Unwanted Arranged Marriages in Cambodia
                                                      Saokagna Ros

    Arranged marriages have been a cultural tradition in Cambodia for many centuries. The essential reasons why arranged marriages still survive are religion and tradition. Most Cambodians are Buddhist. In Buddhism, parents have an obligation to seek spouses for their children. Traditionally, in Cambodian culture parents are expected to arrange marriages for their children in order to retain the familyís pride and honor. To be grateful, children cannot reject their parentsí arrangement even when they are not happy about it. In my opinion, children should refuse the arrangement of a marriage with which they are not happy for two reasons: unwanted arranged marriages usually end very badly, and they offend human rights.

   An unhealthy relationship will occur when a couple is obligated to enter into an arranged marriage that displeases one or both partners. When children are forced to marry somebody in whom they have no interest, a divorce is likely to happen. I strongly believe that a marriage should be arranged by two people who fall in love with each other. In addition, it is not a good way to express childrenís gratitude to parents by pressuring themselves into unwanted marriages. My oldest sisterís marriage is a clear example. My parents arranged for her to marry a person whom she had never met. Even though she seemed to be happy about the wedding, it was obvious she was forcing herself to be a bride who was going to marry a groom for whom she had no feelings.  Since she believed that rejecting her parentsí arrangement would be a sign of ingratitude and that marriage was a good way for her to return her gratitude to my parents and maintain their honor, she decided to marry the guy my traditional parents had chosen for her. That really made me sick, and I tried to explain to her that a marriage should be a wonderful thing that is about two people spending the rest of their lives together because of love, not gratitude. However, my words did not get through to her. Consequently, their relationship became unhealthy, and my sister's feelings were hurt. They got divorced after they realized that they didnít love each other from the bottom of their hearts no matter how much they tried. This is the reason why I am strongly against unwanted arranged marriages.

    Besides the negative consequences of marriages ending in divorce, nowadays some parents are going further than the traditional practice. Children are being forced into arranged marriages to gain prosperity for the parents. These unwanted marriages are similar to forced marriages, which the United Nations considers as a form of human rights abuse. Since parents push children to do what they donít want to do, this violates the principle of freedom. It is not fair that children are treated as property instead of people who need to be cherished and loved. For example, I had a friend who was a victim of a forced marriage. One day after school, her parents showed her a photo of a wealthy man whom she had never met, and they told her that he was the man she would marry in three weeks. Even though she refused, her parents still continued to plan the wedding. Then she tried to escape before the marriage, but unfortunately she was caught and locked in the bedroom by her parents. She was so frightened. Eventually, she went through with the wedding, yet three days after her marriage, she fled again and was successful. She was smart in that she ran to the United Nations in Cambodia. She is now living in a shelter where her parents cannot hurt her. Again, I strongly believe everyone has a right to choose, and undesired arranged marriages are against human rights.

    To conclude, most Cambodian families still maintain the practice of arranged marriages, but some people are going too far. Furthermore, Cambodian people believe children have an obligation to be grateful and never disregard the parentsí arrangement. In contrast, I think there is no reason that children should not be able to pick their life partners. Everyone has the capability to pick the one they want to be with, and it shouldnít be someone elseís choice. Forcing children into arranged marriages is one of the main causes of divorce and absolutely offends human rights.