Nepal has the 3rd highest rate of child marriage in Asia (Source: UNICEF). Most of these marriages were either arranged by parents or voluntarily “arranged” due to social, educational and economic factors. As reported by some sources, until today 90% of marriages in Nepal are still arranged. An alarming number of 37% of Nepali girls marry before they turn 18 and 10% even before they are 15 years old (Online: http://www.girlsnotbrides.org/6-facts-you-need-to-know-about-child-marriage-in-nepal/).
Divorce rates of love marriages in the US are about 40 – 50%, while in average only 4% of arranged marriages get divorced (Online: http://www.everythingengagement.
com/definition-of-marriage/arranged-marriage-statistics.html). At first sight the percentage suggests, that in countries where marriages have been forced or arranged, relationships turn out to be more succesful. To understand the statistics one however has to consider the cultural circumstances. Countries that practice arranged marriages are more likely not to support divorces. In my opinion there are good and bad aspects about arranged marriages, but they are definitely not the recipe for a happy and ever-lasting relationship.
Arranged marriages in Hinduismus date back to the Vedic Era in 500 BC and originate in the patriarchal believe, that women needed life-long male guardianship to avoid promiscutity. Within this system the woman was first controled by her father, followed by her husband and finally by her son (Online: http://www.culturalindia.net/
weddings/arranged-marriage.html). From the first year of life, the aim and responsability of parents in India and Nepal, is therefore to find a (suitable) husband for their daughter. I have experienced that a girl from my village has been promised to a boy aged 12, when she was only ten years old. As soon as she turned 16, they got married and she got pregnant.
I was born and raised in a small village near the Nepali-Indian border, where from the very first year of life, a girl learns that her main goal in life will be her marriage. I have experienced myself, that my parents have been concerned about finding a husband for me for my entire life and when I finally turned 18 the pressure became almost unbearable. Since my 10th year of age, I started to grab every small occasion to slowly be able to make adjustments to my life. Taking all the opportunities I found, I started to make changes step by step, to learn and to understand. I realized that before getting married and especially instead of being forced to do it, I needed to study and to become aware of who I am and what I want to do with my precious life.
What I was most afraid of, was the lifetime commitment to a man I had never seen before. Normally, when a girl in my village doesn’t agree on the marriage, she is forced to do it. I have seen a girl from the rural countryside that cried heartbrakingly for the whole wedding ceremony under her heavy jewelry and her pretty make-up. But forced marriages are not only traumatising for girls, boys suffer too. They feel the pressure of society and are brainwashed, being told that to become a full man, they must earn money and maintain their families. Under this social burden, men frequently become aggressive against their wives.
In an arranged marriage your parents - who are supposed to know you best - will choose a girl or a boy that fits to you according to a series of different factors. Those are religion, the cast, the financial and social status, the family reputation, physical similarity and similar skills – it is all about the outside appereance and not about the heart. A boy from my family was persuaded to marry a girl he had never met before. They had the possibility to talk to each other on the phone a couple of times, but they were so shy that they couldn’t even get to know each other. After the wedding, they realized they didn’t get along at all, even though both are respectful and beautiful people. Parents are normally convinced that this superficial matching will make the young couple happy, but it most of the times it doesn’t.
Even though Nepal has officially banned child marriage in 1963, the government is now developing a plan to officially end it until 2030. Human Rights Watch however found out, that arranged child marriage is almost never legally avoided or punished. An increasingly common phenomenon are so called love-arranged marriages, especially between children and teens. The reasons to voluntarily choose to marry at a young age – some as young as 12 or 13 - are multiple: hunger and poverty might awaken the desire to escape home, as well as social pressure, violence and abuse at home or child labor. Gossip in the village might further contribute to rush into a marriage with a teenage lover, especially because of possible pregnancy or even only the fear of it (Online: https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/11/10/nepals-child-love-marriages-need-regulation-too).
The biggest problem in this matter is the lack of education, because young girls and boys don’t know about the consequences of sexual intercourse and marriage. Girls are compelled to leave school at a young age and go through severe health problems when getting pregnant as children, they might further easily slip into domestic violence.
Watch this powerful and informative video to know more about child marriage:
In my opinion, arranged marriage can have positive aspects, but only if it is not forced upon neither children nor adults and if both parties agree on the connection. What I feel most powerful about traditional arranged marriages in Nepal, is the cultural strength based on family support. Arranged marriages are not only the conjunction of two people, but rather the encounter between two families. This can be something really powerful and beautiful, as long as the bride and the groom find love, beauty and especially respect andtrust in each other.
If the marriage proves not to work out, family will always be there to comfort the wife as as well as the husband. On the one hand, the support of parents might turn out to be positive, making the couple think and try to fix the relationship by changing their attitudes toward each other. In arranged marriages, the couple might be more willing to put effort into adapting a relationship, since there mostly are not other choices. On the other hand, familial and social pressure might force a couple to remain together because of traditional believes and matters of reputation even though it will only bring sadness and frustration to them. Dirvorce rate in Asia is really low, because the society is scared of change and of confronting problems.
The worst thing is however, if the husband is not ready to take this commitment serious and to build up his life with his wife. It happened to many women who work for LWH, they were abbandoned with three children or more, because their husband left them for a younger girl. Most of these women were married at the young age of 15 and had only restricted access to education.
Your parents are supposed to know you better than any other people in the world, but still they might not be qualified to choose the person for you, whom you will be commited to for probably the rest of your life. In my ideal view, a love-arranged marriage might combine the benefits of two kinds of relations. If you could present a boy or a girl from another country to your parents and they would create a connection to the other family, two traditions and cultures could learn and profit from eacht other. The rituals and traditions taking place before the wedding are beautiful in Nepal, a big feast is prepared, the bride goes through a series of ayurvedic treatements and her beauty is exposed in the best way.
Unfortunately, many traditionally oriented people with little education in Nepal think you loose your culture if you fall in love with someone from another country. Out of a restricted and ignorant way of thinking, your own family might even outcast you. I wish that families could be curious enough to get to know another culture through the enriching conjunction of two people who fell in love. Most young people nowadays want to grow, to learn, to discover. Change is in the air and I think it is a beautiful thing. Forced marriage should not come in the way of your path.
Honesty should be the basic and main goal in a relationship or a marriage – indipendently if forced, arranged or love-based. The commitment and respect for the other person are the most important features in a relationship, but if one or both parties realize that their conjunction doesn’t work out even though they tried, it is better to let go instead of suffering.
By taking every opportunity that opens up to you and by making one step at a time, you will be able to make changes for yourself and for society. The most important thing is to become aware of yourself, to build up your own knowledge and understand who you are and which impact you can make for yourself and society. And only after that you might be prepared to consider to marriage. Life is short live life with love and Harmony.:)