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Do African Traditions Promulgate Forced Marriages?

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The role of tribes and families is important in African traditions of marriage. Most of the marriages are arranged by the families of the marrying partners. The women are considered valuable so much so that the husbands are traditionally bound to give some gift to the family of the bride.

The noble and well to do families consider it honorable to have arranged marriages of their children. The marriage bond is so strong in African traditions of marriage that even the children out of the wedlock are considered more akin to the families than the marriage partners. The tradition has cemented the communities to have good partners for their children.

Paradoxically, the poor families permit their children to select their life partners. Even the marriage partners try their best to select their spouses on their likings and disliking. They don’t allow their families to involve unnecessarily in the process of marriage.

Why this paradox…?

In my opinion, the children from the rich and noble families have to depend upon their parents for a long time until they establish their own recognition. However, children from the poor families have to struggle from the very young age. They rarely have to depend upon their families for a long time. They have to strive for their survival which makes them free from the problem of recognition in their own community groups.

The African traditions of marriage are a collection of diversified customs and events. The influence of Islam, Christianity and Western society is evident. But the African people still try to adhere to their traditions wholeheartedly. They consider it a prestige to pay homage to their centuries old culture. The Western critics see these traditions through their own cultures. They allege that most of the marriages in African society are forced one. They also criticize the maintenance of virginity before marriage. They don’t recognize that in most of the situations the marrying partners prefer to depend upon their families to make a right decision of life. There is no guarantee that their families shall always make a right decision but it is truer in the case of independent marriages.

They see offering of the gift to the family of bride as payment of price of the woman. They describe the situation as people are bidding for a wife and the highest bidder is awarded the trophy. They think that such kind of marriages are not only uncivilized but also cause infliction of torture on the poor women.

You may like to agree that arranged marriages are still a fashion in the big part of the world. Even in Asia the arranged marriages are highly esteemed. Even those who develop an affair get involve their families to the extent that their marriages seem arranged.

In African traditions of marriage, many ancient customs have been fashioned to different influences like Islam, Christianity and Western society. Many of the Muslim sects don’t allow forced marriages. All out jurisprudence of Islam proves that no valid marriage can take place without independent consent of the marriage partners.

In African tradition of family, the women are supposed to support their families and bring honor to their name. Arranged marriages are considered a fashion of honor. Similarly, the sexual relations before marriage are strongly rejected by the society. Most of the noble families consider that the women should follow a specific order in sexual relations and birth of a child.

There are claims on internet that African girls have started to act otherwise under the western influences. The visitors from Africa should contribute on this point. As far as I know from my Asian background, the protection of virginity is considered a part of the moral character. The Muslim background does not permit any kind of extra-marital relationships. It is not only considered a sin but also an offense in the Muslim jurisprudence.

The offence may be punished in Islam severely. Quran allows such fornicators to marry each other if they like.

African traditions of Lamu tribe require the girls to remain virgin before wedlock. They want their women not only to be helpful, loyal but also honorable to their families.

About the Author

Saqib Ali offers deep insights on Muslim marriages in the light of Quran, Hadith and opinions of the Muslim Jurists. Read critical opinions into the concepts of marriage, divorce and family life in Islam at http://www.muslim-marriage-guide.com

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I perceive forced marriages to be not only an act of tyranny but also an unfortunate development in society. Forced marriages are erroneous in that they ...