How has marriage been used as a punishment?
June 4, 2015 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to know more about the history of forced marriage as a consequence of wrongdoing. Where and why it has been practiced?

I'm particularly interested in examples from before 1600, but any will do, whether widespread cultural practices or exceptional historical examples. Even fictional examples would work, though preferably not examples from fantasy or SF. I'm only interested in marriages where at least one party is forced against their will to wed as a punishment, and not just forced marriages as such.

I already know that marriages could be enforced under Christian law when two unmarried people slept together but without church or civil ceremony, and that this was abolished for Catholics at the Council of Trent but persisted in Protestant churches for some time. This is an odd example because the marriage is directed at the elimination of sin rather than punishment for it, but something like this would interest me. I realize that in most cases this was done purposefully by both parties and therefore wouldn't be a punishment, but, for instance, a man could be forced to marry a woman he had raped.

I'm also aware of marriage as a punishment for seduction in the United States, when men could be forced to make good on promises of marriage they would prefer not to honor.

I was inspired to post this question by reading Measure For Measure, which ends in two punitive marriages. The corrupt magistrate Angelo is forced to wed a woman he'd been betrothed to and then abandoned (and who he has been tricked into sleeping with). In a more atypical situation, Lucio, a bawd, is forced to marry a prostitute for defaming the Duke of Vienna. However, I'm having trouble thinking of more examples of punitive marriage, hence this question.
posted by vathek to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Unfortunately, I believe it was/is not uncommon for women to be forced to marry their rapists as punishment for being "dishonored." A quick Google search shows that this is apparently still happening in some parts of the world.
posted by chatongriffes at 4:34 PM on June 4, 2015

chatongriffes, that did/does happen but it's not really/necessarily about punishing the woman (though that is certainly the result). Perversely, the logic is more like "you, rapist, have made this woman unmarriagable so now she is your responsibility."
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:56 PM on June 4, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Specifically, there is law for this in the Bible:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 “If a man meets a virgin who is not betrothed, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are found, then the man who lay with her shall give to the father of the young woman fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he has violated her. He may not divorce her all his days."

Exodus 22:16-17 “If a man seduces a virgin who is not betrothed and lies with her, he shall give the bride price for her and make her his wife. If her father utterly refuses to give her to him, he shall pay money equal to the bride price for virgins."
posted by phoenixy at 4:59 PM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh yikes, here's an example: Vani (Urdu: ونی‎) is a cultural custom found in parts of Pakistan wherein young girls are forcibly married as part of punishment for a crime committed by her male relatives.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:01 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Although specifically, in Measure, the idea isn't really to punish Angelo by marrying him to Mariana -- the point is to restore her honor by marrying her to him. The Duke's original plan is for Angelo to get executed immediately after the wedding.
posted by phoenixy at 5:03 PM on June 4, 2015

Best answer: Some of the early-ish Romanovs did this to courtiers who had displeased them, e.g. Empress Anna's ice palace. I feel like I remember a similar story about Empress Elizaveta Petrovna and some courtiers but I can't remember the details so it's possible I'm just confused.
posted by posadnitsa at 5:36 PM on June 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Great answers so far.

phoenixy, while I don't want to put too much focus on Measure, to restore honor to Mariana involves punishing Angelo for seduction. I get that the marriage would not be much punishment for him if he were to be immediately put to death. However, the Duke's intent in the scene is notoriously opaque, as he paraphrases the Old Testament ideas of justice ("An Angelo for Claudio, death for death!") in a speech that many understand as meant to provoke Mariana and Isabella into New Testament style forgiveness. I don't think that the marriage would be cease to be punishment even if Angelo were put to death shortly thereafter, but the evidence on whether the Duke even intends for the punishment to be carried out is equivocal at best.
posted by vathek at 5:57 PM on June 4, 2015

Cristovao Ferreira, the apostate priest on whom Shusaku Endo's novel Silence was based, may have been forced to marry as a punishment of sorts (to prove his apostasy).
posted by chimpsonfilm at 10:47 PM on June 4, 2015

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