FORCED ARRANGE MARRIAGES WORLDWIDE
Best Marriage is Vedic Marriage
In the 1990s I purchased a CD called Parellel Dreams. Loreena McKennitt, a Canadian folk/new age singer of Scottish ancestry, is the singer on the CD. A very haunting song called, Annachie Gordon, perfectly describes a forced marriage where Jeannie is forced to marry a rich man with lands called Lord Sultan. She refuses to consummate the marriage with Sultan by committing suicide by using poison. Her love, Annachie Gordon, is a sailor who comes back from the sea to her house to discover her maidens moaning over the situation. He goes into the chamber where she lies and kisses her on the lips, so he ends up dying from the poison. This was not an unusual story in the 1400s-1700s when women lacked voting and property rights in the West. When women achieved these rights, they began to have more choice in choosing marriage partners.
In Vedic times women of the upper castes, chose their own husbands in a special ceremony where men had to prove their spiritual, intellectual and physical worthiness. The men who succeeded were married to the bride. Sometimes families wanted a woman to marry a man for financial or political reasons as in the case of Rukumini, Krishna's first wife. She did not want to marry Prince Shishupala who her brother favored for political reasons. She sends a message to Krishna about the situation and asks him to marry her. He finally meets her at the temple where she has prayed to Goddess Paravti about her situation. Goddess Parvati is connected with marriage, love and devotion. Lord Krishna declares, "A woman has a right to chose her own husband." In Vedic times women of the upper castes had more rights than in modern India where so many women end up in forced arranged marriages. Not all arranged marriages are forced and some women are given some choice in who they can marry, but many do not have any choice. Social and family pressure and threats are placed upon the woman. Many are uneducated and financially dependent upon the man in the marriage. In ancient India women were more educated and had more rights over all. Not all arranged marriages are bad, but some women in arranged marriages are physically and emotionally abused. Because the women are financially dependent upon the men, they have little choice and opportunity to escape such marriages.
Mira Bai, a great poet and saint, was in a forced marriage to a prince she did not love. She loved Krishna more than any man and she changed the world with her poems, spirituality, teaching and dance. People now revere her and few remember her husband the prince.
In the West there are forced arranged marriages which occur among immigrant communities and among Jewish Orthodox groups. In Reformed and Conservative Judaism women have more rights and choices. In fact there are women rabbis in these branches of Judaism. Minneapolis has a well known female senior rabbi, Marcia Zimmermann at Temple Israel. Fraidy Reiss was a Jewish Orthodox woman in a forced arranged marriage. She was able to attend college and become a journalist. In the process she was able to escape and divorce her abusive husband. She started an organization for women in forced marriages from all faith backgrounds and also for women who want to avoid being in arranged marriages. The organization is called Unchained at Last and provides legal help for women in these situations. The website is www.unchainedatlast.org and the phone number is 908-913-0804.
England and Wales passed the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1973 which has a stipulation that forced marriages can be voided. Those who coerce can be tried in criminal court. This happened in 2003 with the case of Shfilea Ahmed, a 17-year-old British Pakistani girl. She was murdered by her parents because she refused to be in an arranged marriage. Forced marriage is illegal in the United States. You do have the right to chose your spouse here. Boys and men are also coerced and forced into arranged and child marriages all over the world, also. So sad to see such an oppressive situation.
The big motive in many these forced marriages is money. Some family members want to control other family members. Some people force people to marry people to gain immigration status. Many want to immigrant to the United States and will try to marry Americans just to achieve this status. I personally have received a number of marriage proposals from men from India and Guyana who I do not know personally via the face book page. Many other women have had this problem, also. Just say no to these men.
The United Nations has studied forced marriages worldwide. South Asia has one of the highest rates of forced marriage prior to the age of 18: 48%. Africa has a 42% rate of forced marriage prior to the age of 18. New York state has a terrible problem with Pakistani girls being flown from New York City to Pakistan to undergo forced marriages. Remember, girls and women, this is illegal in the United States. You can press criminal charges. No one should have to endure this situation. Women's organizations, law enforcement and the organization Unchained at Last can help you.
The ideal marriage is a Vedic, consensual marriage between equals. This is where parties discuss and work out their differences as equals. Violence is not an acceptable way. Marriage should be about love and choice, not about violence. Abuse is very unacceptable. No one should have to go through a violent situation in a marriage. If you are experiencing this situation help is available. Women's organizations and women's shelters exist to deal with these situations. Spousal abuse is illegal in many countries. Universities and colleges also have counseling and programs for women in these situations.
I am sorry to say that women at some of the mandirs I attend have told me about how they escaped abusive marriages. Some women have been injured and killed escaping forced, abusive marriages, too. The earlier you leave such situations the better. Ask for help and leave as soon as you can. More and more countries have women's organizations and shelters to help women escape such horrible circumstances. India and Guyana now have more organizations which help women in these circumstances. Ask your local priest, rabbi or minister. Minnesota had one of the first women's shelters in the United States.
Next year I will be writing blogs again on the Divine Feminine and on the concerns of women and girls. I look forward to continuing to provide information to women and girls to improve their lives.
JAI SHRI VEDIC MARRIAGE! JAI SHRI RUKUMINI! JAI SHRI KRISHNA!