Barter Marriages: What Kind Of “Arrangement” Is It?

Barter marriages are not uncommon. My grandfathers generation did it in Punjab because it was wise to marry two sisters to two brothers; particularly, if the family was large or wealthy. My parents generation did it through the middle-person during family negotiations in an effort to bring more relatives abroad.

What is uncommon in our generation is that bartering is very upfront. It is included in matrimonial ads along with height, skin complexion, and age.

Raveena Aulakh reports for the Toronto Star that some families abroad are pressured and guilted by relatives in India to figure out a way to bring their children to Canada. Siblings in Canada are accused of not wanting their nieces and nephews to have a good life. The only resort left is to run a matrimonial ad requesting a barter for their children or nieces/nephews in prominent Punjabi newspapers.

Aulakh writes about Jaspal Singh, a cab driver in Vancouver, who was guilted into running such an ad by his brother in India.

Finally, Singh agreed to place an ad for his own 21-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter in hopes someone, somewhere would reciprocate with Canadian matches for his niece and nephew in India.

It is not only a long shot, it is also unethical, Singh admits. He says he has told his kids he will not force them to do something they are not ready for and that weddings would take place only after they have met their prospective partners and are ready.

He has paid for the ads to run for four weeks. If things do not fall into place by then, Singh says he has no intention of following up with more ads. “How long can you do it? I will not force them to get married for the sake of it.”

Singh knows it will put a strain on his relationship with his brother, and is already dreading that conversation.

T.S. Brar, a journalist for a Punjabi weekly, tells Aulakh that these requests make him angry because arent they another form of dowry.

In many families they are clearly another form of dowry when parents are offering $30,000 to find such alliances for their daughters. They are also just another business deal when marital compatibility is not an issue because the couple will divorce shortly after marriage. The two will go their separate ways; once all of the brides familys land and cattle are in the grooms name and she has arrived safely in Canada. The Canadian dollars she will earn along with the family members she will apply for will definitely total a higher monetary value than the land and cattle in Punjab.

However, these schemes are not always disengenuine. Aulakh reports that some families have no ulterior motive of deceptive divorce or squeezing out extra dowry. They are just making a sincere effort for family reunification.

Activist Manjit Mangat, who has a law office in Brampton adds, “There is no ulterior motive in some cases. They put up a condition because there is no other way for maybe one member of a family to come to Canada.

In a falling Punjab economy where jobs are scarce for college graduates, corruption is a household name, and the divide been lower and upper classes is getting larger; people find a way to create some sort of stability around them-even if its the most unconventional of ways. What do you think?

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2 Responses to “Barter Marriages: What Kind Of “Arrangement” Is It?”

  1. list says:

    We are so quick to judge others, which is why so few people will ever reach out for help. I think if things are going to change, they will change with the younger generation. A generation that has grown up in the West and been educated in a culture, where it's okay to be yourself and openly talk about how you're feeling. It is sad that the older generation has lived with so much grief and stress silently, but as a younger generation we should make an concerted effort to start open dialogue with those close to us.

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