What is the comparison between the South Asian arranged marriage and slavery?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a tough question.  I think that my initial belief is that I don't think that the arranged marriage and slavery are one in the same.  From the its origins, the arranged marriage was intended to be a type of "matchmaking" service. When Lord Rama is arranged to be married to Sita, it is the embodiment of the sacred nature of the arranged marriage. The parents played the role of matchmakers.  It makes sense that the parents would know their children the best and understand what alliances would work and what alliances would not.  The arranged marriage was always understood as part of a parent's duty to their child, and in this, there is not an enslavement element.  A natural question that arises is what happens if the child does not like the parental choice.  Yet, I think that this question, to a great extent, is averted if the parents knew their child and, in the most theoretical of senses, it would be an understood part of the process.  In this, there is not slavery or the idea of compulsion, as much as trust and understanding in the sacred duty of parents honoring children and children recognition of this.

Like everything from the past which possesses a sense of intrinsic beauty and care, corruptive elements have found their way into the kingdom.  One way that the concept of the South Asian arranged marriage can link to slavery would be with the emphasis on dowry.  The "price" that a bride can "fetch" is a human- made construct that too closely links brides with a "price," and thereby a connection between it and slavery can be evident.  To incorporate the idea that has moved us from garden to desert, Sita marries Lord Rama without a dowry.  Nothing except duty and honor bind both.  Yet, the modern inclusion of a dowry ends up corrupting the arranged marriage union, and moves it closer to enslavement. Dowry is outlawed in many parts, but it happens in other ways.  The modern application of a dowry has become a connection between the arranged marriage and slavery.  The fact that brides must have a dowry in order to be accepted is a connection that can be made to slavery.  Another link between the arranged marriage and slavery is evident if the parents forge an alliance for their own gain, as opposed to the wishes of their children. This outrage has gained traction in the past couple of months with the anti- Dowry online game called "Angry Brides," where players assume the role of a woman who must fend off dowry- hungry grooms. Sometimes, the parents arrange a marriage that has immediate benefits for themselves or for some other ulterior motive.  In these settings, the idea of using a child as a means to an end, as opposed to treating them as their own ends, is an example of the arranged marriage being close to slavery.