Back in the eighteenth century, the nuptial union of young aristocrats was
instrumental in preserving their economic inheritance and “indissolubly”
binding ties between their families. This would ensure a more prominent
position in society for everyone involved. Everything was arranged by
The woman would have known the identity of her future husband while still a
child and would have married him as soon as she was old enough to leave her
home. Refusing was a socially unacceptable and offensive action toward the wedding families.
Arranged/forced marriage began before the eighteenth century: the coemptio was a rather common wedding rite dating back to the first
and second centuries. In Ancient Roman times, a father could put his
daughter up for sale, and whoever purchased her would become her pater familias at the same time. In short, she would become his
Other examples can be found in Greek mythology, such as Hades kidnapping
Persephone and forcing her to become his wife.
What is the difference between forced and arranged marriages?
Morally, it could be said that there is no big difference between forced
and arranged marriages because they both deny the individuals involved the
right to freedom. What differentiates the two practices, in some countries,
is simply the legal definition of each. In essence: a forced marriage is
when a person involved expresses his/her dissent to the marriage but it is
repressed through violence or force, which at times even results in murder.
It is an arranged marriage when refusal of one or both parties cannot occur, regardless of the cause: in such a case coercion is
implicit. One is free to decline, but the consequences of of refusal would
impact the social standing of both wedding families. For them, it’s
dishonorable: It is a broken promise – an indelible stain on the family’s
reputation. It’s also seen as a waste of an opportunity for a more
Regarding respect for freedom, there is no big differences between the two
Today, societies with this kind of costumes are mostly found in regions of
the world with a high poverty rate and almost nonexistent education. The
absence of rights and the role of women within these communities reduces
woman to a slavery condition. They “justify” the sale of children as a
family’s source of income, in some case the only one source.
Brought into the world to be sold
Although these practices violate human rights, their diffusion is so wide
and deep-rooted that, unfortunately, preventing them is a very difficult
task. As mentioned before, it spreads wherever education is lacking due to
rampant poverty, and consequently there is no socio-cultural progress that
can help to stop it.
According to UNICEF, the phenomenon of arranged and forced marriages
particularly affects very young age groups of girls and boys, continuing to
be quite widespread in almost all regions of the world: from Sub-Saharan
Africa to Latin America, from South Asia to the Far East and even Oceania.
Save The Children
, in a report issued in September of 2020, has explored how the global
economic crisis, triggered by the height of the pandemic, has further
contributed to the expansion of the phenomenon. For that year, it estimated
about 500,000 young lives forced to abandon their purity, their
adolescence, and their dreams, to be married.
The practice of child marriage not only ignores the fundamental rights of
the child, but also puts the very lives of the girls involved in serious
“[…] 1 million more early pregnancies, a leading cause of death for girls
between the ages of 15 and 19.”
The same report highlights how such a cultural plague can be fatal socially
(sex discrimination), culturally (no possibility to continue their
education), psychologically, (cases of suicide are not uncommon) and
physically (early pregnancy, genital mutilation, domestic violence).
How can such atrocities be eradicated?
There are many campaigns that are trying to bring about awareness of this
cultural phenomenon. Even though it is known about globally, it is
difficult for the more industrialized and “socially-equal” societies to
imagine that something like this still exists in the world – a reality that
is totally opposite to theirs.
We have to be aware of this problem and understand the trauma that millions
of women, men, girls, and boys experience, We may help with a simple
donation, with real and concrete economic investments that will implement
adequate education, help women who escape from the cages in which they have
been locked up and offer them proper protection.
There is no reason that justifies the sale of people as objects or the
commodification of one’s person, not even arranged marriages in order to
obtain residence permits.
Pretending that it doesn’t affect us because it’s far away isn’t a
reasonable answer: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto (I am
a man; nothing about men is alien to me).