Is arranged marriage a legal form of prostitution?

Before you read -

- This is a grim take on the concept of marriage that is result of the society I have seen. This is solely my opinion. I understand if you may not relate to it.

- It challenges & criticizes arranged marriage and the notions & transactions that appear in it.

- I’ll restrict my discussion to just two elements in the whole concept of marriage – money and independence. Anything more than that, a 50,000 word dissertation is not sufficient.


No matter how many progressive laws enter into this world, one cannot, ignore or forget or abandon the practice of dowry. It is a controversial statement because one should and by all means prohibit the practice of dowry with all his / her will power but that’s not going to happen in the ground reality. There’s a very good reason for that.

Most of us, including myself, have seen dowry considered as a necessity, almost a pre-requisite for the marriage at some point in our lives. Some say the concept of dowry started with the idea that there will be some kind of monetary security available to the women along with some kind of respect if & when she brings in the money. Nowadays, the money is not used for the ‘security of the women’ any more. It’s more or a mandatory requirement that is deeply tied to the respect aspect. Obviously, the money is used by the bridegroom or his family for their purposes. And if the family are open minded (not liberal, I tell you) they take the dowry first and provide the money for the happy couple. If they are liberal, they won’t ask / take the dowry at all in the first place.

Regardless of the argument’s absurdity that links respect and money; the inherent audacity to blatantly ignore the concept of equality in a relationship; & the dutiful obedience to the norms of patriarchy, dowry is a prevalent thing in most of the society and one cannot deny it. And before you may make a wrong assumption as to the existence of dowry in only lower income society, I must say, it is present irrespective of the status of the families of the bride and the bridegroom.

The only difference is, perhaps, the amount of money given to the bridegroom’s family / to bridegroom himself and the purpose the bridegroom / bridegroom’s family uses the money for.

A couple of real life situations that I have seen in my life and you may have seen in your life as well, can provide a picture as to what I am trying to say.

- A certain someone who is working as a watchman gives 2 lakh rupees for his son-in-law as dowry and spends the next 8 lakh rupees to do the marriage (obviously, the women’s family has to bear everything, right?). The son-in-law purchases a vehicle with the money. And the girl can live happily ever after.

- A certain someone who is in real-estate business and who wants to grow their family’s status makes sure his daughter is married to a wealthy politician in the village. The wealthy politician agrees for the marriage provided that the family bears the cost of the groom’s education (post-graduate studies) in USA along with providing specific share in the bride’s family property. They provide the money that could be used for the bride’s education to the bridegroom. They both get married and the girl can live happily ever after.

I ask you this simple question here – Is it (marriage) not a legal form of prostitution? A women purchasing a man for a certain some of money. In return to the money she provides, she abandons her own family to stay with a complete stranger, if they did not love / know each other before.

Being a man myself, I know that it is not just the women who sacrifices the family but the man as well, In terms of leaving his family and continue his life with a complete stranger, if he did not know her / love her already. It is totally true. But there are two things here. Firstly, the man is not the one who is paying the money. Granted he might use the money provided to him / his family for the both of them. But one cannot ignore that it is the hard-owned rightful money of the women’s family and the women is the one who needs to have complete control over it. One cannot keep a condition that, in order to marry the man, pay the man’s family a certain amount and the man and the man’s family will use the money for the new couple – it’s hypocrisy at its highest level.

Secondly, with all due respect, do not state the argument that they get to know each other after they are engaged and before they are married. After one is destined to marry that person and after one promises to marry that person in front of a massive gathering of people, good or bad, one has to like that person. Imagine the social stigma associated with breaking up the marriage after engaged. So when one says that the bride & bride groom will get to know each other after they are engaged and before they are married, it’s like when one is stuck in a situation where they just can’t get out because, if they do, the repercussions by the family and on the family are way too much. And due to that, they have to continue ahead in the situation. There’s no choice, but to know the person.

Not to mention, how much can one person really know the other in a short period of time? Even people who know each other for numerous years are stunned by the other person. Knowing a person in a matter of few months, that’s something amazing, I must say.

Let’s get to the another major factor behind this entire charade. Independence. Along with the second real life example that I have provided i.e. where dowry is taken for the sake of education of the bridegroom and not the bride, another real life instance is also basis for the entire argument here.

- A certain someone who is pressurized into marriage to a guy living in the States, because she reached ‘a certain age’ to marry. Even though, she did not yet start her own career and she has her own plans in achieving what she wanted to achieve. She has to marry because, well, apparently it’s time for her to marry and she can achieve all she wanted to achieve after marrying to a guy who is way elder to her.


Again, I ask a very simple question - Is that person not being forced into co-dependency? Obviously marriage / for that sake any relationship can only prosper if there is co-dependency. But it should not be forced upon the person, right? It should arrive naturally. One should not be ‘forced’ to depend on a person. What’s more concerning is, one should not be forced to link ones dreams or ones career with a stranger, because one is 'supposed to get married' at a certain age.

I do know that compromise is something that is required in any relationship. After all, it is difficult to maintain a relationship when there are two alphas. But compromising a career / a dream in order to get married just because one ‘has’ to get married? That is a huge ask for anyone.

I also know that there is a possibility that the marriage might turn out to be an extraordinary move, but for some reason relying on a chance that the marriage might work out well in order to advance the career the way one wants to advance is something that consists of a significant risk of postponing / compromising the start of the career at least for a few months if not years. A move which need not have to happen in the first place!

A society that reminisces their independent phase and constantly thinks about what could have been – is that not the society we achieve when we force people to link their careers with others?

So in a nutshell, I ask you this final question – if one is to give up the money or commit to a different career path / give up on their dreams in order to get married, just to ‘be married’, is it marriage or is it prostitution?

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