|You are in: Talking Point|
Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 13:40 GMT
Arranged marriages: Should the government be involved?
A suggestion by the Home Secretary David Blunkett that Asians should make arranged marriages all-British has been branded ''deeply offensive''.
Mr Blunkett says he wants to see "a discussion" within communities which practised arranged marriage, as to whether more of them could be undertaken in the UK.
He says he wants to break down "the terrible tensions that exist when people feel trapped between two different cultures and backgrounds''.
But a Labour Peer, Baroness Uddin, has called the suggestion "deeply offensive" to the Asian community and wants the Home Secretary to think again.
Should the government be involved in arranged marriages? Would it encourage social integration? Or does it infringe freedom of choice?
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The Government should not get involved in arranged marriages between adults. It should, however, do something about the arranged marriages that involve children. The children (more often the girls than the boys) are sent "home" i.e. the country of the parents, to get married. Consent doesn't come into it. The married couple then returns when the bride is of age. This is vastly damaging to the children and does Asian culture in the UK no good at all.
Arranged marriages with partners from the sub-continent, mainly from the rural areas of Pakistan and Bangladesh, are used primarily to facilitate settlement in the UK. It might be difficult to imagine the status that families with UK based relatives have in these areas; something other families can only realistically achieve through a marriage with a UK based partner. This is context in which the arranged marriages take place - the trading of favours and assets between local families. The prospective partner's grasp of English, employment prospects, adaptability to life in the UK and so on are not top of the parents' requirements.
Those who cite tradition to justify this practice usually forget to mention another, very strong sub-continent tradition - that a bride always leave home to join their husband's family. Yet it is virtually unheard of for brides to leave the UK to join their husbands in the sub-continent! Tradition is clearly no match for expediency.
Why does this have to be a race issue? Arranged marriages occur in all... yes ALL religions. If someone is about to be married to someone he/she doesn't know very well does it not make sense for the two people to have at least one thing in common...their country? To all those who think that Mr Blunkett was wrong in his suggestion; what possible motive could there be for arranging a marriage with someone from abroad? What common ground will the bride and her groom have?
The simple solution would be for the foreign spouse to be issued a 1-2 year residency permit, allowing them to live in the UK with their partner but not giving them the right to work or claim benefits. This permit should be renewable indefinitely upon proof that the marriage has not ended. They would then of course be able to apply to become a full citizen but would have to go through the same application process as any other would-be immigrant.
There will be two sides for every story. In my opinion, the government is getting involved too much in cultural aspects of any religion is unacceptable when a culture has its own advantages (like parents getting separated in arranged marriages is very low when compared to other's), there by children will have a beautiful atmosphere to live. On the other hand if marriages are forced, it is not acceptable and I am sure these days educated and people who are British now with some other origins can say "No" if they do not want arranged marriages.
Arranged marriage is fine as long as
two people are introduced to each other.
There should not be any pressure.
The government should stay out of this.
If the marriage is not done for immigration
purposes. One man, one woman relationships
I am a British Hindu expected to marry a man of my own caste and religion. There is no freedom of choosing my own partner. For that simple reason I am very pleased that the government are tackling the issue of arranged marriages.
Omar Mirza, UK
If both parties are willing to accept an arranged marriage than that is fine but surely it must be wrong in any culture for people to be forced to marry against their will. I just don't see this issue as an attack on anyone's culture.
Let's just clarify one point here, Mr Blunkett has suggested that there may be advantages to a greater proportion of those who wish for arranged marriages considering looking in this country before looking abroad. There has been no suggestion of banning the practice or having to seek home office approval (beyond that which is normal for one wishing to permanently enter this country).
Secondly, having known an British girl of Indian descent who refused an arranged marriage to an Indian man in favour of her white English boyfriend, and having sampled her families reaction to this firsthand (myself, her and our respective partners having gone together to her niece's wedding) I would consider the practice of arranged marriages to be in itself racist, in operation if not intrinsically.
If Mr Blunkett had carried out his research effectively before making an "off the cuff" remark he would find that most Asians try very hard to find a partner from within the UK but due to very personal reasons find it necessary to expand their search outside of the UK. There are many religious reasons for such acts that Mr Blunkett is in no position to comment on. Would Mr Blunkett prefer a person to restrict their options of a partner to the UK and face the danger of adding to the ever increasing divorce figures or would he prefer someone to marry a partner they want and be happy creating the ideal family environment that many of us lack ?? Why do MPs have this repetitive problem with placing their feet in their mouths.
I don't find it offensive that David Blunkett is questioning arranged marriage, in the same way I don't find it offensive that they preach "family" to western families.
But it doesn't mean that I agree with him either, Governments should learn to stop trying to dictate how we live our lives.
What next - disapproval of relationships formed on Club 18-30 holidays? Officially approved government checklists how we should meet / date prospective partners?
Muhammed Sgarif, UK
I think that there should a government initiative to stop David Blunkett having 4 initiatives each week. He is an interfering busy body.
When it comes down to it, this is all just another case of Blunkett trying to meddle in people's private lives, one more step along the road to a nanny state that treats its citizens like children.
Just imagine if I was in South Africa, Japan or any other country and they told me not to go back to my home country or country of birth but marry a women from the country I'm living in. Imagine how you would feel! It's stupid, we should be able to marry anyone from anywhere, be it in China, Pakistan, England or Antarctica. It should remain your choice not Blunketts or anyone else¿s.
How many Muslims here know of their friends or others who have been asked to go back home and marry someone they never met or even talked to before. They comfort themselves by saying that we'll go to 'Pakistan' or 'India' to just see him/her and if I don't like him/her I simply won't marry them. If they like each other - that's great, but if they don't, due to family pressure they get married. I myself can think of many many people in this situation and if this isn't forced marriage - what is. Mr Blunkett is right to a great degree and this practice needs to be stopped. Mind you, if we can't bring our parents minds into the 21st century, good luck Mr Blunkett - you'll deserve a medal.
Maria Popova, US
Maybe the Government should do something about the number of divorces that taking place in the UK generally. Asian marriages lasts longer the English marriages. Doesn¿t that say something?
I quite like Blunkett but I am a bit puzzled by his motives here. If he is really trying to stem the flow of immigrants into the UK, he should just come out and say so. If this is not his motive, then I think how Asians choose to find their partners is none of his business.
Having read most of the comments posted, I have come to the realisation that most, if not all British people are racist.
Some "native" Brits still enter marriage because of an unexpected pregnancy, or on the basis of a two-week holiday romance. If I lived in Pakistan and I wanted to marry an English woman and take her back to Pakistan to live, would the Pakistani government interfere, and tell me that I should only marry a girl of English descent who already lived in Pakistan? Would they force me to utilise the services of a marriage broker? Of course not!
Some go as far as to go for a meal together without their family. If the couple decide that they like each other and would like to get married on the basis of common values and outlooks on life, then they inform their parents and the marriage preparations begin. If not, the decision is relayed via a third party to avoid embarrassment and the process starts again with other people. The major difference between this type of marriage and Western marriages is that the family is heavily involved from the beginning, and that there isn't a prolonged dating period.
It is believed that the best parts of companionship should be saved for when there is a genuine long-term commitment, from both parties, within the safety of a secure marriage. This is how the majority of arranged marriages take place, with minor differences between different families. Forced marriages are a different case.
There are several issues becoming confused here. 1 - forced marriage - which all but a tiny minority of British Asians condemn and which is an abuse of human rights, needing to be removed. 2 - arranged marriage - a custom current to some extent among most British people until the late 19th century and still current in Asian communities, in which partners are introduced by their families, and decide to marry with the support of their community. 3 - immigration - a completely separate issue which needs to be detached from any racial or cultural prejudice to be dealt with fairly.
I do not have anything against arranged marriages per se, if it fulfils the wishes of both parties involved. However, the real issue underlying this debate is the acceptance or tolerance of cultural or religious practices that are against the accepted norms in this country. I am no liberal apologist for the idea that all cultures must be seen to be equal in the UK, even if our own is in a pretty dire state at the moment. Nor should I be coerced into realigning my British culture with any other.
Those that come to the UK must do so with the understanding that the freedoms of expression and movement that underpin our society are not to be abused by the imposition of sub-cultures or beliefs on the citizens of this country. Nor should the British taxpayer be expected to fund cultural differentiation, other than those indigenous to these isles i.e. English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish. We have enough problems with those without importing any more!!
I do not envy Mr Blunkett the task ahead of him as Home Secretary and I think that the subject of social exclusion has to be addressed, but the language being used at present seems to me very divisive. Almost as divisive as the concept of faith schools, whereas schools and education to my mind should remain secular. Either omit to teach children about any faith at all, or let them learn about all faiths and cultures. But that's another issue isn't it?
I agree with David Blunkett on this issue. Arranged marriages are not British , if the ethnic minorities want to be fully accepted. THEY have
to accept OUR values, not the reverse.
Sadia , UK
From what I can understand of arranged marriages is that they work by trying to find people that are from similar backgrounds and cultures so that the couple will have similar expectations from their marriage. Seeing one of my friend's arranged marriage with a girl from Pakistan fall apart because of different expectations, I think British people, be they Asian or any other culture, are most likely to find a suitable partner with someone with a similar background to themselves. The fact is that British Asian culture is not the same culture as that in Pakistan.
However, I do think that a working knowledge of the English language, culture and ways of life should be known by all who want to become British citizens, in order to protect them from those who would take advantage of their ignorance of these things.
A Syed, UK
Surely "arranged marriage" is the very definition of institutionalised racism or do Asian communities regularly arrange marriages outside their community? (Which incidently is Britain not Pakistan or India if you have chosen to live here).
Its real purpose is about segregation and continuation of a way of life. In which case why do so many people get upset when British people express a wish to continue their way of life without having other cultures dictate their future?
I am all for freedom and diversity, but it all seems to be a one way street. I live abroad and I live as the community does here in Switzerland. In Britain we seem to have arrived at a "tail wags dog" situation.
This debate has started as a result of the riots that occurred. They did not start as a result of arranged marriages. They happened because people are afraid, white and Asian. If Mr Blunkett wants to heal the divisions within the nation maybe he should tackle the real problems such as racism, which leads to people cutting themselves of from those they fear. Social exclusion which has led to so many problems. I like the fact that I am British. I would never want to change that or leave this country. Yet if people like Mr Blunkett, who mean well but are sadly wrong, keep on targeting issues that are not that important to race relations within Britain, we will always be divided.
If immigrants keep marrying their own stock and kind especially from their own country of origin, it would not help with the racial integration and assimilation of the various ethnic groups in the UK. It's far better for the good of the country and the community to seek out those who are already in the UK. When in Rome, do as the Romans do so when in the UK, do likewise.
Arranged marriages have plus points but some minus points include coercions/forced marriages and those between very close relations (thereby resulting in deformities). Love marriages have minus points but the plus points are that you as an adult make the choice for your partner. Whether you actually make the right decision for yourself or not, you also have a far greater gene pool to choose from.
Having had experience of the immigration service from having been married to a foreign girl before, and now from my experiences trying to get my fiancee to join me in this country, I can categorically state that the procedures already in place are designed to make it very difficult and complex to achieve. And I am not even having an arranged marriage and easily meet all the criteria re: finance etc, so I would not even like to consider what it could be like for those that have arranged marriages.
And my sister-in-law was even refused access to this country by immigration at Heathrow when she came to visit me for a month, as immigration said that she might marry an Englishman as my wife did. I found this to be a totally ridiculous reason and the decisions of immigration officers seem to be linked to the nationality of the person involved; Americans no problem, Brazilians like my previous wife however, a completely different kettle of fish - and I dread the attitude of immigration with regard to my present fiancée, who is Thai.
Austin Amadasun, Nigeria
Maarten van der Heijden, Netherlands
Marriages freely and legally entered into are a personal choice not a government issue. Perhaps David Blunkett would like to reform marriage and family life in the same way he has brought his wisdom to HE and health and policing - just who is left for him to offend next?
Does this debate about citizenship to imported spouses also apply to white British men who import brides from countries such as Thailand etc?
I do not believe that David Blunkett is passing comment on arranged marriages but the practice of back door immigration. Many of these people moving to England after a marriage cannot speak English and make little or no attempt to integrate or contribute to British society but expect to receive all the benefits they are "entitled" to. Let these marriages take place, let these people come over but make it clear they will be entitled to nothing and have no electoral franchise until they have made tax contributions for a specified period of time.
Other countries with similar populations have actually banned the practice of arranged marriages outside the country, because of these abuses a long time ago. I welcome the home secretary's initiative in bringing up this issue. Many people have been increasingly upset with the practice and abuse of arranged marriages but have been constrained by not wishing to appear racist. For the future integration and stability of relationships between the different communities in Britain these matters need to be addressed.
I applaud David Blunkett it is about time politicians tackled this issue. I am sick of the bleeding heart liberals worrying about political correctness. If you live in this country you live by our laws or go home.
Arranged marriage is not necessarily a social evil, but one has to be cautiously optimistic in organising such a marriage, of course with the genuine consent of both the bride and the groom. These practices are prevalent since ages in many Asian countries including India. There are definitely rules preventing forced marriages in any society, but very rarely the victims (mostly young girls) approach the legal authorities for protection. Sometimes, some NGOs take up individual cases to help prevent such occurrences, but a large number of the forced marriages go unreported.
All the same, Britain must have its own legislation to prevent forced marriages against the wishes of any individual. After all, those staying in Britain must be prepared to comply with the basic laws governing the state. Asian origin cannot and must not be allowed to become a license for those who would do anything to ignore human rights and endanger the lives of innocent young people.
If the immigration policy is to be tackled you must look at the problem of arranged marriages. The system is being abused from all sides.
For the record, not a long time ago Catholics were not allowed to become prime minister. And still today the future British king will only marry a woman who has a clean past (a virgin or someone with not many boyfriends) and certainly not a Catholic.
I think it will be more appropriate that the government focuses on the serious issue on the dark side of the British society such as wife beating, getting drunk and terrorizing their family, or forcing their partner to have sex if they refuse they will get beaten. I personally know friends who are in these situations.
It's very simple. If people move to another country and culture, then those people must abide by that country's laws and norms. If people do not wish to living according to British norms then they should not come here. The notion that British law and society should contort itself to cater to the traditions of immigrant groups is absurd, offensive and a racist dismissal of indigenous British values and traditions.
Arranged marriages are a scam, perpetrated to aid immigrants get access to live in this country. The sooner this loophole is shut the better.
I think it's fair enough, as Mr Blunkett says, to have a discussion. There are too many taboos at the moment regarding race and culture. What is the point of a Parliament if it cannot have a debate about the issues that matter, contentious or otherwise?
While the state has no business AT ALL in telling people how they should live, which includes how or who they should marry, it is right that the people that have to live within its scope are protected from force and the deprivation of their rights by others. Therefore the government should only be able to interfere in any way with FORCED marriages, which ignore the will of either or both of the intended spouses - which is an entirely different kettle of fish to an ordinary arranged marriage.
One of my colleagues is a very happily married Hindu who chose an arranged marriage for no doubt excellent reasons of her own.
I have no objection to the law taking a very firm interest in anybody who is being coerced or forced into marriage, but the means a person uses to meet their future partner is no business of anyone but theirs!
Andy, London, UK
There seems to be a lot of confusion between forced and arranged marriages. Forced marriages are where the parties involved have little or no choice in the matter and there is no true consent, subject to legal controls. However arranged marriages whether the introduction is by parents, extended family or dating agencies (which are effectively being paid to arrange suitable matches) should be outside of government influence, as long as the two parties consent. It may be that we need a clarification of the law to make clear on what informed consent is in relation to marriage.
Wahid Ezaty, Australia
I believe the government should be involved. There are too many illegal immigrants coming into our country with this not being controlled. By the government keeping a close eye on this, our problems should be solved.
Basically, to help dissipate racial problems, Asian immigrants have to be seen to be making more effort to properly integrate. If they want to be assimilated into Britain, then they must make it abundantly clear to the rest of the indigenous population that they truly regard themselves as British first and foremost, and not as Indian or Pakistani etc. Many people, rightly or wrongly, will regard the continuation of a policy of arranging the majority of marriages with partners from the sub-continent as simply a way of increasing the immigrant numbers by the back door. If I were a British Muslim I would feel far happier marrying someone else who had grown up in the same environment as I had, and not someone with whom I shared little compatibility.
Chris B, England
This development is worrying. Consider the following contrasting situations. I go on holiday to Australia, marry an Australian lady and this is acceptable. I go on holiday to India, am 'introduced' to an Indian lady (as per local tradition) and agree to marry her, but this is unacceptable. A somewhat culturally offensive proposition seems to be in the pipeline.
Well said Mr Blunkett. As always, the liberal masses will bleat about human rights, institutional racism, etc. We're saturated already with immigrants that have no interest in integrating with the British, so at least he's trying to stem the flow. I have seen arranged marriages with imported spouses be successful, but it is extremely open to abuse. Aid should be given for people wanting to marry a native Pakistani (for example) to assist them in a permanent move to Pakistan, not the other way round.
Steve, UK, should I go back to France with my British wife and my British daughter in order to make more space for British people and desaturate the countries of immigrants?
This makes the Tories quite an attractive socialist vote.
Pat Ward, UK
Milena Buyum (NAAR) says that this suggestion would send a message saying "this is not part of the British norm" - well it isn't a normal British tradition to have an arranged marriage is it?
The Hindu community in the UK regularly has arranged marriages from within the country and are proud to have our future generations as coming from Britain. The term "Asians" has led many to believe that all immigrants from the Asian sub-continent send their children away for arranged marriages and then bring over the new spouse. While this may be common in the UK's Muslim community, it is the exception to the rule as far as Hindus are concerned. It is time a clear distinction was made by the politicians and the media between these two different communities.
When you live in another country you should respect its beliefs and cultures. In this country we believe that we should be free to marry who we want and no one should be forced to marry anyone they don't want to. I don't think the practice of arranged marriage should be tolerated in this country and the home secretary is wrong to even give tacit support to it. He should be doing all he can to stamp this practice out.
Marriage is complicated enough without the government getting involved. They should concentrate on other issues such as our health industry.
Guy Hammond, England
Will this nanny government ever be happy until they have control over every aspect of people's lives?
It is worth stressing that only a MINORITY of Asian arranged marriages have problems. The vast majority don't, and in fact the divorce rate there is a great deal lower than the one-in-three divorce rate which happens in Western style marriages. Divorce is an option in Asian arranged marriages too, and it's not unknown for people to use that. However the point remains the vast majority of such marriages remain intact, often for their entire lives. More than can be said for the Western marriages.
With most of the Islamic/Muslim arranged marriages being a key for more illegal people to enter into our country I think the government has every right to intervene. This has to be monitored and controlled.
I think arranged marriages are wrong in the first place and if you come to this country you should abide by the laws and customs of this country. The custom of this country is not one of arranged marriages. If you want to practice the customs of your country that are not lawfully binding in this country, then go back to your own country.
The only reason I can see for the government to be interested in arranged marriages is because they have seen that our generation (I'm 25) is pretty much not interested in marriage due to the unfair laws surrounding it and the rising divorce rate.
Dear David Blunkett, as long as they are not violating basic human rights, let different cultures choose the own way to run their private lives, and stop raising the racist temperature in these tense times by bringing up issues that should be non-issues.
Yadvinder Malhi, Scotland
I think David Blunkett should keep his ideas and opinions to himself. What we do with our marriages is none of his or the Government's business.
Nasir Nabi, Newcastle, UK
Of course the UK Government should be involved. We live in a free and democratic society and arranged marriages certainly do not meet that criteria, no matter which religion is concerned.
The issue of arranged marriages is a deeply contentious one. However, arranged marriages are against much of the British way of life. The idea that women should feel compelled to marry a particular man on the basis of their parents say so. Bearing in mind that immigrants are supposed to accept our society and become part of it, albeit with their own particular slant, they must stay within the law. Arranged marriages are not really within the law as a degree of coercion is implied. Therefore, immigrants should accept that if they wish to live in this country, arranged marriages must not occur. If they don't like this, they always have an option; return to their previous country.
Peter D, UK
I do not think it is offensive of David Blunkett to say this - people should try and adopt the ways of the country they call home. And in this country we call home, the idea of arranged marriage is not a good one. However, in a bid to show tolerance and understanding to the situation, he has stated that if it does happen, and I am sure in some cases the people may be happy for it to happen, then the least they can do, is do it with consenting people living here in the UK- and not marrying off some poor teenage girl to someone she has never abroad.
08 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett attacked over arranged marriages
07 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Immigration shake-up unveiled
10 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blair backs Blunkett on race
12 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Asian runaway bride story 'not racist'
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Other Talking Points:
Links to more Talking Point stories
|^^ Back to top
News Front Page | World | UK | UK Politics | Business | Sci/Tech | Health | Education | Entertainment | Talking Point | In Depth | AudioVideo
To BBC Sport>> | To BBC Weather>>
© MMIII | News Sources | Privacy