The Debate Over Arranged Marriage

Criticized for promoting casteism and limiting women’s freedom, the once default arranged marriage system is now on the defensive.

Sanjana Nigam

October 6, 2020

The Debate Over Arranged Marriage
(Creative Commons)

After a long day of classes, 26-year-old Jessena Varghese, living in Queens, New York, came home to find her parents scrambling to get their house ready for some mystery guests. Unbeknownst to her, she was about to meet her future husband and in-laws for the first time. As instructed by her parents, Varghese went into her room, put on a ​kurta​ and a pair of jeans, and waited for her suitor and his parents to arrive. “I refused to help my parents. They were in the kitchen cooking snacks, and I just stayed in my room and waited,” Varghese told me. “I did paint my toenails though.”

Things moved quickly from there. Once her guests arrived and sat down in the living room, Varghese served her future in-laws and future husband, Danny, some cookies. A few minutes later, Danny’s father suggested that she and Danny go someplace else to get to know each other better.