Old traditions are one cause of . . . Secret marriages [Archives:2002/52/Culture]

December 23 2002

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To elope is to secretly leave your home in order to get married, especially without other people’s approval or permission.
Why elope?
The first question is, why does this phenomenon happen in our community?
Yousef Naji, a specialist in sociology, points out that the main reason behind youths’ elopement is the traditions and conventions that are still predominant in our community have become a stumbling block in front of the youths.
We need to look at this issue from different angles.
The first one is closely related to the parent’s constant refusal to accept the husband-to-be. He, in one way or another, is perceived as a man who can’t afford marriage expenses or he may belong to a low social standing.
Meanwhile, it is customary for Yemenis to intermarry with the same, family or group. It is not allowed for a person who doesn’t belong to the same family or group to intermarry. This class of people are still common in our community. They consider themselves from a high social background, (Sadah) while the suitors, according to them, are of poor background.
So the parents refuse to accept the husband-to-be. There is no room for marriage arrangements and elopement is the easiest and the shortest way to get married.
Such a story occurred three years ago when a woman from Khowlan eloped with a man from Haraz. This has escalated in a very tense atmosphere between the two tribes.
The story has come up to be of passionate love-affair between the two couples. Due to the objection of the woman’s family to her marrying to the man mentioned, they found the solution in elopement.
As a result of the mediation, the Haraz tribe has to pay YR 20 million and the other tribe has to free ten Harazi hostages.
Family long-term disputes
Sarah Ahmed, a university student, said that the motive behind elopement, which occasionally occurs in our community, is attributed to long-term family disputes. “This manifests itself when, for instance, the mother dies and the father resorts to looking for a new wife,” she said.
“Girls in such cases, are marginalized by their fathers and therefore they are deprived from their fathers’ love and affection. Not even a single word of love is uttered to them, the intimate family atmosphere is spoiled by the new step-mother,” she further added.
Consequently fathers turn their backs. It’s then when a certain kind of secret love-affair relationship grows between lovers, which in turn paves the way for elopement.
Mustafa Ali, a student said that parents are also always turning their backs and never showing any interest towards their sons. As a result, Mustafa said, “It is easy for the eloping couples to establish love-affair relationship. In this case, it easy for the eloping couples to get married.”
We in this case don’t oppose the young couples from establishing love-affair relationship. We therefore refer to the motives behind the eloping phenomenon that has been still common in our community.
Elopement is perceived as scandalous by some people, while other sees it a good opportunity to get married, particularly when there is no way except to elope.
Psychological studies indicate that the motive for eloping is that the very concept of elopement seems romantic. Sometimes the heart whispers the emphatic desire to be married.
When a relationship has been growing properly, nothing says, “I love you” like the thought of eloping. Eloping couples find they can express their individual style in a small, private love-affair.
Eloping is not strange
Eloping is not a strange thing for us. We perhaps heard and see similar stories occur from time to time in our community. A similar eloping phenomenon has occurred when I was on a holiday during the Eid vacation when a 14-year girl and 16-year boy have eloped and never come back. No one knows what his or her destination is.
This perhaps reminds us of the old movies, where an impetuous groom placed a ladder beneath the window of his true love’s bedroom window and whisked her away for an otherwise forbidden wedding ceremony.
Other places in the world see that elopement is meaningful. Just because elopement appears impetuous doesn’t mean that marriage is unimportant.
On the contrary, elopement addresses the great value a couple places on becoming a husband and wife.
At the same context, many couples have invested years in relationship that leads to a simple elopement. Thus, the term appears to be affordable. It takes little time.
For some modern couples, a meaningful and romantic elopement may be the only opportunity to be wed.
An elopement doesn’t automatically exclude others. Sometimes close friends witness the ceremony. Often parents are present to give their blessings. Nothing prevents a couple from hosting a small meal following the ceremony or a festive reception when they return from their honeymoon.
So I wonder, is elopement right for you? If “yes,” then congratulations!