A Marriage that Means Nothing but Necessities
Marriages of convenience are undertaken for many other reasons than that of a relationship of love and affection. Instead, the marriages are based upon personal gain for either one or both people in the marriage. In most cases, people typically marry only so one of them can have a visa. Women in poor countries often marry men in exchange for a better life, uprooting themselves and leaving their families, children, and everything they have ever known behind. First, I will explain some of the reasons why people marry for convenience and I will give examples. Then, I will explain how entertainment views marriages of convenience and how it is glorified while giving examples. After, I will discuss the consequences of the conveniences of marriage and who it affects. Then, I will talk about different opinions, debates, and conversations and evaluate them. Lastly, I will explain the history of marriages for convenience and tie the problem to it’s past.
One reason why people marry for convenience is based upon a person’s sexual preference. These people use this as a scapegoat to hide their personal preferences from family members or to avoid shame from their cultures. This is often termed as “lavender marriages” or as “bearding” where the woman is seen as a man’s beard metaphorically covering his identity like how a beard covers a man’s face. These marriages can either have one homosexual partner and the other heterosexual or it could be a homosexual woman married to a homosexual man. Some of the most famous lavender marriages even happened today in Hollywood, for example, “then-Hollywood heartthrob Rock Hudson, hearing that Confidential magazine was planning to expose his homosexuality, married his agent’s secretary as a cover in 1955 (she herself is rumored to have been a lesbian). When Hudson dated Lee Garlington from 1962 to 1965, they would go together to red carpet premiers, but each had to bring their own dates to avoid public scrutiny” or even the famous Betty white “implied she occasionally bearded for the flamboyantly gay Liberace. Liberace, who never publicly admitted to being gay, in 1954 announced his engagement to actress Joanne Rio, but they never ended up marrying.” These marriages are very common and happen everywhere, even sometimes without people knowing.
Another reason why people marry for convenience is to get through legal loopholes. Couples may marry so one of them can gain access into the country in an easier way.
A different reason why some people may marry is because of mutual benefit, such as a trade. In the novel, Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers in the New Economy, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild, the authors give an example in the chapter “Selling Sex for Visas: Sex Tourism as a Stepping-Stone to international migration” of mutual benefit in a way. A woman named Andrea, a sex worker in Sosúa, Dominican Republic, married a German man in exchange for a visa with the images of better lives for her two daughters and boyfriend. The authors explain how “poor women migrate from throughout the Dominican Republic to work in Sosúa’s sex trade; there they hope to meet and marry foreign men who will sponsor their migration to Europe…The key aims of this strategy are marriage and migration off of the island” (Ehrenreich & Hochschild). The men in this situation see the women as erotic and exotic because of their dark skin color, and they view them all as “commodities for their pleasure and control” while the women see the men as tickets off of the island. (Ehrenreich & Hochschild). Another example of mutual benefit is that “widowed women of the old west in the U.S. often agreed to marriages of convenience in order to survive the hardships of homesteading during the 1800s.” (Stritof).
The last reason that people marry for convenience is because of political reasons. These have been the main reasons for marriages in kingdoms and empires. One famous example is “Jeanne d’Albret, the queen regnant of Navarre, Francis I was forced to marry William, Duke of Julich-Cleves-Berg in 1541 at the age of 12 for political reasons.” A more present example is “in Australia, there have been marriages of convenience to bring attention to the government’s Youth Allowance laws” (Stritof). In this scenario, people get married to make a statement or to rebel.
Even in today’s entertainment, marriages of convenience are depicted in media, television shows and even on radios as a good thing and not as a problem. One of the biggest reality television shows, created by TLC, that is still on the air today is “90-day fiance.” The first episode aired on January 12th, 2014 and since then, the show has been a big hit. The idea of the show is that the petitioner, the person who lives inside the United States and is a citizen, should meet the beneficiary, the person that is not a United States citizen, within or outside the United States and file a petition with proof of meeting the beneficiary and proof of wanting to start a relationship. When the petition is approved, the petitioner sends it to the beneficiary who files for a visa and is tested for medical requirements and is interviewed. The beneficiary should prove that they meet the necessities of the visa as well as solid proof of meeting and creating a real/valid relationship. The beneficiary then travels to the United States where they will live with their American spouse and the couple has 90 days to get married otherwise the beneficiary cannot stay in America and has to go home. Most often than not, couples face culture shock, language barriers, and skepticism of the families because they believe that they are not really in love and that the beneficiary just wants a visa. Although most of these people actually do it for love, others have a different goal in mind. One example is Danielle and Mohamed in Season two. Mohamed used Danielle to get a visa and as soon as they got married, he was checked out of the marriage.
He was not intimate with her at all and cheated on her when he went on a trip to Miami. Danielle tried to get their marriage annulled but Mohamed convinced her to file for divorce instead, so he would not get deported. She gave in and he was able to stay in America. There are also many movies and books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are about marriages of convenience. Some examples are, “A Marriage of Convenience,” created in 1998, where a woman adopts her deceased sister’s son and gets married to the son’s father, who didn’t know his son existed, to not upset the child, or even “On the Wings of Love” a popular romantic comedy where characters Leah and Clark are forced to marry so they can stay and legally keep living in the United States to fulfill the American Dream. Some books, on topics such as medieval romances, regency romances, European historical romances, American Historical/ Frontier Romances, Contemporary Romances, etc. also portray marriages of convenience in a positive light like a fairytale. For example, In Bed with a Highlander (2011) by Maya Banks. The main character Mairin gets rescued by her savior Ewan, another main character and she is forced to marry him to save the land from peril. She helps him face his demons and teaches him that there is more to life than just fighting and revenge and they end up falling in love. Many entertainment industries gloss over marriages of convenience and do not see them as a problem. Even in these movie, television show, and book examples, they all end up falling in love. They show most of the good and don’t show the negatives such as people having to leave their families or people who are stuck in a forced loveless marriage with no escape.
The consequences of these marriages of convenience really outweigh the benefits and can be detrimental. The women who get married are often single mothers who have to leave their children behind. These children have no one else and often get kidnapped or sold into sex trafficking, but the mothers often feel as if they have no choice. They want a better life for their children and this is what they have to do. For the mother, once she gets to America, most of the time the marriages don’t last. So she could either get sent back, become homeless or become jailed for fraud. If caught, the punishment for the citizen is a $250,000 fine and 5 years of jail time. The punishment for the immigrant is they get sent back to their home country and get their visas revoked, and they will have little to no chance of getting another.
Discussions and debates on this topic mainly focus on the benefits and consequences of marriages of convenience. Jolanta Millere, the author of “Marriage Of Convenience as a type of human trafficking in Lativa” states that “in today’s society there is more and more discussion about the spreading of a new form of human trafficking – marriages of convenience, which are entered into for the purpose of tangible benefit to both partners. In addition, modern researchers have concluded that in a number of European Union countries, including Latvia, a new trend in human trafficking has recently been observed – exploitative marriages of convenience.” This is similar to the claim made by Sabrina Boyce in her article “Childhood Experiences of Sexual Violence, Pregnancy, and Marriage Associated With Child Sex Trafficking Among Female Sex Workers in Two US–Mexico Border Cities.” She states that “marrying when younger than 18 years (i.e., child marriage), including when such a marriage is forced or involves kidnapping, also places girls at heightened risk for forced or coerced sex and limited sexual negotiation power with their husbands compared with those who marry later.” For the marriages of convenience in these situations, men use these marriages for sexual pleasure, sometimes even with minors, and they use them to get pregnant so they can sell the babies. On the other side though, in the article “Some Asian Gays Seek ‘Marriages of Convenience,” the article states that “Hundreds of gays of South Asian decent living in the United States, Canada and the U.K. are seeking “”marriages of convenience”” (MOC) due to cultural and religious pressure… [and] if you look at our traditional culture, marriages were usually marriages of consensus and convenience and not necessarily emotional marriages. If two people care enough about each other to help each other out, who’s to say they won’t have a good marriage?”” This is the other side where they are doing it to help out a person instead of personal gain.
Marriages of convenience can often be seen in the past of wealthy and rich kingdoms and in many cultures, but it is often termed as arranged marriages. Arranged marriages were viewed as an economic and social necessity, the terms of which are discussed and coincided by the families of the bride and groom, and never by the couple themselves. This type of marriage was practiced in many cultures around the world, such as in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Japan, China, etc., mostly until the 18th century and early 19th century. In the past, for example in the Elizabethan era, which was during November 17th, 1558 through March 24th, 1603 it was common for parents in high societies to arrange marriages among their children and teenagers to make sure that they kept bloodlines and their economic status, which were both highly valued. Parents would offer their daughter to a family of equal or higher economic status, although it was difficult if the family of the son was of a higher status. The parents would then hope that the son of a higher status would accept her. If he did, the whole other family would automatically move up into a slightly higher status. This is sort of like how it is today but instead of the rich marrying into richer families, it is poor women marrying into wealth to find a better life. Although most cultures have given up on the practice of arranged marriages, some Indian and Muslim cultures still practice it today.
In conclusion, this is a problem because women are often exploited for their bodies and rarely get any accomodation from it, and people do not get a choice of who they should marry. people engage in marriages of convenience because of fear of being publicly homosexual, to get through legal loopholes, mutual benefit, and political reasons. The entertainment industry really glorifies these marriages and rarely shows the bad that can happen. Also, the consequences are drastic which include jail time, a fine, and deportation. When brought up to debate, most people believe marriages of convenience are negative, when used for personal gain, while others see them as a positive. The history came from arranged marriages that occurred from all the way even before the fourth century where children were forced to marry to create peace.
- Boyce, Sabrina C., et al. “Childhood Experiences of Sexual Violence, Pregnancy, and Marriage Associated With Child Sex Trafficking Among Female Sex Workers in Two US–Mexico Border Cities.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 108, no. 8, Aug. 2018, pp. 1049–54, doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304455.
- Millere, Jolanta. “Marriage of Convenience as Type of Human Trafficking in Latvia.” Economic Science for Rural Development Conference Proceedings, no. 46, Sept. 2017, pp. 127–134.EBSCOhost,
- Some Asian Gays Seek ‘Marriages of Convenience.’” Contemporary Sexuality, vol. 40, no. 10, Oct. 2006, pp. 17–18. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=22680582&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- Global Women