year olds), in this case, to protect them from their own parents.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, I agree we'll have to disagree. The reason indigenous cultures everywhere are under attack is that certain things that we take for granted as basics of life in the modern world are completley at variance from the way all of us lived prior to large scale agriculture and industrialization. Once the fabric of the basic family unit is altered to fit the modern conception, there's not much chance for the other way of life to survive.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

I am with Aya on that. When will we stop imposing our own standards on other cultures? When will we stop messing with other people lives and start minding our own business?

LondonGirl, what would you do if your government decides that keeping kids on laps like you do on your pic is a sexual abuse? And on that ground "protects" your child from you putting you in jail and him into foster?


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

I thought this family moved to the US? And this took place in the US? So how is that imposing on other cultures?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, you do have a point that the news article seemed to indicate that the family was possibly not legally in the States, and that deportation is one possible outcome. In which case, the marriage scenario could play itself out elsewhere.

However, in the case of legal immigrants, there is no requirement that they discard every aspect of their culture in the process of immigrating. It is possible to maintain many aspects of a native culture, including language, religion and family customs, while living in a new country. Unfortunately, social workers often destroy the possibility of maintaining these things when the child rearing practices of the culture clash with strongly held beliefs of the new country.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

Of course all aspects of culture should not and are not discarded. But the age of marriage and consent is the law, and should apply to protect women and girls in the country regardless of ethnic background.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, many American women and children have lost their lives as a result of this kind of "protection".


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

How so?


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Umm, you seem to believe that the law is something absolute and should be respected no matter what, right? Even if the result of applying the law is obviously more harmfull than if it was not applied?

Or, you seem to believe that underage sex (meaning below boundaries set by the local law) makes more harm than parting kids with their family and puting them into foster, right?

Which one is yours?


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Fishskinfreak2008- When you say "Arranged marriages suck" Has anybody in your family been adversely affected by arranged marriages?

Glassvisage- In general I do agree that there should be a minimum age for marriage. In India it is 18 but sometimes when parents are over eager to get there daughters married into good families(for business communities) or good match(boy having a good job) they tend to break this law (and most of the times it happens in rural villages where the girls have little control over themselves). In urban setting most of the girls are educated and do have a choice (even if it is arranged marriage). So far all my family members (except for one cousin) have had arranged marriages and there are no issues on that front(It works in certain societies and it may not in other societies). But love marriage isn't particularly abhorred too if someone really wants to do it. Ultimately it is about having a long happy married life and it doesn't matter whether it was arranged or love marriage to begin with.


granitebutterfly profile image

granitebutterfly 7 years ago

Maybe not all arranged marriages are bad but bringing this issue to the forefront is vital. We are talking about the rights of young girls and my own belief that everyone should have the right to choose their own partner. We have an obligation to protect young girls and allow their natural progression into the woman they choose to be. To me, fourteen is still too young to take upon the role of a wife.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

LondonGirl, this is is to answer the "how so?" question. Not everything I mention will be directly related to underage marriages, because the point I made is that government "protection" of children and young women from their own parents can and does result in tragic loss of life. Being in child protective custody is not as safe as you might assume. The case of Logan Marr, a five year old, who was removed from her mother's custody because her 18 year old mother yelled at her, and was later killed by a social worker who tried to discipline her by gagging her is just one example. I include a link:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fost...

The connection to this hub is that when a child enters the child welfare system, the chances of being harmed automatically go up. It's the nature of bureaucracy.

Another case more directly related to underage marriages or early marriages was the Mt. Carmel Massacre near Waco, Texas that occured in 1993. That case involved a religious group who lived in an isolated community. A disgruntled non-custodial parent complained to authorities that underage girls belonging to the group were being married. Local authorities investigated and found nothign amiss. Then the ATF became involved. (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms). They got a sealed warrant from a Federal Judge and used military force to storm the compound without prior warning. The result was a long siege between Federal authorities and the residents of Mt. Carmel. In the end, tanks were brought in to tear down the walls of the compound, and the place was tear gased. This resulted in a fire in which the men, women and children inside all died. One has to ask: who was the government protecting here -- and from what?

People who are targeted for child welfare intervention are not always immigrants. The Branch Davidians were mostly natural born Americans from many different ethnic groups, but predominantly white. They were a minority simply because of their religion. Logan Marr's mother was poor, but otherwise from an unremarkable background. This is something that can happen to anyone, if a complaint is brought sgainst them.


LondonGirl profile image

LondonGirl 7 years ago from London

So state intervention can and does go wrong. That doesn't justify shrugging shoulders and having different standards for different races.

To me, the Waco fiasco is a great example of why nutters shouldn't be allowed to own guns.


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Aya- If the state doesn't intervene then some girls in certain places where the girls have little control over there own lives then there parents may force there daughters to get married to anybody for monetary consideration(I have read about numerous gulf sheikhs coming to Hyderabad, India and going back leaving those poor girls scarred for life). Even my mom is a lawyer and she has dealt such cases.  Not all kids have loving parents and it is at such times that the state needs to intervene.


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

CW, state is even less loving than bad parents, and what is OFTEN going on in fosters is something you don't want to read about :(

LG, sorry my ESL, I am not sure if you answered my questions or not?


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Misha- I was just stating specific instances where parents maybe abusing there parental authority. I am not much aware of these foster homes to comment further. I just met Marisue who has fostered more than 250 children and she seems to be a great foster parent. I guess in such things we can't generalize but on a case to case basis we have to think. But still don't you think a minimum age for marriage should be prescribed by the state?


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

To tell you the truth I nowadays think nothing should be prescribed by the state. Whatever state does, it screws it up royally. I used to think this was a property of socialist state, but last years made me thinking ALL states are more or less the same in this regard.

I very much respect Marisue myself, and I am pretty much sure there are good foster parents around, and in big numbers. Yet, when we start talking about policies, we have no other way then to generalize, because policies are not applied on individual basis, policies are the same for everybody, at least it is what is proclaimed.

And I am pretty much sure that ON AVERAGE kids are much better off when they live with parents or close relatives vs foster. And I am not talking all kids, I am specifically talking about kids from such questionable families.

I don't have stats unfortunately, and it is not even theoretically possible because all research that goes against government policies is more or less suppressed, but my life experience tells me that I am likely to be correct in my estimates :)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Misha, I agree with your take on the situation.

CW, I am against forcing girls into marriages they don't want to enter. I think the girl should have the right to seek government protection, if things are being done against her will. But it is not the girl who complained in this case, and it seems that she was not being forced. The government will not ask her what she wants. They will just assume that they know what is best. This often ends very badly for the person being protected against their will.

LondonGirl, I see that we disagree about more than the efficacy of foster care. The Branch Davidians did indeed have guns, but their guns were legal, No illegal weapons were found on the premises. There is a very real analogy between the provocation for attacking the people in this case and the idea that WMD were the real reason for the Iraq war.

 


Misha profile image

Misha 7 years ago from DC Area

Oh, and I forgot to post one link

http://hubpages.com/@saikens

This girl went through several fosters in her life, read her account. I sorta doubt that what she went though will impress you better than arranged marriage. I remember at least one more girl sharing similar experience on HP, but could not find her...

 


countrywomen profile image

countrywomen 7 years ago from Washington, USA

Aya- Of course nobody should be protected against there own will. My point was if there are laws then people can avail of them if they need to avail of them. I don't feel the state should be over bearing in interfering against the wishes of the individual but that there should be laws which the common person should be aware of so that they can make use of them when necessary. In many countries the poor people aren't even aware of the laws since my mom once conducted a legal aid camp to educate about those laws.

Misha- Thanks for that link I will go through it. I guess there should be some bench marks  at least in those countries where the girls aren't having the education or knowledge about abuses. When an individual is incapable of taking care of themselves then there should be alternatives. I don't appreciate the other extreme where the state has too much control over our lives too. There is a balance that needs to be stuck.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks

Countrywomen, I think we are in general agreement.


warm heart 7 years ago

Our responsibility is feeding poor people then teaching them,bcz there r 2 reason to most crimes

at the first stage again at the first: poverty.

at second stage : illiteracy

bt also we can notice the crime in devlopment countries bt the reason of the crime in those countries mostly is the greed.

any way thank u very much, it is important theme.

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