Monday, August 27, 2012

Iraqi arranged marriages--the suicide constraint

The individual rationality constraint isn't very binding when individuals don't have good outside options, but it doesn't entirely go away. In Iraq, it's taking the form of suicide by unwilling brides in arranged marriages: Where Arranged Marriages Are Customary, Suicides Grow More Common

"In this desolate and tradition-bound community in the northwest corner of Iraq, at the foot of a mountain range bordering Syria, Ms. Merza’s reaction to the ancient custom of arranged marriage is becoming more common. Officials are alarmed by what they describe as a worsening epidemic of suicides, particularly among young women tormented by being forced to marry too young, to someone they do not love.

"While reliable statistics on anything are hard to come by in Iraq, officials say there have been as many as 50 suicides this year in this city of 350,000 — at least double the rate in the United States — compared with 80 all of last year. The most common methods among women are self-immolation and gunshots.

"Among the many explanations given, like poverty and madness, one is offered most frequently: access to the Internet and to satellite television, which came after the start of the war. This has given young women glimpses of a better life, unencumbered by the traditions that have constricted women for centuries to a life of obedience and child-rearing, one devoid of romance.

"Ms. Merza’s father, Barkat Hussein, interviewed later in private, said he was aware that the shooting was not an accident.

“We gave her to her cousin less than 20 days ago,” he said. “She accepted him. Like anyone who gets married, she should be happy.”

"He said he would not force her to return to her husband, who lives next door. But, he said: “I hope she will go back to him. His father is my brother.”

"He, too, blamed the Turkish soap opera for his daughter’s unhappiness, and he nodded toward the room where his wife was working. “I got married to my cousin,” he said. “I wasn’t in love with her, but we are here, living together. That’s what happens here, we marry our relatives.”

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