Divorce on the rise in the Kingdom

Laura Bashraheel | Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sun, 2010-02-07 03:00

JEDDAH: Nowadays divorce is seen the only solution to marital problems among couples who never understood the responsibilities of marriage in the first place.

With the alarming rise in divorce rates, it is time for a better understanding of the sacredness and meaning of marriage. According to a report published last week in a local daily, a wedding hall in Madinah wanted to have a party to celebrate the weddings that had taken place in the hall over the previous two years. What they discovered was that half of the weddings had already ended in divorce.

The report also said that some of the divorces had taken place during the first year which apparently means the marriage lasted only a few months. A poll taken in 2008 showed that in the past 20 years, the divorce rate in Saudi Arabia rose from 25 to 60 percent.

While courts and marriage officials register around 70,000 marriage contracts annually, they also process more than 13,000 official divorce papers, said the Ministry of Economy and Planning. The number of divorced young people is definitely increasing. Some are getting divorced after one or two years of marriage and the wedding hall story is just one of the few stories people hear about.

Hassan H. went to court to validate his marriage and he found himself standing in line with another man; the divorce section, on the other hand, had about 35 men waiting to have their documents processed.

The Ministry of Social Affairs has considered a proposal to invite couples to attend training courses for young men and women about how to achieve and maintain family stability and continuity, in an effort to reduce the number of divorces.

The proposal, which was made in 2008, followed the Ministry of Justice report on divorce rates, the dissolution of marriage contracts and “Khula’a” cases — divorces initiated by women — which amounted at that time to about 28,560 with an average of 78 per day. Although two years have now passed since the proposal, nothing has been done to solve the problem. Also, no other statistics have been issued regarding divorce and marriage rates in the Kingdom in the past two years.

Dr. Samir Arar, a counseling psychologist at Maharat Center and a professor of psychology at King Abdulaziz University, attributed the high divorce rates, especially among newlyweds, to several social, psychological and economic reasons. He believes, however, that one of the main problems could be people rushing into marriage with the belief that it is a social tradition in Saudi Arabia.

“Families think just because their son or daughter is 20 or 22, they are ready for marriage,” said Arar.

He also said that unfortunately marriage has lost its sanctity in much of Saudi society.

“People nowadays have different views of marriage. Some think of marriage as a mutual interest relationship rather than as settling down with a partner for life. When one of the partners doesn’t get what he or she wants from the other, then they look at divorce as the perfect solution,” he added.

Families also play a vital role in their children’s decisions, especially when they marry them off at a young age. Raising children to be family dependent and not being responsible for their actions are some of the formulas for a failed marriage. Arar believes more counseling centers should guide those who want to get married.

“Saudi Arabia having one of the highest divorce rates in the world is alarming. Whether it’s marrying at an early age or through arranged marriage, those who wish to get married should be responsible and independent. Also, they should take marriage more seriously as a life commitment and not as an experience that might work out,” he said.

Ibrahim Al-Jadaani, a Jeddah-based marriage official, believes one of the reasons for divorce is women being forced into marriages and sons and daughters in general not being able to choose their partners. “Getting a divorce after only few months of marriage is mainly attributed to misunderstandings between the couple,” he said, explaining that those who want to get married should adopt the views of the Prophet (Peace be upon him) on marriage and how it should be both affectionate and intimate.

At the same time, Fawzi Al-Subhi, another Jeddah-based marriage official, said that most of the problems and issues of newlyweds occurred in the first year or two of marriage.

“People should fear God when it comes to the sacredness of marriage and they should be patient,” he said. He also called for more counseling centers and social workers to advise the couple and work hand in hand to solve the problems occurring the first year of marriage.

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