01/18/2008, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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Divorces reach alarming levels in Riyadh; government and experts seek solutions

According to data from the ministry for social affairs, last year the number of divorces was 35 percent of the number of marriages. Other sources put the level as high as 50 percent. And men can divorce their wives without going to court.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Alarming levels of divorce in Saudi Arabia: experts and authorities agree on the seriousness of the situation, if not on the numbers and the causes - lacking exact figures, the ministry for social affairs speaks of a number of divorces equal to 35 percent of the number of marriages, while other sources conjecture that the figure is around 50 percent.

Public concern was expressed by a symposium organised by the ministry for social affairs, which opened yesterday in Riyadh. The minister for social affairs, Abdul Mohsin Al Akkas, said that his agency is "responsible for finding solutions to the problem of divorce".  The same agency said there were 18,765 divorces last year, compared to 90,983. Ministry undersecretary Awad Al Radadi said, "last year the divorce rate reached 35 per cent compared to only 19 per cent in 2002".

As for the causes, some maintain that the increase is due to the rapid changes brought by technological development, while others emphasise the burden of unemployment and poverty.

And it must be kept in mind that men in the country can divorce their wives without going to court, as happened last October, when a husband divorced his wife after "surprising" her alone at home watching a television programme conducted by a man: she was alone, that is, with a man not related to her, something that is absolutely prohibited.

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