This House would ban arranged marriages in EU countries

  Although arranged marriages are an entrenched cultural norm in many European-Asian communities, there is still a lot of controversy over their practice. Although there are differences in the ways cultures carry them out, they can be broadly defined as forms of matrimony where the individuals involved are brought together by parents or family members, and not necessarily through their own choices. However they are different from forced marriages in the sense that arrange marriages can involve the consent of the man and woman at the centre.

 Forced marriage was made punishable by law in the UK in early 2012.[1] Before then laws were introduced in Britain in 2008 allowing people to apply for Forced Marriage Protection Orders, where penalties for its breach can include up to two years in prison.[2] France also banned forced marriages and tried in recent years to discourage its continued usage via public education campaigns.[3]

 Yet arranged marriages are practiced across societies in South Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, particularly in communities that are predominantly Hindu and Muslim. Many diaspora communities in Britain also practice them, and it was widespread among white Europeans for centuries. However many people in the West now see it as clashing far too much with more modern ideas of marriage where people often enter into matrimony independently of their families.

  However, sympathisers claim that arranged marriages are not necessarily damaging or threatening to young men or women if they are not forced, and are a vital part of the cultural heritage and functioning of various diaspora communities in Europe.

    As the use of forced marriage already carries strict penalties, this debate will focus purely on arranged marriages. The mechanism would be to outlaw marriages where the individuals at the centre have been introduced to each other by parents or relatives and had little or no contact with each other beforehand. Police officers, social workers and other public service workers would be made aware of the new regulations and be required to make those in their communities who might be vulnerable more aware of their rights.

[1]‘Forced Marriage Parents Face Jail under New Laws,’ BBC, 8 June 2012 -

[2]‘New Laws Against Forced Marriages,’ BBC, 25 November 2008 -

[3] Joan-Grange, Laurence , ‘France Seeks to Prohibit Forced Marriage,’ 14 April 2009 -



Individual Freedom

Even if marriages are not made absolutely mandatory, covert family pressure can still propel people into unions where they will be unhappy. This is a form of restricted liberty as the consequences of people rebelling against arranged marriages can include being forced to leave home or suffering stigmatisation and reduced contact with family members. The stigma may also be the other way with the family feeling shame when their children reject their arrangements this in turn can lead to attempts at compulsion and even some cases like that of Shafilea Ahmed murder for the rejection of the marriage.[1] Clearly there is a thin line between arranged and forced marriages. Although things like stigmatisation are harder to police than physical intimidation or violence, it is only right that the state steps in to regulate these harms, giving people the legal mandate to challenge the practice as well as to discourage relatives from attempting it from the outset.

[1] Carter, Helen, ‘Shafilea Ahmed killed by parents for bringing shame on family, court hears’,, 21 May 2012,


Such understandings of arranged marriages are insensitive and misleading. The reality of many arranged marriages is far from the one presented here. Often individuals do have a say in who they marry, and although parents may make the first move in introducing the potential bride and groom, many would not insist the marriage go ahead if the two personalities do not sync.[1] Parents often see it as a partnership between themselves and their children to decide who would be a future suitable spouse, with all sides having a say in the arrangement.

  Arranged marriages are also a cultural norm in many societies, and to impose an outright ban on such an entrenched practice with so many nuances and variations would be a deeply insulting and ignorant gesture.

[1] Acharya Ingrum, Pri, ‘The Reality of Arranged Marriages’  - (accessed on 21 September 2012)

Integration and the acceptance of Western values are important

Arranged marriages have not been a part of the cultures of most European countries for many years now. Part of the reason for this is because ideas about marriage have become more progressive, with people accepting that men and women of any orientation should be allowed to choose their own partners. This was even the case during the socially conservative era of the 1950s, when it was generally accepted in countries like Britain that people would court and meet their partners independently of their parents.[1]

  Arranged marriages also conform to a view of women in particular which regards them as chattel. This does not fit in with the type of egalitarianism many European countries seek to practice, and thus does not conform to Western notions of individual rights.[2] It is also hypocritical to adopt a double-standard with diaspora communities, turning a blind eye to practices which many other majority groups find reprehensible. The rights and norms of a country of block of countries such as the EU must apply to all.

[1] Cook, Hera, ‘No Turning Back: Family forms and sexual mores in modern Britain,’ History & Policy - (accessed on 19 September 2012)

[2] ‘Human Rights with Reference to Women,’ - (accessed on 19 September 2012)


Different systems of matrimony can easily co-exist. Arranged marriages encourage family over individualism, placing emphasis on a more considerate view of relationships that encourages development and patience rather than Hollywood romance. It is however not a rejection of western values to practice arranged marriages.

 As pointed out by those who have written extensively on arranged marriages,[1] people in them often have a view of relationships that sees their spouse as a companion and source of support, but not as their only source of happiness. Learning to love a spouse as opposed to being with someone with whom there already exists a romantic interest can mean learning to value smaller gestures rather than having overblown expectations from a relationship.

  The notion that all marriages have to be based on clichéd and unrealistic notions of love is delusional and deeply flawed. The fact that so few marriages measure up to the conventional Western ideal could help to explain why divorce rates are so high upon non-arranged marriages. In societies that claim to be plural and tolerant, contrasting views of marriage existing side-by-side should surely be encouraged.

[1] ‘Would you be happier in an arranged marriage?’ - (accessed 20 September 2012)

Women in arranged marriages in Europe are disproportionately likely to suffer abuse

Arranged marriages are often different when practiced in the home countries of many immigrant families in Europe, where women often have networks of friends and relatives to rely on. The danger with allowing arranged marriages to happen in EU countries are that the women at the centre are often far more vulnerable, away from their own family, unfamiliar with the local language and fully reliant on their husband’s family. This makes it easier for domestic abuses to go undetected which is simply compounding problems of underreporting.[1] It is therefore likely that there is more domestic violence within arranged marriages.[2]

  This is shown even amongst women who still consented to arranged marriages but faced abuse from their husbands – such as with the case of Razia Sodagar, whose husband abandoned her for another woman after she failed to fall pregnant.[3]

  This illustrates how it is not always easy to draw a clear division between arranged marriages and forced marriages, as the former can often bear the same characteristics as the latter. It would therefore be safer to outlaw both.

[1] ‘Ethnic domestic violence ‘hidden’’, BBC News, 20 September 2007,

[2] Gotrik, Jennifer, ‘India domestic abuse more common in ‘arranged’ marriages’, Womennewsnetwork, 12 September 2011,

[3] ‘Fighting Arranged Marriage Abuse,’ BBC, 12 July 1999  -


Domestic violence is hardly exclusive to arranged partnerships. Surely focusing exclusively on arranged marriages is missing the point somewhat. Domestic violence, especially against women, pervades many relationships across many European countries. There are just as many arranged marriages that are abuse-free, just as is the case with non-arranged marriages.  To be logically coherent, the natural conclusion of the proposition’s argument would be to ban every kind of relationship so as to completely eliminate the risk of domestic violence.

  One can find numerous examples to illustrate this. One is that of Sai Srinivasan and Uma Viswanathan, who were brought together by their families, each with the choice of rejecting the other if they felt there was no fit, and have had a happy union ever since. [1]

  More resources should therefore be channelled towards addressing violence against women (and men) in relationships of any sort – not simply targeting those that have more uninformed ‘western’ prejudices attached to them.

[1] Black, Lisa, ‘Arranged – not forced - marriages a good match in many cultures,’ Chicago Tribune, 27 July 2011 -


It’s impossible to police such a law.

There is simply no feasible way of enforcing laws against arranged marriages, particularly as it is almost guaranteed that many communities will continue to practice them regardless. It will be impossible to tell whether a marriage has been started by arrangement if the community and the couple are unwilling to go to the police and most will be unwilling to report their own families when practicing a cultural tradition. Those who are deeply dissatisfied and beaten may do so but in this instance the law already allows divorce and abuse is punishable by the full force of the law.

 Given that forced marriages have already been outlawed and that it has been established that arranged marriages in themselves cause few provable harms, the resources of any police force would arguably be wasted on enforcing such a law; investigations would be very intrusive and labour intensive.

 Furthermore, given the continuation of practices like honour killings,[1] as well as rape and domestic violence, law enforcement personnel would be better placed targeting far more heinous crimes than arranged marriages. A tangible harm could arise from the police being made to direct their energies towards such minor misdemeanours, in that there could be fewer resources available for more serious crimes.

[1] ‘Europe Grapples with “Honour Killings,” -,,1244406,00.html (accessed 17 September 2012)


The new laws can set a precedent, even if it takes time.  Bringing into practice such a law would arguably help send a message that certain practices do not sync with the sorts of societies European countries try to forge – this includes cases of Female Genital Mutilation, honour killings and forced marriages. Although the law is likely to be hard to police initially, in time it could allow for greater respect for values about the rights of individuals to be adopted by diaspora communities in Europe. ­­­­­ Other countries have adopted measures that are equally as far-reaching, such as the banning of wearing religious symbols in French schools.[1] Countries outside of Europe demand that ex-patriot Europeans within their borders comply with specific laws that arte designed to benefit the whole nation. It is therefore hardly unreasonable for EU countries to do the same.

[1] ‘French Scarf Ban Comes into Force,’ BBC, 2 September 2004 -

It will cause resentment and make certain communities feel targeted.

  Arranged marriages are seen as a very important aspect of the identity of lots of Euro-Asian communities. At a time when tensions between non-Muslims and Muslims in Europe are high enough, for example there were protests in London against the film innocence of Muslims,[1] targeting a practice carried out by many Muslim families could help extremist tendencies to flare up. It is important not try and cloak laws that are little more than blind intolerance with terms that make them seem like secular liberalism. Attempting to ban practices like wearing the veil in the name of inclusion have been proven to only inflame tensions, not improve integration.[2] Banning arranged marriages outright would therefore not only be intolerant, but potentially dangerous.

[1] Walker, Paul, ‘Anti-US protesters in London condemn controversial film’,, 16 September 2012,

[2] Younge, Gary, ‘Europe: Hotbed of Islampobic Extremism,’ 14 June 2012 -


You can extend that argument to any kind of illiberal practice. The same could easily be said of practices like FGM. Choosing not to ban certain traditions just because they are culturally entrenched could be extended to anything, from slavery to torture. The fact of the matter is that some practices simply cannot be allowed. There are already cases where the police choose not to intervene in cases of domestic violence where a south

Asian family is involved, giving rise to claims that they feel to timid to bring the same laws into practice for fear of infringing upon the cultural practices of minorities.[1] Furthermore, many writers like Pragna Patel[2] have claimed that the more illiberal elements of communities such as the South Asian diaspora are merely fabrications designed to oppress women. It is important not to fall into the trap of condoning practices that have no place in any society by allowing them to shelter behind the veil of ‘cultural differences.’

[1] Patel, Pragna, ‘The Use and Abuse of Honour-Based Violence in the UK,’ Open Democracy,6 June 2012 -

[2] Ibid., 

The state should not be allowed to intrude in such personal matters

Matters relating to how individuals conduct themselves in a private and consensual environment are arguably not the concern of the state. This extends to how people get married and within which tradition, religion or denomination. European states are increasingly allowing non-traditional marriages such as gay marriages[1] so not allowing arranged marriages for those who want them would be a perverse step backwards. Given that arranged marriages in themselves do not have any proven harms, and that, as it has already been asserted, the harmful side of arranged marriages, like forced marriages have already been outlawed, the state cannot keep regulating something with such an arbitrary and wide-ranging definition that includes so many consenting adults.

  Were EU states to do this, the harm caused would risk infringing on the very rights of the people the proposition claims they are meant to be protecting in the first place.

[1] ‘Countries Where Gay Marriage Is Legal: Netherlands, Argentina & More, The Daily Beast, 9 May 2012,


When the harm spills over into society, the personal becomes public. Arranged marriages do pose provable harms to the women of diaspora communities in the European Union. In such situations where vulnerable individuals are at risk, the state has a right to step in. This is already the case in other issues linked to inter-marital relations, such as the criminalisation of rape within marriage in Britain.[1]

  Although the threats posed by arranged marriages are not always so clear-cut, the fact that within them they contain the potential for women to be abused and ill-treated means that state intervention is required. The harm that could arise as a result is that of continued threats to women in African and Asian ex-patriot communities across the EU.

[1] ‘Guideline on rape: in marriage or by a partner,’ Rape Crisis - (accessed 23 September 2012)



Acharya Ingrum, Pri, ‘The Reality of Arranged Marriages’  - (accessed on 21 September 2012)

‘Fighting Arranged Marriage Abuse,’ BBC, 12 July 1999  -

‘Forced Marriage Parents Face Jail under New Laws,’ BBC, 8 June 2012 -

 ‘French Scarf Ban Comes into Force,’ BBC, 2 September 2004 -

‘Ethnic domestic violence ‘hidden’’, BBC News, 20 September 2007,

‘New Laws Against Forced Marriages,’ BBC, 25 November 2008 -

Black, Lisa, ‘Arranged – not forced - marriages a good match in many cultures,’ Chicago Tribune, 27 July 2011 -

Cook, Hera, ‘No Turning Back: Family forms and sexual mores in modern Britain,’ History & Policy - (accessed on 19 September 2012)

‘Countries Where Gay Marriage Is Legal: Netherlands, Argentina & More, The Daily Beast, 9 May 2012,

‘Europe Grapples with “Honour Killings,” -,,1244406,00.html (accessed 17 September 2012)

Gotrik, Jennifer, ‘India domestic abuse more common in ‘arranged’ marriages’, Womennewsnetwork, 12 September 2011,

Joan-Grange, Laurence , ‘France Seeks to Prohibit Forced Marriage,’ 14 April 2009 -

Patel, Pragna, ‘The Use and Abuse of Honour-Based Violence in the UK,’ Open Democracy,6 June 2012 -

‘Guideline on rape: in marriage or by a partner,’ Rape Crisis - (accessed 23 September 2012)

‘Would you be happier in an arranged marriage?’ - (accessed 20 September 2012)

‘Human Rights with Reference to Women,’ - (accessed on 19 September 2012)

Younge, Gary, ‘Europe: Hotbed of Islampobic Extremism,’ 14 June 2012 -