Dec 27 2006



This post has been (vastly) modified from the original to reflect reader concerns that its previous content — including an external link to a blog post concerning a specific arranged marriage — may have actually endangered the life of its subject. I have also purged related comments. This may or may not be a hamfisted overreaction, but my personal intimacy with such matters is limited; the policy at Twisty HQ is better safe than sorry.

So, instead of my vacuous Texan honky musings on marriage in general, here’s a link, gleaned from a comment by Galloise Blonde, to IKWRO, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, a website advocating for UK victims of forced marriage, honor killing, and other sex-class-based violence.


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  1. perinteger.blogger.com

    Thanks Twisty.

    Thinking of people losing their individuality and self-determination (even when it’s an illusory self-determination) saddens and scares me.

  2. ikwro.org.uk

    This is not an arranged marriage. This is a forced marriage. They’re as different as sex and rape. And her fears about dishonouring her family are very real: honour killing is talked up as a muslim phenomenon but the patriarchs of India are just as keen on ‘izzat’ as their Pakistani cousins and the death toll is comparable.

    We deal with victims of FM and HK every day, and there’s not a lot to say: the choice is between a life of repeated rape, forced pregnancy, domestic servitude and abuse or ostracism, threats and murder. Leaving the family is like suicide: often the only relationship you can have with your relatives thereafter is through Post Office boxes, and even this contact is often rejected. The emotional blackmail is beyond intense, and other female family members can be punished for this ‘transgression’. It’s a near-impossible choice in an impossible situation and there’s frustratingly little anyone can do about it. This is why the suicide rate in the UK is three times higher for South Asian women than any other group according to Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of the Karma Nirvana shelters. (Her biography is available to pre-order on Amazon.co.uk, I plug, because I’ve met her and I like her).

  3. blog.3bulls.net

    Of course the “family” in these things turns out to be the mafia/enforcers of the stuff, that is when we don’t walk willingly into the situation ourselves. Just really depressing.

    Certain jaundiced eyes will not ne surprised by the fact that some judge wrote a book, a veritable crazy book. Excerpts are here.

    and include sentiments such as:

    the sentiments expressed in that chapter, which frequently uses the term “femifascists” and is titled “The Cloud Cuckooland of Radical Feminism,” have already prompted a complaint with the state body that can reprimand or remove judges.

  4. hackenblog.com

    …she cannot bring herself to “dishonor” her family by running away.

    How can you dishonor people who don’t see you as human enough even to be consulted about the man you’re going to have children with? Her family has no honor that I can understand.

  5. I just read the excerpt of the Judge’s book on Amazon.com. My favorite quote is this:

    As horrifying as I find the prospect that the tyranny of tolerance can force judges to censor themselves (and conceivably even adjust their rulings) to avoid the liberal hammer, I can’t say I hadn’t been warned that this possibility existed. But such warnings made no sense to me given the freedom judges have long enjoyed to express their views on the law.

    ‘Tyranny of Tolerance?’ He seems genuinely surprised and angry that people told him they disagreed with him when he acted like an unprofessional, pre-biased douchebag in a judicial opinion he authored and from that now seems to feel that he’s ‘tyrannized’ from speaking his “truth” when what he actually means is he’s too thin-skinned to brook any disagreement or criticism. He wants his free speech protected, but the free speech of those who think he’s a pygmy-souled bigot must be suppressed lest the mirror be held up to him forcing him to see his own ugly reflection.

    I feel terrible for that poor young woman being pressured into an arranged marriage. She’s in a horrible position.

  6. ourdescent.wordpress.com

    Do you feel that pang when women marry other women?

  7. ikwro.org.uk

    I don’t know what the South Asian women’s centre said, but we would say: “The choice is yours. If you want our help we will get police protection, find secure and secret accommodation, get a transfer of your course, find (if possible) long-term counselling or survivor support groups.” We would never advocate talking to the family. Never. It just increases the risk of surveillance and violence; one call from a well-meaning school teacher or whatever and the girl is locked into her room until the ‘happy event’ and her chances of escape are just gone; or beaten up for talking about ‘family business’ because seeking help is also a violation of the ‘honour’ code.

    By the way, in the link for Jasvinder in the above comment, you need to scroll down a bit. Sorry, should have mentioned that at the time.

  8. hattie.typepad.com/hatties_web

    I saw one awful arranged marriage. A beautiful well educated young women was married off to a fat, 50ish guy with a cast in one eye who had lied to the family, telling them he was a rich landholder in Switzerland and Spain when he was just barely managing to get by. She was able to go back to her family. (Luckily he did not impregnate her.) It wasn’t his repulsiveness or even his lying that made the family angry; it was that he wasn’t rich.
    Not all these marriages are bad, however, except that the groom is usually considerably older than the bride. A friend of mine has been very happy in her arranged marriage to a man quite a bit older. They have no kids, don’t dare to, because they are first cousins whose parents were first cousins from a small sect of Hindus who never marry outside their group.
    What really annoyed me about all this was the way some Indian men would come to the West, enjoy the sexual freedom offered here and then go back to India to marry the virgin their families had found for them.
    And yes, this is all way worse than the marriage practices of the west. call me prejudiced if you will, but I think it’s better to be able to make your own choices, even mistaken ones. When your family makes awful decisions for you, that’s really terrible.

  9. No-one can say what is the right thing to do in any individual circumstance without knowing more. Talking to the family might be an option depending on the family and other circumstances, but yes it’s very dicey as is any intervention. Even what has been done so far is dangerous for her. I don’t think police will be involved, certainly not “police protection”. She would have to have been physically attacked, witnesses would have to corroborate, she would have to lay a complaint with police, and they would investigate, all which would take weeks. And where would she stay in the meantime? She has to risk hurting her family (I use hurt but I mean more than that) and that she will not do. She has already said she won’t. It’s not a case, here, of what *we* would do. It’s what she will do or won’t. Saying she can go into some kind of witness protection program is not something this young woman would do, even if it was viable and here, it is not.

  10. ikwro.org.uk

    This is why I keep trying to draw a distinction between arranged marriage and forced marriage. Arranged marriage can theoretically be harmless, if it is done with the consent and full participation of the youngsters, with freedom of refusal. It could be no worse than letting your pal set you up on a blind date, for example. But where it there is pressure, or where the kids just assume they have no choice, then it’s not an arranged marriage, it’s a forced marriage. Forced marriage is a contemporary form of slavery and a violation of human rights. (A schoolfriend of mine was forced into marriage to stop her from attending university.) Honour killing and forced marriage are intimately related. No society practices one without also practicing the other.

  11. This is so sad. The worst I ever had to deal with was stern disapproval from my family for choosing not to marry.

    Within the past five years, a 17-yr-old middle-eastern girl in the vicinity was murdered by her cousins for dating someone other than her intended. If my memory serves me correctly, no one served a moment of jail time because all involved were deemed innocent. Ugh.

  12. anarchiblog.blogspot.com

    The collective consciousness of the bride’s sublimation of her authentic self to the service of patriarchal cohesion is the reason everybody cries at weddings.

    And yet I cried like a baby at my big sister’s wedding to my now-sister-in-law. And the two of them together promote their respective authentic selves as a full-time endeavor. I think that their dedication to realizing themselves and one another is, in, fact, the Krazy-Glue of their relationship.

    I’d claim more or less the same thing for my marriage, but as a patriarch, I won’t bother. But c’mon, Twisty – life partnership, whatever you call it, is not exclusively a bad thing.

  13. Random fantasy idea: use The Man’s own weapon against him. Find someone who will agree to marry victims like this for an agreed-to time period, spend that time in a platonic relationship (time enough to get the woman through school and on her own), and then proceed with an unprotested divorce.

    Just a thought (right alongside the thought of taking a 2×4 to those family member who insist on “honor”).

    “There is no duty when there is coercion.”

  14. Human trafficking in all its permutation is vile. This young woman will pay a high price no matter her choice. If we could find a way to put an end to human trafficking the patriarchy would be wounded unto death.

  15. womensspace.org

    You don’t even have to go outside the U.S. to find stuff like this. I have been contacted several times by people trying to help teenage girls escape arranged marriages, or “courtship” situations in the U.S., in homeschooling families on the Religious Right. Usually the family is doing something like forcing a 16- or 17-year-old girl to move in with the boy’s family in order to get to know the family before she is forced to marry the boy (whom she sometimes has never met.) I haven’t been able to help because it would be something like kidnapping for me to interfere in a situation with a teenager.

    Hey Twisty, to be clear, I think you *do* cover all the hideous stuff I was talking about (maybe not the killing-the-girlfriend-and-stewing-her-body, but I had that covered.) I was just spouting off there. But thanks for listening.


  16. Ah, marriage. Where 2 people become one. The question is which one?

    As we all probably know, married men live longer than single men. That’s pretty common knowledge. So what about women? Why are the patriarchs so noticeably quiet on the subject of women, marriage, and longevity? Probably because it’s the opposite way around for women. Single women live longer than married women. Marriage, you see, is hazardous to women’s health. Especially if they should become pregnant. Women’s lives are 9 times more at risk going through with a pregnancy than having an abortion. Our phallocracy doesn’t like to talk much about that either.

  17. scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience

    That anyone should be bound to someone else for reasons other than wanting to throw in with that person for the long haul is heartbreaking. Really, shouldn’t one of the fringe benefits of being an over-evolved primate be that you can make choices that needn’t be driven by considerations biological (or economic, or social) fitness?

    And lest the folks who are not themselves members of cultures which are open about their arranged marriages and honor killings cluck their tongues and sigh, “Oh, what a shame, but that’s their problem to solve, not ours,” let me note that the driver in an SUV-hit-and-run spree in my locale (one killed, at least a dozen seriously injured) was a (probably) mentally ill man who was, reportedly, distraught about his arranged marriage.

  18. “I’d claim more or less the same thing for my marriage, but as a patriarch, I won’t bother. But c’mon, Twisty – life partnership, whatever you call it, is not exclusively a bad thing.” JRoth

    Oh, c’mon, bother. I could use a good chuckle. A proud patriarch interested in having his wife realizing herself. What a concept.

    Marriage = Bad Thing. Life Partnership = Good Thing. Marriage does not = partnership, I don’t care how much Krazy-Glue you squirt on it.

  19. First time blamer here. I apologize if this question has been covered already (couldn’t find it in the archives or the FAQ, but I imagine it’s relatively elementary to readers of this blog). Why is marriage a bad thing? Do you (any of you, especially Twisty or Mar Iguana) think it’s possible to have a marriage that is a good thing? Why can life partnership be good and not marriage? For Mar Iguana, is it even possible for marriage to equal partnership?

    I’m not trying to advocate for or against marriage here or ask too-pointed questions; I’ve just never heard much about the idea that marriage is always bad. Thanks for putting up with me.

  20. ikwro.org.uk

    Wow, Twisty, I’d say I’m honoured, but I’ve developed an allergy to the whole word. But I’m certainly very pleased to get a link from you.

  21. The link given to the Jasvinder Sanghera article on IKWRO is particularly worth reading for those unfamiliar with forced marriage and its attendant problems.

  22. ikwro.org.uk

    Yeah, that’s notes from a speech Jasvinder gave at our conference ‘Honour killing: How many more’ we held on December 1. She’s an amazing person. Here’s more about her.

    Our director’s presentation was much along the same lines as hers; the substance of this is in the conference notes PDF which were written as practical guidelines because most of the delegates were from the police and social services.

  23. stormcloud.wordpress.com

    Twisty, I’m glad that you amended the post to avoid identifying the woman. I thought about it on my way to work last night, and even though there was probably only a slim chance of her being identified by her family, it is certainly better to err on the side of extreme caution.

    The link to IKWRO was interesting. ’12 HK per year in the UK’. There are roughly 120 DV-related (female) homicides each year, and I believe that HK are included in the 120 (which would make up 10%). Total female homicides in the UK each year are around 240 (DV making up just under half usually).

    It is certainly a problem that we need to address ‘in our own backyard’. Sadly, many of the HKs do not make the national press (but nor do many of the DV homicides either).

  24. ikwro.org.uk

    stormcloud, I’ve made the same fag-packet calculation myself and this data, allied to the heightened suicide rate is scary stuff for minority women. If anyone wants to email me about these issues this link will reach me, because I’m starting to feel embarrassed by all this attention.

  25. “Oh, c’mon, bother. I could use a good chuckle. A proud patriarch interested in having his wife realizing herself. What a concept.”

    I’ll take the bait.

    I’m a hubby and daddy and I can’t imagine anything more liberating for both partners than the process of self-realization.

    Of course, I don’t believe anyone ever fully realizes anything, so take that with a grain. It is a process.

    Patriarchy, as a system, is flawed. But, there are plenty of people living in it and doing right by each other to the best of their abilities.

  26. vera.wordpress.com

    “Flawed”? “Flawed”??? That’s way too mild, Finnsmotel. Patriarchy is lethal. It kills. It enslaves women and feeds low status men to the machinery of war, its favorite invention. It takes away people’s humanity and makes self-realization (as you say) nearly impossible. And it does all this while being odorless, colorless, invisible, and inescapable.

    I think I’ll go have a drink now. No, wait, it’s only 8AM.

  27. bettycracker.typepad.com

    “I’m a hubby and daddy and I can’t imagine anything more liberating for both partners than the process of self-realization…. [I hope ellipses are allowed when grammatically indicated.] Patriarchy, as a system, is flawed. But, there are plenty of people living in it and doing right by each other to the best of their abilities.” (Finnsmotel)

    I’m a wife and a mother, and I would describe my 10-year marriage as the happiest one of which I am personally aware. If the patriarchy were destroyed tomorrow, my partnership with my husband would survive it. Sounds like yours would too.

    That said, however, I think a jaundiced view of marriage — all marriage, even mine, even yours — is justified. The choices we make affect others, and we’ve chosen to perpetuate an oppressive system. I blame the patriarchy, but I also put some of the blame on myself, where it belongs.

  28. ““Flawed”? “Flawed”??? That’s way too mild, Finnsmotel. Patriarchy is lethal.”

    Fair enough.

    I type faster than I think.

  29. joolya.blogspot.com

    Damn, I didn’t get to read the original post (dealing with family and XMas stuff all week). But it all sounds very disturbing.
    I think maybe we blamers might be able to reconstruct a new ideal of marriage, though, don’t you? Maybe we could call it something else. I had to get officially married to be able to be with my partner (lucky for me he has got different genitals than I!) but I really hope and think we are cool enough to avoid the traditional genderific marriage roles trap …
    Do you guys think this it is possible to lead by example and give the world a new paradigm of partnership for the post-patriarchial world order? Seriously.

  30. “If the patriarchy were destroyed tomorrow”

    Tantamount to a rip in the space-time continuum; I can’t imagine what would happen to all our relationships. I’m not capable of imagining.

    But, in the current paradigm, we’re doing the best we can.

  31. Acer, what’s wrong with marriage is pretty much what’s wrong with human trafficking. And in fact, marriage was designed to provide to transfer of property. In our society marriage confers certain privileges both legally and socially. We have come a long way, legally, from the day when women were traded for cattle. Socially we still adhere to the mythology designed to promote acceptance by women of being traded for cattle. That is what all these studies promoted by the media are about, enhancement of the mythology. Married men live longer than single men. Single women live longer than married women. That pretty much demonstrates what is wrong with marriage in our society.
    Good marriages, in my experience, are the exception. If you consider how you would define a good relationship between decent human beings, then apply the criteria to all the couples you know, you may find a few good ones. That is what’s wrong with marriage in our society. The patriarchy mythology creates conditions that make a good relationship nearly impossible. Power differentials based on mythology are deeply corrupting.

  32. Where do people who are in partnership relationships fit with those stats I wonder. If she is living with a man, she’s not single anymore but she’s likely functioning as a wife, and in many instances, mother too. She drops in the stats to married woman happiness level I’d imagine. He, on the other hand, is getting all the benefits of marriage so he’s likely raised to the married happiness stats. Drats lost again.

  33. “Patriarchy, as a system, is flawed. But, there are plenty of people living in it and doing right by each other to the best of their abilities.” finnsmotel

    There are vastly more people, and you know which people I’m talking about, who aren’t. Please, tell me which facets of patriarchy are flawless.

    “If the patriarchy were destroyed tomorrow”

    Tantamount to a rip in the space-time continuum; I can’t imagine what would happen to all our relationships. I’m not capable of imagining.

    But, in the current paradigm, we’re doing the best we can.

    We who? If women were no longer treated like toilets, there goes the space-time continuum itself? Patriarchy’s just a crap system, not nature itself for fucksake. Could strain yer brainpan but, imagine. There’s a song by the same name that might help you out a tad. Same guy who wrote (or, more accurately, took credit for writing) “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World.” Also, look up the word “egalitarianism” in the dictionary.

    The arguments for same-sex marriage include being able to take advantage of the benefits such as health care insurance, tax breaks, inheritance, parental rights, etc. Ask yourself why these benefits aren’t available to one and all? Tell me what the hell church and state is doing interjecting themselves in people’s relationships?

    “For Mar Iguana, is it even possible for marriage to equal partnership?” Acer

    Nope. Too much bad baggage. Not when a marriage license is little more than the boys’ pink slip on the guaranteed sex they just bought. And, boy howdy, how ’bout them extras. People won’t think a he’s a homosexual. He’ll make more money and rise further and faster in the workplace because he has a family to support by gaud. He’ll only have to occasionally baby-sit his little tax deductions. Or not. He can feel all magnanimous if he helps out with the woman’s work. Kick those tires.

    From Webster’s Collegiate:

    husband, Etymology: Middle English husbonde, from Old English husbonda master of a house, from Old Norse husbOndi, from hus house bOndi householder; akin to Old Norse bua to inhabit; akin to Old English buan to dwell — more at BOWER
    1 : a male partner in a marriage
    2 British : MANAGER, STEWARD
    3 : a frugal manager

    wife, Etymology: Middle English wif, from Old English wIf; akin to Old High German wIb wife and probably to Tocharian B kwIpe female pudenda
    1 a dialect : WOMAN b : a woman acting in a specified capacity — used in combination
    2 : a female partner in a marriage

    I now pronounce you steward and pudenda.

  34. Also from Webster’s Collegiate:

    Etymology: New Latin, singular of Latin pudenda, from neuter plural of pudendus, gerundive of pudEre to be ashamed
    : the external genital organs of a human being and especially of a woman — usually used in plural

    In other words, woman = walking, talking shame.

  35. “Patriarchy’s just a crap system, not nature itself for fucksake.”

    At this point in time, patriarchy is part of our nature. Can that change? Yeah. Should it change? Yeah. Nature changes.

    Whether parts of patriarchy are born into our bodies or forced into our minds via culture, it is part of nature. Everything is.


    The paradox of human life is that we aspire to live a life that we imagine while trapped in bodies and minds that were born with the baggage of past generations.

    “guy who wrote (or, more accurately, took credit for writing) “Woman Is The Nigger Of The World.””

    Same guy had problems with relationships just like everyone else.

    “Also, look up the word “egalitarianism” in the dictionary.”

    Thanks for the condescension.

  36. De nada, finnsmotel. Patriarchy is not part of my nature. It is anti-nature. Fact is, it hates and fears nature. That’s why it resists change with all it’s got.

    Now paradox, patriarchy love it to death. So, was that the royal “we,” finnsmotel? We love our body and our mind. We don’t feel trapped there at all. Our mind nor body was naturally born with the baggage of past generations. It was un-naturally imposed.

    You boys have played fast and lose with the word “natural” for centuries now when it comes to defining what women are and/or should be.

  37. “Our mind nor body was naturally born with the baggage of past generations.”

    Sure, it was. Our bodies are the result of evolution. As a result, we have traits that came from past generations. Whether we need them for survival is irrelevant to their existence.

    I’m not playing fast and loose with “natural”. I simply don’t believe anything exists that isn’t natural. Even plastic.

  38. Patriarchy is none of these things:


    It would take very few generations for women to be husbanded into physical and mental frailty. Pitch an inquisition every now and then and viola’, “evolution” is speeded up. Ever since you boys lost your legal right to breed women like brood mares, choosing only those smaller and weaker than males, you’ve been going nuts trying to mindfuck them into weakness instead.

    So, plastic is natural now. That’s some of that there post-modern stuff, ain’t it? Where words mean anything the speaker wants them to mean, cock Webster.

    It’s the nature v. nurture argument. Natural selection evolved the natural human body. Patriarchy bred traits that are about to end our existence. Such as males who have too little brains riding around in too big a body. Continued human existence is irrelevant to the patriarchy if it means the end of male dominance. It’s bottom line is men not survival.

  39. Mar Iguana: Cultural dominance is one thing, but I am skeptical about the scenario you describe for biological evolution. 22 of 23 chromosomes are shared by females and males, and males get one of two X chromosomes from their mothers.

    Of course, there is the all-powerful, patriarchal Y-chromosome, which is surely the source of all that dominance. But biologically, it seems that the Y chromosome is pretty tiny, compared to all the others. Obviously, it has non-trivial impact on how a person comes out.

    But I seriously doubt that it would be possible to breed physical and mental frailty into females but not the males of the human species. There would simply be too much “leakage” of any trait you wanted to segregate over to the other sex.

    (Caveats: I am not a biologist. There certainly are other species with huge biological asymmetries between sexes, so I apply this only to humans. And, once we get sufficiently clever with genetic manipulation, we might be able to figure out how to do it. Sigh.)

  40. Thanks, MarIguana and TheBewilderness.

  41. Acer: another opinion.

    If marriage is such an exploitative catastrophe, how come there are so many same-gender couples who want nothing more than to have the right to be legally married?

    Furthermore, is there anything wrong with a couple in a relationship wanting to make a life-long commitment to each other, promising (however unrealistically) to stay together even through times that are tough and unpleasant, in the hope and belief that staying together over the long run achieves deeper intimacy than would otherwise be possible?

    Good Lord, people do as much when they get a tattoo!

    Regardless of the historical or etymological baggage of the word “marriage”, surely it is not reasonable to argue that it is somehow wrong for two reasonable human beings (with or without similar or different genders, whatever those might be) to voluntarily make and keep such a commitment to each other.

  42. Marriage should be a comittment between two people, a promise to stay together as long as it works that should be neither economically or socially sanctioned. This means no bloody church or tax deductins or anything else. As soon as anything else except the two peoples relationship enters into it there are levers and forces that make it uneaqual. There is nothing wrong with people making a life-long commitment, just with the economic and social sanctions.

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