Destroying family roots: divorce on the rise in Yemen [Archives:2006/909/Culture]

January 5 2006

Hakim Almasmari
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Recently, Yemen has witnessed more divorce cases than usual. Marrying for wrong reasons is the root of this crisis.

Even though Yemen's divorce rate is far lower than that of other countries in the region, it has increased dramatically in the past five years. According to sources, Yemen's divorce rate has nearly doubled compared to figures from the late 1990s. Reasons for divorce vary from one person to another. “It's not the divorce that's scary, it's the outcomes of it,” Ali Khalid said. “Usually children are left with no guardian to teach them what is right and wrong, thereby destroying the life of the future generation,” he added.

In a national survey last year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 55 percent of marriages occurring in 2004 ended in divorce before the end of the first year. This tragic number is after only one year. Imagining the outcomes of these marriages after five year would be horrifying and unpredictable.

In a limited local survey in Sana'a, 60 percent of divorcees admitted that the main reason behind divorce is a lack of trust on either side. Those who met their loved ones and had a low-profile relationship with them before marriage admitted that was the cause of their divorce. “If she went out freely with me before marriage and gave me beautiful promises, I can only wonder how many other men were given beautiful quotes,” Ali Jarrullah said after divorcing his wife of two weeks. “I know it's not right to have such a doubt, but this is the reality. This is definitely true,” he added.

Another issue which could be the cornerstone for such a catastrophic rise in divorce rates is the spread of satellite channels. The cultural damage that erupts because of these channels is unreal and results in destroying family roots from within. Satellite channels under the label of music and entertainment show more sexual body movements than music. This attracts society's men, leading them to compare their wives to the beautiful dancers and singers they watch on TV. “This is really crazy. Satellite channels have increased so much that it's disrupting our culture. How many men divorced their wives only because they were not as beautiful as the ones on TV? Men, on the other hand, forget they are not that beautiful as well, to demand a wife with all the qualities of beauty,” said Ali Saleh, a married man of 10 years. Just this week, Al-Thawra newspaper published an article about a woman who would not agree to marry her fiance until he removed his existing satellite dish. He desperately tried convincing his future wife that it was not a big deal and would not disrupt their marriage. In the end, he was forced to remove the dish and buy a VCR instead.

Lack of patience on both sides is another factor in the increased divorces, as no time is given to understand each other in the early stages of marriage. “People are not created with the same personalities. Married couples need to understand that it takes a long time, sometimes years, for people to get used to traits shared by other people,” said marriage therapist Latifa Jabri. “All problems could be resolved by the will of desire,” she added.

From the woman's point of view, many women think money plays a dramatic role in divorce. In talking to numerous women, they mentioned that when men have enough money to marry another wife, they often think of small problems which could result in divorce. “It's a game for some men. They don't understand the values of marriage. How could a man divorce his wife only because the tea had less sugar than usual? You explain it to me,” said Fatima, who did not want to mention her last name.

People must understand that life has its difficulties and that the beauty of marriage is to resolve issues in a manner that does not destroy the respect and love one has for another. In a society like Yemen, there should be no reason for increased divorces, as most people usually are from the same background, religion and origin. If issues remain as is and are not given priority, expect the family structure in Yemen to change for the worse in coming years.

Reasons for divorce are innumerable these days, as people are divorcing for unusual reasons. In speaking with locals, the following were mentioned as primary reasons behind the sudden rise in Yemeni divorces. These reasons do not cover all aspects, but according to the sources, these are the most common:

1. Family interference from both sides, causing the couple to live the outcome of others.

2. Misunderstanding between both partners.

3. Absence of love from one or even both sides.

4. Early marriages for those not ready to handle the responsibility.

5. Poverty and inability of the husband to give the wife things desired.

6. Absence of trust between the couple.

7. Having a deep relationship before marriage, causing the husband to doubt his wife's loyalty.

8. The will to solve problems in a wise and smart manner.

9. Using the hand to solve even the simplest of problems.

10. The long and harsh tongue often used by women in anger.

11. Cultural differences between husband and wife.

12. Family interference in the married couple's life.

13. Not following Islamic teachings in many aspects of marriage.

14. Secrets between the married couple going outside the four walls of the room.

These are just some of the issues that could be causing this ongoing phenomenon. The point of this list is not to number them, but to make people aware of them and try to solve problems before they exist. Married couples must take such matters seriously. No marriage is perfect. Even our prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) had many disagreements with his wives, but the wisdom he employed is the reason his marriages are lessons for his followers to use as an example. In his teachings, he mentions respect for one another as the key in solving not only marriage problems, but also problems of all humanity.