I DO Between the East and the West
Marriages between the West and East are very different, especially when we look back in earlier decades, where restrictions in the Eastern world were very common, and women were supposed to be submissive and remain at home. In the West, restrictions are very rare, and marriage happens to be a mutual agreement between the two partners as opposed to the Eastern way where families are involved in deciding a bride or groom to be. Some of these reasons can also be attributed to differences in awareness between the two sides. However, subordination of women in the Eastern world is the major cause of the difference, but currently it is facing critics (Altorki, 1977).
In the two coasts, marriages are different, especially between the Arab world and the western. The Arab world holds its restrictions of social life, as dictated by religion, and the women are subjected to covering their body, unlike Western countries where women wear what they like. This one factor contributes to the difference of age limit in marriages. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, women must cover their body completely in veils, and can only expose their faces. Furthermore, women have the school that they attend, separate from boys, and are quite few. One can find that due to this reason, many people are forced to marry at an early age, since that is the only way to have a relationship with a woman. In the west however, children mix freely, learn together, and learn to live with each other making the interaction free for both sexes. According to Nahas (1954), “in countries where the veil is still prevalent and mixing of the two sexes is forbidden, these premarital sexual practices are scarce, but instead we find homosexuality among men and women to a certain extent. However, in these countries marriages are performed at an earlier age.”
In the restricted countries, a woman is viewed as a tool of desire that every man wants, and when the feelings are too strong, in most Arab countries, they result to marriage. In the Western culture, two people could have a sexual relationship without marriage, which would prevent them from marrying at an early age. The religion of the Arabs advocates for marriage, hence encouraging early marriage to prevent promiscuity. However, in the major cities and towns where education is available, sex before marriage may be common due to those who want to finish their studies before marriage. The desire of having a family, the need to protect virginity of the girl, which is highly valued, and arranged marriages contribute to the early marriages.
Another difference is the freedom of women in the Western side as opposed to the restriction of a woman in the Eastern countries. In Muslim communities, the body of a woman is held secret and women have to wear veils. Muslim women are not allowed to live alone, and need the permission of a head or the husband to go out. According to Caesar (1984), “educated girl sits around her father’s house waiting for marriage offers…” in western world, girls can live on their own, and get into a relationship with a man without restriction. Women are free to live the lives the way they feel good for them, and this is a right, while in the Eastern world a woman has to request for her rights (Caesar, 1984). In the Western world, women are free to pursue and get what they want just as men, while in the East, a woman has to ask for them from the man, and cannot pursue her dreams, such as marrying the man they love, since most are not allowed to choose their husbands, rather, he is chosen for them.
Education in the two sides is different, with both men and women in the West being highly educated, while the Eastern side emphasizes more on the boy child education, and more so, due to low economic status, many do not access education, and lacking anything to keep them busy leads to marriage that is arranged by parents. In the Western countries, education serves to enlighten the youth about marriage, which is supposed to be out of love. A courtship may take long, one learns about the other, and going out together is allowed, while in the Eastern side, the arranged marriage will have very little time for courtship, where the couple meet before the wedding is arranged, and it could be a stranger. Marriage is discussed by families, which decide the fate of their children without their consent sometimes.
In the Western marriages, the couple decides to marry, and the families learn later after the proposing is made, unlike Eastern marriage where a man has to use the family to propose. According to Caesar (1984), “the friendships between women are so important because the relationships with men are so difficult: marriages are often loveless, a painful enough circumstance in any society, but particularly so in the Arab world where the fervid belief in romantic love is so prevalent among educated women.” With arranged marriages where a person marries a stranger, love may not exist especially if he does not treat you well, which is common since the lives of women are controlled by their husbands unlike Western ways where both partners are equally recognized by the law and society.
When it comes to family planning, most of the Eastern cultures and religions, especially Muslims are opposed to it and prefer having many children. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, most women do not know that there are drugs for this purpose, and end up having many children, who they may not be in a position to raise comfortably (Caesar, 1984). On the other hand, in Western cultures, family planning is advocated for, and couples agree on the best method to use, and the number of children to have. This ensures that families can have a family size that is economically manageable. More so, the Eastern cultures value big families, and having big families may be viewed as a sign of wealth. Lack of planning leads to the big families that might be hard to maintain further alleviating poverty among the members of these families. This trend is slowly taking place in the Eastern countries, with more and more increased awareness being spread about the importance of family planning, with current economic status being emphasized as the major reason.
In the Western cultures, people are open-minded, and marrying is not restricted based on religion or ethnicity, where both sexes are free to marry from any religion or culture that they want. “The Muslim can marry any woman irrespective of her religion, but the Moslem woman cannot marry anyone but a Moslem,” (Nahas, 1954). However, the man is also restricted from marrying a girl who has diverted from her religion to another one, except Islam. This dictates that women are not allowed the same freedom men are in this community, and they cannot decide their fate, or even travel and get married despite being in other countries. In the West, due to their openness, intermarriages between races is higher, and half cast generations are more while in the Eastern world this may not be as common since women are not allowed to intermarry.
In many of the Eastern communities, polygamy is allowed, and men marry several wives, but a restriction in the Muslims’ limits the number to not more than four wives, and the first wife cannot do anything against it, since it is according to religion. Though this is changing today, several communities still hold to polygamy. In the Muslim world, divorce is easy, and a man can just decide to divorce his wife and marry another one without having to go through legal proceedings to determine the fate of children or wealth, unlike in the West, where divorce is settled in courts. For Muslims, a woman is not required to share her wealth with the husband, and during divorce, she can only take her money and leave the children with their father, which explains why divorce is easy for a Muslim man, but hard for a woman since she has to go to divine courts to justify herself.
Conclusively, it is evident that the differences between the marriages in East and West are caused by the discrimination of women, who are relinquished all their rights and are left under the control of their men, who regard them as submissive and expect them not to raise any words against them. Majority of the differences are revolving around the restriction put across by religion and culture that does not allow the women in the Eastern world to be free to rule their fate. However, this culture seems to be ending since women are fighting day in day out for equality between both sexes because they are more enlightened and educated today than before (Altorki, 1977).
Altorki, S. (1977). Family Organization and Women’s Power in Urban Saudi Arabian Society. Journal of Anthropological Research, 33(3), 277-287.
Caesar, J. (1984). Saudi women. The Massachusetts Review, 25(4), 619-635.
Nahas, K. M. (1954). The Family in the Arab World. Marriage and Family Living, 16(4), 293-300.