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Different arrangement

Tim Bailey | 16:05 UK time, Friday, 1 September 2006

The case of the Stornaway schoolgirl Molly Campbell highlighted discussion about "arranged marriages" and "forced marriages". There are very important differences between the two; they are not alternatives.

Arranged marriages have a long and successful history in this country and elsewhere. I am sure I read figures that suggested the divorce rate among couples whose marriage had been arranged by a third party (usually their families) was lower than those of couples who fended for themselves, so to speak.

Forced marriages are completely different. By their very nature they involve compulsion of at least one - if not both - of the people involved as well physical threats and intimidation. They could well be the subject of serious criminal charges, such as rape.

It is no minor matter to confuse the two.


  • 1.
  • At 04:57 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Paul B wrote:

Are you insane?

Since when did "arranged marriages" become long and successful?

Arranged/forced marriages are interchangeable terms for the same thing.

Both mean that the bride or groom has no real choice in the matter - whether physically forced to, socially forced to, or both.

We're not talking about a family member introducing two people who hit it off and end up together - we're talking about forcing people to marry when they wouldn't otherwise have.

Such "marriages" obviously have a low divorce rate - the woman is living in a social envirnoment that precludes the woman being able to "choose" a divorce - including her own family members who "gave her away".

And as your an editor I'm quite frankly surprised that you say "I'm sure I read somewhere..." as justification for using stuff about divorce rates anyway! Granted its a blog - but are an editor after all!

  • 2.
  • At 05:21 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Jamie wrote:

Question: is an arranged marriage of someone below the age of consent automatically a forced marriage?

  • 3.
  • At 05:45 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Tim Williams wrote:

Arranged marriages may not be as severe an issue as forced marriage, but it is still a practice which has no place in a civilised western society. More often than not in the UK, it is effectively an immigration scam. However, we all know how BBC journalists need to pussyfoot around minority interests.

  • 4.
  • At 06:03 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Doug Thoms wrote:

"I am sure I read figures that suggested....."

Wow! Mr. Bailey certainly does provide the facts! Tim, if you're going to support the spectre of one person deciding the love life of another, you better come up with more solid support for your position than "I'm sure I read...."

Are you writing for the NEW YORK TIMES?

  • 5.
  • At 06:44 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • M wrote:

I think arranged marriages are a good thing - otherwise people wouldn't know when to turn up :)

  • 6.
  • At 08:48 PM on 01 Sep 2006,
  • Malcolm wrote:

"I'm sure I read somewhere..."
Google answers appears to have been asked a similar question

This could get into an argument about definitions - Tim's definition to me would make "bride or groom has no real choice in the matter" a forced marriage - I am willing to accept that some arranged marriages do not involve such compulsion and if that is how the BBC wants to use the terms I think they need to be careful to be consistent.

To use the divorce rate among arranged/forced marriages as if it is journalistic evidence of their success is ludicrous, even offensive. You think people who are forced to marry others are free to divorce them when they were not free to chose them? You are taking the effort to be politically correct much too far.

  • 8.
  • At 08:46 AM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Tig wrote:

There are a variety customs for arranged marriages - at one end this will be forced, at the other the parents' role is almost like a dating agency, supplying the names and some background information about one or more suitable candidates. There is a Jewish custom where a special marriage arranger, a shadchan, investigates suitable candidates and provides a list.
So the terms are not interchangeable.

  • 9.
  • At 10:31 AM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Chris wrote:

It's Stornoway not Stornaway

Words like "arranged" & "foced" marriages remove a degree of self determination. Freedom to choose and free choice is the only way forward today.

  • 11.
  • At 02:18 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Craig Rothwell wrote:

That's it. I've seen it all now. The BBC has gone mad.

You seriously need to reconsider your views on this.

"I'm sure I read somewhere..." really? Is this the extent of the BBC research now?

Yes because social, cultural pressures are so much easier to deal with when the term "arranged" is put in place of "forced", aren't they Mr. Bailey?

Your right to be a moral coward ends where other peoples freedom begins.

My first wife was an Indian (a Ugandan Asian) and I can assure Paul B that, at least in my observation both here and visiting her relatives back in rural Gujerat, arranged marriages certainly aren't necessarily in any way coercive.

Frequently they're 'arranged' in the sense that the couple meet in the normal course of events, decide they want to get married and then ask their parents formally to arrange the marriage.

Alternatively, and more traditionally, parents will formally introduce the couple and, if they're both happy with the arrangement in principle, announce their engagement. This, if you're a traditional family, means the couple can enjoy some privacy to get to know each other and decide whether they want to go through with it.

If they don't, the astrologer (who plays an important role in such matters) will be advised and he'll suddenly discover, on re-examining his calculations, that there's an unfortunate conjunction of the planets that he'd overlooked which makes the marriage most inadvisable. This allows the nuptuals to be cancelled with no loss of face on anyone's part.

If the parents don't want to cooperate, sympathetic aunts and grandmothers (in particular) are very good at coming up with bars to marriage through remote co-sanguinity or on the grounds that someone's cousin so many times removed married someone else's cousin -- the just causes and impediments why a Hindu couple should not be joined as man and wife are so many and various it's a wonder anyone (any Brahmin, anyway) ever manages to get married; obviously people don't usually make an issue of most of them, but if someone does, it's a very good reason to cancel the wedding.

Offers to arrange marriages can be, and are, turned down without any bad feeling; several of my wife's relatives -- and we're talking about the daughters of traditional, middle-class Brahmins in small-town India here -- had formally received and declined several proposals, which their parents knew would be declined since their daughters had told them they had no wish to be married yet, without anyone being in the least surprised.

It was, I thought, very much a matter of going through the motions, so no one could say you hadn't fulfilled your parental obligation to try to make a good match for your son or daughter.

Certainly some couples are pressurised into marriage, often for money or social position, but it's generally most definitely frowned upon, at least from what I've seen.

  • 14.
  • At 10:44 PM on 02 Sep 2006,
  • Mark G wrote:

I completely endorse the previous comment arranged/forced marriages are at the base level a subjugation of an individuals free will.

How many PC feathers did that particular comment ruffle in the increasingly political BBC?

  • 15.
  • At 02:15 PM on 03 Sep 2006,
  • Brenda Abou El Ola wrote:

I strongly agree with Paul B's comment that even in a blog, surely as an editor of a reputable news programme you really must use "facts" and references rather than talking about things you think you read somewhere.
Whilst not agreeing with either as the most appropriate way to begin a marriage I take issue with Paul's "arranged/forced marriages are interchangeable terms for the same thing". They are not. "Forced" is as the word states and does in some countries often involve violence.
"Arranged" is different, where there is a choice of whether the marriage happens or not. The possibility of marriage is discussed at length and the families and perspective couple generally know each other well.

Being married to an Arab and having lived within their culture I have spoken with many girls about this issue and majority feel that their way of deciding on a future husband is quite the best way. It is difficult to understand being brought up in a British culture, just as it is difficult for others to understand how many Britons have children and begin living with a person that they have known for only a few weeks. Perhaps this is the reason for the high divorce rate in Britain and the alleged lower rates within arranged marriages.

Molly Campbell’s situation is yet to be resolved. Maybe her smiling face and comments that she wants to stay in Pakistan are “forced” and false. I would suggest however, that she feels happier within the culture that she has been brought up in and that she has more of that culture around her in Pakistan than Stornaway. And who are we to judge?

  • 16.
  • At 03:00 AM on 04 Sep 2006,
  • Paul A wrote:

Marrige is a sacred union between two people before GOD, whether we like it or not. It is not an institution that should be triffled with by anybody, but unfortuneitly it is.

An arranged marrige may work out, but a forced marrige (shotgun wedding) is most likely to fail for one or both involved.

in either case, the question that begs asking is: Is it right?
Who made us judge? How other customs are they are. We may state that they are improper but who are we to say.


  • 17.
  • At 07:03 AM on 06 Sep 2006,
  • V.Stephenson wrote:

Forgive my ignorance but isnt an arranged marriage and forced marriage the same thing? Because if the participants do not comply they can result in being cast out of communities, shunned by family and in extreme cases so-called "honour killings"
I understand and recognise that different cultures do things shall we say...differently! (throwing goats from towers, female circumcision etc) but what i don't understand is why the BBC is so gutless that they tiptoe around anything to do with the real reason for arranged marriage which is immigration and more to the point MONEY!
Stop being so accommodating and grow a spine!

  • 18.
  • At 01:46 PM on 07 Sep 2006,
  • Emil wrote:

If a marriage is entered into willingly by two individuals and then formally arranged(as eloquently described by Not Saussure), that is not, at least in my view, an "arranged marriage". Any marriage in which either party is coerced, by any means, is by definition a forced marriage and morally reprehensible.

In the current political climate there is in the media an obvious/overwhelming concern to avoid any appearance of making judgments on minority cultures. However this attitude hampers or overrides our basic responsibility to every one living in the UK. We as a society should not be pandering to special interest groups or religious organisations, refusing to talk about potentially controversial issues that can have a devastating effect on peoples life’s. We should instead be having a serious national debate about the cultural differences throughout this country. We must make clear that while we embrace different cultures in this country we do so not without limits, the oppression of people and suppression of their human rights is not acceptable just because it has been institutionalised and engrained into a culture.

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