Course:ANTH213/2024/topic/Marriage 2

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Marriage is the union of individuals culturally and often legally. Marriage traditionally establishes rights and responsibilities between individuals, their children, and extended family members. Across diverse cultures, marriage manifests in various forms, each imbued with unique beliefs and customs. Throughout history, heterosexual marriage has been normalized as it is deeply ingrained in many societies — shaping the perception of relationships and defining societal structures. Marriage has undergone profound transformations throughout history, reflecting the evolving values, norms, and legal frameworks of societies.

In recent history, governmental control over marriage has taken on new dimensions, with evolving methods aimed at regulating and defining marital unions. Norms promoting heterosexuality have long dominated societal attitudes, shaping perceptions of relationships and institutional structures. However, the landscape of marriage is continually evolving, with significant shifts challenging traditional paradigms. The legal landscape, especially in Canada, has witnessed seismic changes, particularly with the legalization of same-sex marriage. This symbolizes a victory for equality but also highlights the dynamic interplay between societal attitudes and legal frameworks. Yet, entrenched stereotypes and historical norms have posed obstacles to inclusivity within the institution of marriage, reflecting broader societal challenges. Moreover, gender roles within marriages have come under scrutiny, with power dynamics and challenges to traditional roles emerging as focal points of discussion. The emergence of hook-up culture and the normalization of premarital relationships have further complicated the dynamics of modern relationships, reshaping societal perceptions of love and commitment.

This page will explore the multifaceted nature of marriage, examining its historical underpinnings, the evolution of legal frameworks, gender dynamics, and its manifestations across diverse cultures. Additionally, it highlights issues such as concubinage and the intersectionality of societal norms with individual rights within the institution of marriage.

The Historical Promotion of Heterosexual Marriage

A Wedding from 1903 from Jozef Israëls.

Marriage has been a longstanding institution in human societies. The alleged first marriage dates back over two thousand years. From its basic definition, marriage is the state of being united as spouses in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law[1]. It represents the union of two individuals to create a bond intended to last a lifetime and transcend mere friendship. Throughout history, marriage has served various purposes of promotion to benefit different groups of individuals, groups, governments and societies. These benefits have ranged from religious rituals and practices to considerations of biological health to various financial gains. Within the last couple of centuries there has been a new form of promotion and there has been a shift in focus to strictly heterosexual marriages. The historical uses for procreation have slipped into an understanding of sexuality, and the societal norm of procreation between a biological man and a biological female has created the idea of marriage to be inherently heterosexual [2]. As society has evolved beyond historical thoughts and ideas, there are still groups, governments and individuals across the world that still understand marriage to be strictly heterosexual and should continue that way[3].

From marriage's earliest forms, it has been heterosexual marriages that have been the predominant model in societies across the world. With the ancient world having many threats and potential disasters occurring, promoting families was of the utmost importance to keep a stable population. This leads to heterosexual marriage spreading throughout cultures and becoming embedded in cultural, religious and legal frameworks for families to take shape and raise the next generation of earth's inhabitants. Being an essential union for humanity, heterosexual marriage pushed through from the ancient days to reach modern technology and political thought. Its form of a union as the purpose of procreation has shifted to a union for love and companionship[4]. Over a millennium attitudes towards marriage have moved towards new ideas of what this union of two individuals can become. As modern ideas have evolved, the question of who this union can be between has been asked in the recent centuries. It now leads to any two individuals who so desire each other for love and companionship. While marriage has become a diverse landscape, the historical remnants of marriages use linger in today's society with hopes of hindering any other forms of marriage beyond heterosexuality.

Marriage has been used as a form of control many times throughout history. As societies shift sometimes governments attempt this control by promoting or hindering aspects that it deems not to be in its best interest. In that case, policy changes for marriage have been made throughout history to promote or hinder its idealistic unions through shifts against certain individuals based on race, religion, sex and gender. Canada’s government in the early 20th century used race as a reason to promote further their ideal use of marriages between two white individuals to create a white European society[5]. Australia’s government in the recent 21st century used religion to hinder marriages between two individuals to allegedly help protect innocent women from being forced into marriage[6]. The United States, for both the 20th and 21st centuries, has used different policies to promote heterosexual marriage and hinder any LGBTQ+ marriage [7]. The promotion of heterosexuality is being created through policy to shift discussion surrounding marriage back to that of the traditional family context as they seek to reduce the divorce rate and single-parent rates. While essential problems to address in the United States, some researchers claim that the United States hide behind this vale of 'good' and secretly promote heterosexual marriage[7]. The promotion of heterosexual marriages has been deeply ingrained in societal structures, influenced by cultural perceptions of sex and sexuality. While reproductive sex has long been recognized as a fundamental aspect of human biology, the concept of sexuality as a cultural construct has emerged more recently. This societal construct has led to the privileging of heterosexual unions, often justified by the perceived necessity of procreation within such relationships. In the latter half of the 20th century and the early 21st century, policies aimed at promoting heterosexual marriages emerged, often under the guise things like addressing divorce rates and single parenthood. These initiatives, while ostensibly seeking to strengthen family units, primarily focused on reinforcing the traditional model of heterosexual marriage. Governments, across the world, implemented laws and policies that prioritized heterosexual unions, reflecting historical societal 'norms' and 'values'.

Obstruction of marriage from the LGBTQ+ community has been around since marriage's inception. Even with the monumental steps that have occurred, even those in so-called gay capitals of the world like Vancouver, some communities of migrants feel the need to celebrate pride month in private, away from the public view[8]. As we now live in a much more diverse and accepting society (all things considered), marriage laws have loosened to include gay marriage. Thirty-six countries have now legalized same-sex marriage with the hopes of it spreading around the world. The recognition and acceptance of LGBTQ+ marriages have faced significant obstacles throughout history. While societal attitudes have evolved towards greater inclusivity and acceptance, barriers to legal recognition of same-sex marriages persisted for centuries. With new modern ideas of marriage equality across the world there is hope for the future.

However, the path to legal recognition of same-sex marriages has been met with continuing challenges, in legal battles and societal resistance for change. Arguments against same-sex marriage are rooted in traditional beliefs and misconceptions. Leading to them being prominent in historical debates. Notions of marriage as inherently heterosexual, have been 'justified' by procreation and outdated understandings of sexuality, have been central to these arguments. The historical promotion of heterosexual marriage and the obstruction of LGBTQ+ marriages reflect the complex inter workings across all forms of culture, religion, and legality. While progress has been made towards greater inclusivity and acceptance, societal attitudes towards marriage continue to evolve, shaping the institution in diverse ways.

The Evolution and Influences on the Canadian Legal System Regarding Individual Marriage Rights

Perceptions of marriage tend to vary drastically depending on various factors including culture, sexuality, gender, etc. In the context of the Canadian legal system, marriage is associated with multiple implications stemming from legal rules and regulations; essentially forming a boundary between societal views on marriage versus what is entrenched in Canadian legislation. The present Canadian legal system differs from what it was in previous years, and there tends to be significance in reviewing the external factors (e.g. sexuality, influence of culture, and individual rights) that have created the current legal system surrounding marriage in modern Canada.

Marriage within Canada as stated under Chapter 33 of the Statutes of Canada, that through the Civil Marriage Act established in 2005, “Marriage, for civil purposes, is the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others” [9]. Despite this statute existing for almost two decades, the battle between Canadian civilians and the institutions defining our legislation was ongoing since the formation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms within 1982 [10]. When the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was introduced to our constitution, the freedom of expression as well as the right to equality were expressed so that all Canadian citizens were ensured liberty [11].

With the given fundamental rights to Canadians, marginalized groups within Canada were given newfound rights that would allow them to further evaluate whether the current laws were in accordance with the constitution. Citizens brought cases to their local courts as they felt their rights provided via the constitution were violated through the legislation in regards to same-sex marriage. A case in which the Section 15 of the Charter (the right to equality) was challenged would be Halpern et al. v. Attorney General of Canada et al. [12].

The events leading to the Halpern v Canada case date back to summer of 2000 within Toronto; various same-sex couples were attempting to file for marriage licenses and weren’t being granted them [12]. In response, a case was created in which the Toronto city clerk was in need of assistance from a higher-ranking court to provide consolidation for the applicant couples; this led to the Divisional Court in November of 2001 reviewing the cases of the same-sex couples and recognizing that their rights were being infringed upon by the given definition of marriage at the time being between “one man and one woman” [12]. To further provide compensation, this case was taken to the Court of Appeal which allowed for the case to result in a change of marital definition from the union between those of the opposite sex to “the voluntary union for life of two persons to the exclusion of all others” within 2003 [12].

The last two decades are relevant to how our system has become what it is today, but the different movements challenging societal norms have shaped Canadian politics and how Canada as a liberal democracy is obligated to include different minorities who have been targeted by Canada’s controversial history.

Homosexual relationships were not the only ones receiving deeply-rooted discrimination in Canada, but inter-racial relationships were dismissed by society as a whole for centuries prior to recent decades [13]. Following Canadian history to the 19th century, John A. MacDonald- widely recognized as Canada’s first prime minister, set the precedent of normalized racism by creating the expectation that Canada would be a caucasian-concentrated confederation [13]. As different racial communities began to migrate to Canada within the 1800’s, they were targeted despite the economic prosperity their presence had brought due to their race (Chinese immigrants were mostly antagonized); immigrants were negatively viewed by caucasian settlers and exclusionary practices regarding marriage were put in place to prevent future inter-racial populations [13]. In order to initiate exclusion, immigrant women were banned from migrating to Canada to prevent long-term residency of Asian minorities; to further emphasize the boundary of white purity from a diverse society, Asian women were later unrestricted in hopes of preventing the inter-racial relationships between immigrant men and caucasian settler women [13]. As these exclusion processes slowly disintegrated over extended periods of time, the stereotypes they introduced only advanced throughout the following decades to come as societal values within the West were emphasized.

10 Year Old Actress Depicting a Child Bride in Rome

Racial discrimination in the context of marriage within Canada may have been prominent throughout Canadian history, but recent decades capitalize on religious stereotypes to create false perceptions on different marriages that are normalized in different cultures and religions. Forced marriage is a concept that in many cases is projected as a cultural issue- usually antagonizing cultures rooting from the Middle East alongside many practicing Muslims [6]. False perceptions on different marriage practices causes entanglements between culture, sexuality, gender and religion- as all factors play a role in marriage and the norms regarding it. Laws within countries outside of Canada with intent of governing marriage (e.g. Australia’s Crime Legislation Amendment Act 2013) ties back to Canadian colonialism (as previously mentioned) as inter-racial relationships were monitored and prevented, insinuating the idea that modern laws in place to prevent forced marriage may also resemble a colonialist savior-complex [6]. As also expressed within the book The Colonial Harem, the French colonizers attempting to suppress and assimilate Algerians from their culture created a narrative in which veiled Algerian women were in need of saving, a similar narrative seen in modern day Western culture [14].

Though Canada in particular may not promote false stereotypes to the extent of other Western countries (e.g. the idea that American military invasions on the Middle East saves restricted Muslim women), Canada does have laws regarding age of consent and marriage. These laws stem from what is considered culturally appropriate in Western culture (furthering from younger marriages and conforming to what is considered appropriate in other Western countries). These laws state that the youngest age to be obliged to a marriage is 16, and in order to prevent forced marriage both individuals involved need to consent and are not able to legally marry other individuals, essentially enforcing monogamy [15].

By creating a legal obligation to steer far from polygamous relationships to avoid criminal punishment, the Western norm of monogamy tends to be controversial as Dr. Kim TallBear provides a perception that evaluates monogamy to be imposed by colonialism; Dr. Kim TallBear proposes that monogamy stems from a beneficial partnership, enforcing colonialist ideas of land and property, as polygamous relationships can be meaningful- promoting multiple connections without diminishing the connection you would gain from a monogamous relationship [16].

Gender Roles in Marriage

Traditionally, marriage has been entrenched in rigid gender roles, delineating distinct behaviours and responsibilities for men and women. Rooted in historical contexts, these roles often reinforced a patriarchal structure, where men assumed the role of the provider and protector, while women were relegated to domestic duties and childcare. This division of labour, perpetuated by social norms and institutionalized through legal and cultural frameworks, reinforced a hierarchical structure within marriage. Historically, the marital contract enforced a sexual division of labour. Upon marriage, women often relinquished their property rights and legal autonomy, subsuming their identities within the family unit[17]. This highlights the systemic inequality embedded within traditional gender roles, where women’s agency and autonomy are often marginalized. Furthermore, the intended purpose of marriage has historically been for procreation reinforcing traditional gender norms that prioritized women’s roles as caretakers and child bearers[17]. Women’s worth was often measured by their ability to fulfill societal expectations of motherhood, overshadowing other aspects of their personhood and identity.

Central to gender roles in marriage are power dynamics, intricately woven into the structure of marital relationships. Marriage serves as a crucible for the convergence of various forms of power, encompassing economic, social, and cultural dimensions. Power in marriage is often wielded by the spouse bringing the most resources to the household, highlighting the economic foundation of power dynamics in marital relationships[18]. Power dynamics in marriage additionally extend beyond the confines of the domestic sphere, intersecting with broader structures of authority and control. Whether negotiated within the realms of concubinage, domestic service, or church-sanctioned unions, power dynamics in marriage reverberate across the socio-political landscape, shaping individual destinies and societal structures[19]. Historically, marriage has been used as a mechanism to reinforce power dynamics within society. By regulating marriage, states ensured the circulation of property, inheritance rights, and wealth within settler society[6]. This highlights the enduring significance of marital institutions as conduits for the distribution and consolidation of power throughout history.

Historically, societal expectations dictated that women should embrace modesty and restraint in matters of sexuality, while men were encouraged to assert dominance and sexual prowess. However, in the contemporary landscape, traditional gender roles within marriage are being challenged as societal norms evolve and cultural paradigms shift. Traditional gender roles and structures within marriage are undergoing a notable shift, catalysed by the normalisation of hook-up culture and premarital sex[20]. Recent research highlights the prevalence of hook-ups among contemporary college students, indicating a shift away from traditional dating and mating patterns. While many young individuals still prioritise primary sexual relations within romantic relationships, a significant portion engage in hook-ups during high school or college, before transitioning to more conventional dating routines later on [20]. Despite participating in casual hook-ups, many still value emotional connectedness in their sexual relationships. This shift is attributed to factors such as increased social acceptance of premarital sex, greater initiative in dating and sexual behaviour among women, rising rates of unmarried cohabitation, and delayed ages for marriage and childbearing[20]. The dynamics of hook-ups are deeply intertwined with notions of emphasized femininity and hegemonic masculinity. This lens elucidates how individuals navigate their sexual and social identities within the context of evolving gender norms. The normalisation of hook-ups and premarital sex contributes to a reconfiguration of societal attitudes towards intimacy and commitment. This shift is further evidenced by the delayed onset of marriage and childbearing, as well as the increasing prevalence of unmarried cohabitation[20].

The normalisation of hook-up culture and premarital sex not only influences individual behaviours and attitudes but also has profound implications for gender dynamics within marriage. As societal norms shift towards greater acceptance of sexual exploration and autonomy, traditional gender roles within marital relationships are being challenged. Women, who historically were expected to embody passivity and purity, are now asserting their agency and sexual desires. This newfound sexual autonomy can carry over into marriage, challenging the traditional expectation that women should prioritize their husband's needs and desires above their own. Conversely, men may find themselves reevaluating their roles as providers and protectors in light of changing expectations regarding emotional intimacy and communication within relationships.

Additionally, the delay in marriage and childbearing resulting from hook-up culture and changing social norms can alter the trajectory of traditional gender roles within marriage. With individuals marrying later in life and pursuing higher education and career opportunities, the division of labour within marital relationships has shifted. Studies show that while there has been a significant increase in women's financial contributions within marriages in the United States over the past half-century, gender disparities persist in the division of household labour and caregiving responsibilities, even in situations where women are the primary or sole breadwinners[21]. Women, who traditionally bore the brunt of household and childcare responsibilities, may expect greater equality in the distribution of domestic duties and childcare responsibilities as their participation in the workforce continues to rise. Therefore, men may need to adapt to a more active role in caregiving and household management, challenging traditional notions of breadwinning masculinity.

Promiscuous love additionally challenges traditional gender dynamics in marriage by interrogating the societal construction of marriage itself. The assertion that traditional marriage, typically defined as between a man and a woman, forms the foundation of civilization is critiqued as a politically motivated rhetoric. The term “traditional” is used problematically, reflecting recent historical developments and Western ideals rather than universal truths[22]. This challenges the notion that traditional marriage inherently upholds stable gender dynamics. By challenging the foundational assumptions of traditional marriage, promiscuous love prompts a re-evaluation of gender roles and power dynamics within contemporary marriages. It additionally questions societal stigmas and shame associated with non-monogamous relationships.

The societal stigma surrounding promiscuity and non-monogamous relationships reflects deeply ingrained cultural norms and values regarding sex, love, and commitment. Our society often equates ethical sex with romantic love and highly values exclusivity and permanence of monogamous relationships[16]. This perpetuates the idea that fidelity and commitment are synonymous with scarcity — that true love is rare and enduring, and any deviation from this ideal is deemed morally questionable or socially unacceptable. This scarcity mentality reinforces traditional gender roles and expectations within relationships while limiting the expression of desire and attraction. However, the alternative perspective that fidelity is not contingent upon exclusivity and permanence, but rather on honesty, communication, and mutual respect within relationships challenges traditional gender dynamics[16]. By reframing love as a transformative and evolving force, this perspective emphasizes the fluidity of sexual and romantic connections, acknowledging that change and growth are inherent aspects of human experience and that there isn’t just one “correct” structure for relationships.

Marriage in the form of Concubinage

Concubinage is a word to describe the cohabitation of European men and Asian women outside of marriage; however, it really covered a wide variety of arrangements, such as demands for labour from the non-European woman and her children’s legal rights as well as sexual access to her. The definition of concubinage varied depending on the society or era, but in general, it denoted an intimate, cohabiting relationship with differing degrees of social validity and acceptability[19]. Concubinage may have once been seen as a valid substitute for marriage in certain societies, especially those where polygamy was common or when formal marriage was forbidden by law or custom. Concubinage, however, could have been stigmatized in other situations or linked to negative social and legal outcomes for the women involved[8].

The following are factors that describe concubinage:

  1. Economic Benefits: The colonial military, bureaucracy, plantation corporations, and commercial organizations deliberately maintained low pay or European recruits. Domestic services that would have normally required payment from incoming European recruits were performed by local women. European recruits were required to financially support and provide resources for the woman and any child that may have resulted from the arrangement. However, the legal rights of these women and children differed from those in a legalized marriage[18].
  2. Societal Expectations: Concubinage was a way to protect men from considering prostitution to fulfil their sexual needs. This took care of their reproductive health. It was also a tactic to keep men away from sleeping with each other. This was due to societal and possibly religious fears of homosexuality[5][19].
  3. Control on the migration of European women: it was severely forbidden for European women to immigrate to colonies. Because of this, concubinage became the most alluring domestic choice for its employees, both monetarily and legally. While it is true that in certain instances European women may have opted not to participate in the early pioneering endeavours, this was not always the case[19].

Not only was concubinage about domesticated behaviour, but it was also about racial superiority of the whites. This idea held the symbolic power of conquering the land and its people, in this case, the women. Metissage (interracial partnerships) constituted the greatest threat to racial purity and cultural identity in all of its manifestations. Colonial anxieties around racial purity were expressed through European recruits’ sexuality[8]. The advantages of sexual freedom and local knowledge were suppressed by the more urgent needs of respectability, communal cohesion, and mental health. Children born as a part of these arrangements were considered “mediocre” just like their native mothers because of the simple fact that they were not purely white (racially)[18]. Concubine children were a classificatory issue that affected white status and political stability. Most of these children were not adopted back into their communities as authorities frequently stated, nor were they acknowledged by their fathers. Many of the European men who had officially acknowledged their children returned to Holland, Britain, or France, cutting off all assistance and links to their concubine wives and children[8].

Native women’s rights over their own children were diminished, but they still retained responsibility for them[14]. They were unable to challenge the father’s custody or stop their children from being taken away by them- although that was almost never a problem because these children were almost always abandoned by their European fathers[19]. Even though the legal system encouraged a European upbringing, it placed no obligation on European males to do so; as a result, many children were rendered wards of the state, vulnerable to the scrutiny and mandatory charity of the broader community of people who were born in Europe.

Concubinage was criticized for weakening the very elements that it was supposed to strengthen decades earlier by the early 20th century. Adaptation to local food, language and attire, once prescribed as beneficial markers of acclimatization, became causes of contagion and loss of (white) self[18]. Local women, previously seen as defenders of men’s well-being, were suddenly seen as the bearers of poor health and malevolent influences.

For instance, over the first two decades of colonization of Italian Libya, the military government had a negative stance on concubinage, denouncing it in public to placate the community’s elites while informally allowing it to provide “safe” sex for its officers. After the resistance was defeated and the fascist administration began preparations for demographic colonization, this stance changed in the early 1930s, and concubinage was outlawed since it went against the new objective of a racially divided settler colony. Furthermore, the administrators may have enforced tougher racial boundaries due to the uncertainty surrounding the racial difference between Italians and Libyans, with the latter group being “considered racially closer to their European superiors than the sub-Saharan Africans.”[8]

Historical archives state that no Italian officer has ever been prosecuted for ‘insubordination’ for disobeying the directive prohibiting concubinage. It seems improbable that the law prevented officers from entering into these kinds of relationships. It does, however, allude to a discrepancy between official discourse and the implementation of the rule on concubinage. Even with all these declarations made in favour of honouring Libyan women and Muslim customs, concubinage persisted until the 1930s at the very least[8].

The arrangement of concubinage and the ridiculous view of white supremacy also gave European men the perceived authority to control their concubine wives. These women were treated extremely poorly, were treated like slaves and were subject to non-consensual sexual intercourse[18]. For example, in Minas Gerais (a state in Brazil), strained relationships and domestic abuse were already typical aspects of a legal marriage[23]. If this is what happened in formal marriages, who’s to say that this didn’t occur in concubine arrangements?

In other cases, the primary cause of a wife’s physical mistreatment and desertion was her husband’s concubinage relationship with another woman. Some men departed, returning to concubines they were compelled to leave; this is a situation that is completely overlooked. In contrast to the previously discussed concubinage of abusive adulterous husbands, which was viewed as scandalous by all those who denounced them, we can observe an inversion of colonial socio-cultural values that penalized women for sexual incontinence while assuming that men’s casual affairs were not very significant[23].

In conclusion, concubinage as an act was widely encouraged up until a certain point in the early 20th century when the European government decided to ban it in some of their colonies. The act had its fair share of pros and cons for European recruits, but it shows the chronic unfair treatment of women of colour in those situations. It wasn’t just about fulfilling sexual desires and protecting reproductive health, but it was also a way to show and prove white supremacy and the authority of colonial settlers.

Japanese wedding.

Marriage in Different Cultures

Marriage in different cultures have unique forms and meanings coming from their different values, traditions and societal norms. This part looks at marriage in Western and Asian cultures by highlighting the different practices, attitudes, and the role of individuals.

In Western cultures, marriage is often seen as the union of two people built on romantic love, mutual consent, and personal choice. The authority of individuals in the West tends to be more when selecting a marriage partner and it is based more on their personal preference and symbolic meaning compared to Asia. Western marriages are characterized by the notion of individual mate selection in which reciprocal love between both individuals is a prerequisite for marriage to occur. The notion of reciprocal love as the foundation of marriage has played an enormous influence on the Western stereotype of conjugal relationships. Love, sympathy, and personal enjoyment are put as the most important factors of what makes a marriage happy.[24]

Heterosexual monogamous marriages are a product of Western society. It is viewed as the ideal form of marriage and is institutionalized as the normative form. The development of heterosexual marriages is rooted in historical and cultural contexts. Within this framework, monogamy is seen as a sign of loyalty and trust. Marriage should be exclusive between man and serving as a basis for legal, social and religious recognition. In contradiction, other forms of marriage and marital arrangement, such as polyamory, open relationships, or plural marriages, are stigmatized in main Western cultures or even considered an abomination . Non-monogamous relationships, particularly, are aimed at the violation of the already established social order, questioning the value of commitment and exclusiveness of the bond. However, their perception is changing. There is an increasing recognition of the validity and legitimacy of these non-monogamous relationships in contemporary Western society. Despite these shifts, heterosexual monogamous marriages continue to hold a privileged status in Western culture, shaping perceptions and expectations surrounding marital relationships.[25]

Colonization, throughout history, has often used heterosexual marriage as a political tool to strengthen power and sustain colonial ideologies. Heterosexual marriage served as a means for colonizers to establish control over indigenous populations. This was often done through forced assimilation and cultural imposition, for example concubinage which is explained in the paragraph above. Colonizers set up laws and regulations for marriages. These applied to both colonizers and colonized. By promoting the institution of marriage according to colonial norms and values, colonizers wanted to undermine indigenous customs and traditions, break down social structures, and make sure the native communities were under their colonial control.[19]

Compared to Western cultures other cultures can have different norms and values in marriage. Asian cultures often have the tradition of arranged or forced marriages, where familial considerations, social status, and economic factors play important roles in the selection of spouses. Love is not a prerequisite in these kinds of marriages.  In many Asian societies, particularly in patriarchal communities, the power dynamics within arranged marriages often favor men over women. In Japan sons have been prioritized in the matchmaking process, with parents consulting them about their preferences while daughters have had limited agency in the selection of their life partners. This asymmetry in power shows the traditional gender roles and familial expectations common in Asian societies.[26]

Furthermore, the discourse surrounding non-heterosexual marriages adds another layer of complexity to the discussion of marriage across cultures. While Western societies have made significant progress in recognizing and legalizing same-sex marriages, many Asian cultures still struggle with societal stigmas and legal barriers against non-heterosexual marriages. The acceptance and legal recognition of non-heterosexual marriages vary widely across different cultures. This reflects the difference in cultural, religious, and legal frameworks governing marriage.[27]

The views of society on marriage can have an impact on queer Asian diasporic individuals. Traditional societal norms often prioritize the normative form of marriage, heterosexual and monogamous. This view which can invalidate queer identities within Asian communities. This pressure to conform to heteronormative standards can create feelings of alienation and invisibility for queer individuals. Which leads them to seek alternative forms of intimacy and connection outside of traditional marital structures. Queer Asian individuals often use “Basue tactics”. These can be adapting language, using online platforms and redefining relationships. This helps to navigate in a way that feels safe and empowering and resisting society's normative expectations. By challenging societal expectations and redefining the meaning of relationships, queer Asians in diaspora are able to assert their identities and create spaces where their diverse forms of intimacy and love are recognized and celebrated.[8]

The monogamous, state-sanctioned one-on-one marriage has historically been used to support colonial ideas and control kin relations. Monogamous marriage is an expression of mechanisms such as child registration and patrilineal decency. Colonialist used their power by promoting monogamy as a way to enforce authority over the constitution of the family in order to keep up with racial purity against their colonial principles. State-sanctioned marriage not only regulated intimate relationships but also facilitated the categorization and control of populations based on racial hierarchies. In contrast, polyamorous or plural marriages thus present a challenge to colonial racial boundaries since they are opposed to the normative one on one monogamous relationship promoted by colonial powers. These non-monogamous forms of union not only challenge conventional notions of intimacy but also disrupt the rigid racial categories and hierarchies established by colonial regimes. Therefore, polyamorous relations and plural marriages challenges colonial legacies and offer alternative models of intimacy and kinship that transcend racial boundaries and challenge systems of control and domination.[16]

Divorce rates and attitudes towards divorce also differ between Western and Asian cultures. In Western societies, divorce is often viewed as a legitimate recourse for individuals facing irreconcilable differences or dissatisfaction with their martial partner. The emphasis on individual happiness and personal autonomy allows for more acceptance of divorce as a means of ending unhappy or dysfunctional marriages. In contrast, many Asian cultures show a more conservative point of view towards divorce, viewing it as a last resort and often stigmatizing divorced individuals.[26]

Residence patterns, such as patrilocal or matrilocal residence, also influence the dynamics of marriage and family structures across cultures. The most common residence pattern is neolocal residence. In neolocal residence, a newly married couple sets up their own household without ties to either partner's family. This arrangement is often linked with bilateral descent. While it's common in our society, there are times, such as during economic difficulties or family emergencies, when couples in the United States may temporarily live with one spouse's parents. In patrilocal societies, the newlywed couple resides with or near the husband's family, reinforcing patriarchal values and kinship ties. This residence pattern is most common in Asian cultures. Conversely, matrilocal residence patterns, where the couple lives with or near the wife's family, may challenge traditional gender roles and power dynamics within the family unit.[28]

The institution of marriage reflects the complex interplay of cultural norms, societal values, and individual agency. While Western societies prioritize romantic love and individual autonomy in marriage, many Asian cultures commonly follow traditional customs like arranged marriages and respect for parental authority. The treatment of non-heterosexual marriages, attitudes towards divorce, and residence patterns further underscore the diverse manifestations of marriage across cultures. Understanding these differences is essential for fostering cross-cultural dialogue and promoting mutual respect and acceptance of diverse marital practices.


List of the references here.

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  3. Ambrosino, Brandon (2017). "The Invention of 'heterosexuality'".
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  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Kojima, Dai (2014). "Migrant Intimacies: Mobilities-in-difference and basue tactics in queer Asian diasporas". Anthropoligica. 56: 33–44 – via MUSE. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name ":10" defined multiple times with different content
  9. "Civil Marriage Act". Justice Laws Website. June 18 2015. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. Cotler, Hon (February 10 2006). "MARRIAGE IN CANADA—EVOLUTION OR REVOLUTION?". Family Court Review. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms". Government of Canada. April 5 2022. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 "Landmark Case: The Same Sex Marriage Case – Halpern et al. v. Attorney General of Canada et al". Ontario Justice Education Network. January 5 2017. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Dua, Enakshi (July 24 2007). "Exclusion through Inclusion: Female Asian migration in the making of Canada as a white settler nation". Taylor & Francis Online. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Alloula, Malek (1986). The Colonial Harem. University of Minnesota Press.
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