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» 03/01/2008
SAUDI ARABIA
Divorce rate falls among Saudis, but marriages drop even more
Data show that the numbers of marriages and divorces in the Saudi kingdom are falling precipitously. Both economic problems and radical changes in the country's culture seem to be the causes of the phenomenon.

Jeddah (AsiaNews Agencies) - The number of couples that divorce continue to fall, but those getting married are also diminishing.  According to some statistics provided by the justice ministry, the number of divorces and marriages in Saudi Arabia between 2006 and 2007 fell by 1.8 percent and 3.2 percent respectively.

While some are suggesting that divorces are decreasing because there are fewer marriages, many believe that there are socio-economic factors behind the drop in the number of marriages.

Getting married, in fact, seems to come at a dizzying cost, according to Maysarah Ajeeb, who in a declaration published by the newspaper Arab News says that women are increasingly asking for higher and higher dowries, aiming to live in luxurious apartments, and wanting lavish and expensive wedding ceremonies and gifts.

But Lamya Al-Fozan, a young bank clerk, maintains that the phenomenon is connected to the recent inflation that has struck the country, which has had an impact on home prices in the kingdom.

The causes of the decline are also - and perhaps above all - connected to radical cultural changes. 25-year-old Mai Al-Helabi asserts that women are increasingly demanding and savvy. "They’re not like before. They’re raised to be strong and to not just obey men. Men are also not as responsible as they used to be. They don’t understand women’s needs. By needs I mean financial, emotional and security needs. They want to treat their wives as their fathers used to treat their mothers. Things are totally different now".

The 'young people of today' seem to have a perception of religion that is different from that in the past, and a personal emphasis on work has become an important value.  Many Saudi young people, both female and male, travel and study abroad, and their contact with different cultures - which are often Western - overturn traditional roles between the sexes and generate new ambitions and a desire for emancipation among Saudi women.

Samer Arar, a psychologist and teacher at the King Abdul Aziz university asserts that marriage is a social and psychological bond. "Marriage is built on love, settlement and compatibility... there are many reasons behind the Saudi youth not wanting to get married". In addition to affirming the role of financial difficulties, Arar maintains that young people lack responsibility, and that both the media and the presence of different cultures have an effect upon them. "Negative and unsuccessful experiences worry them and they worry of going through what others have been through. They feel they have a freedom of choice and opinion. Nowadays they have an enormous knowledge of marital affairs and other issues and this has affected their opinion of marriage... and most of them have become selfish".


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See also
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pp. 176
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