Mass marriages: a laudable phenomenon [Archives:2006/968/Culture]

August 31 2006

By: Yemen Times Staff
Some 410 bridegrooms celebrated their wedding day last Thursday in Sana'a. Dressed in luxurious traditional Yemeni attire and carrying swords over their shoulders, the bridegrooms attended a festival at Al-Saba'een Square in Sana'a and a banquet at the Armed Forces Officers Club.

All were happy to get married via an easy method saving them the usual high costs of marriage in Yemen. “It's a double happiness,” one bridegroom said, “I'm happy to be getting married and I'm also happy to be celebrating my marriage along with my colleagues.”

It was the fruit of organization by the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, which decided to help 410 of its personnel leave their celibacy for good, providing each with a YR 140,000 grant and a YR 100,000 interest-free loan. The event is a part of a general trend toward governmental and non-governmental organizations facilitating more marriage.

A sphere of competition

Quite recently, charities, private businesses and even the military have held other mass marriages involving varying numbers of individuals. The Social Reform Charitable Society first initiated the practice in Yemen in the early 1990s.

With the surge in charitable and civil activities, competition then intensified, with societies like Al-Bir wa Al-'Afaf Society specifically established for this purpose. More players became involved, even political parties, particularly the General People's Congress and Islah parties, as well as governmental organizations like Saba News Agency and the Public Telecommunications Corp.

Mass marriages are an effective method of alleviating spinsterhood and bachelorhood and reducing social problems such as moral deviation. It also has proved to be an effective way to preserve the family as a nuclear unit within the community structure.

Political interest

As a significant hurdle facing young Yemenis, who represent a major portion of the country's population, marriage has stirred political interest. The Shoura Council recently discussed marriage, recommending reducing its dowry and facilitating its procedures.

It also disapproved of the extravagance accompanying the marriages of high-class individuals. Mass marriages minimize such extravagance considerably. The Ministry of Endowments and Guidance stated that “marriage endowments” will be used to fund mass marriages.

This pro-marriage movement no longer is limited to urban areas. Yemenis in rural areas, such as Sanaban in Dhamar province, regularly are holding mass marriages involving hundreds of couples.

Due to high dowries, young Yemenis often lose the chance to marry and many end up spinsters or bachelors. However, critics of mass marriage claim that although it reduces the costs, it fails to treat the heart of the issue, i.e., poverty, which is the main problem. Even if they marry, many aren't able to sustain their families and shoulder their responsibilities.