Arranged marriages gave women absolutely no say concerning who would be their husband. In the case of Mariam, her marriage was arranged by a father who only visited her on occasion; he was pressed into the arrangement by his domineering wives, who did not approve of the lowly Mariam (the illegitimate daughter of Jalil by his servant) living in their house or being treated equally with their own daughters. Mariam did not want to leave Jalil's house, nor did she want to stay with her new husband, Rasheed, who was old enough to be her father. But Afghan law did not allow for her own personal opinion in the matter, so she was forced to endure a loveless marriage with a brutal and sadistic man who only used her for his own satisfaction.
By law, women had to obey their husbands without question. The forced wearing of the burka was one form of subjugation, and women were restricted to where they could publicly appear or socialize. Running away or abandonment was not an option for women, who were not allowed to travel without the accompaniment of the husband. The man's word was always taken over that of the woman in disputes, and Mariam's beatings by Rasheed were considered a legal right.