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23 July 2024

In Saudi… who is to blame for high divorce rates

By Nadim Kawach

Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest divorce rates as nearly a fifth of the marriages do not last. Women blame “unfaithful” men for this negative phenomenon while husbands accuse “cosmetics loving” wives.

Although women say they spend much money on make up to look better and please their husbands, men appear to be no longer attracted to external looks as there have been many cases involving men having an affair with less beautiful women or sleeping with their housemaids.

In a report published in a Saudi newspaper this week, experts estimated Saudi women spent at least SR1.5 billion on cosmetics in 2010 and are projected to spend SR1.8 billion in 2014. But divorces are also expected to remain widespread as the number of spinsters will likely more than double in the next few years due to the negative impact of divorces on Saudis seeking marriage.

“I married my relative, who had always told me that I am his dream girl and that he sees no one else in the world except me…like other women, I believed him and agreed to marry him,” Fadwa, a Saudi woman, told Sabq newspaper.

“After we married, I started to care more for my appearance to please him…but then he began to change and started to spend more time outside…he was coming up with too many excuses until I found out about his relationship with a nurse…I controlled myself and started to think what has attracted him to a less beautiful woman…I could not find any reason so I simply asked for a divorce because I would rather be a divorced than a foolish woman.”

Another woman, identified as Maha, said she believes Arab men “love relationships outside marriage.”

“Even if the most beautiful woman in the world goes out with an Arab man, he will forget about her beauty just after their first relationship…the Arab man if fond of betrayal ,” said Maha, who was divorced just after marrying a Saudi man.

“Just three months after my marriage, I found my husband sleeping with the housemaid despite my efforts to please him..…I then asked for a divorce because it was a matter of dignity…he strongly refused but I filed a divorce case at court and I won it…thanks God that we did not have any children.”

Official data showed nearly a fifth of the marriages in the largest Arab economy and world’s dominant oil power ended up in divorce last year, an average of one divorce case every half an hour.

Total marriages stood at 90,983 in 2010 of which 18,765 ended up in divorce, showed the figures by the marriage court in the western Red Sea port of Jeddah.

 “It is time for authorities to force any Saudi couple seeking marriage to undergo a training course before marriage…this system has been enforced in some countries and it has contributed to a large decline in divorce cases…the high divorce rates in Saudi Arabia show there is a large gap in the concept of marriage and divorce,” the court said.

Newspapers in the Gulf Kingdom have reported many cases of hasty divorces by men, who are permitted to divorce their wives under Islamic law without reason. Women can not do the same but can file court cases.

One case reported last year involved a Saudi husband who divorced his wife by sending her a text message on her mobile phone.

The woman from the western town of Madina asked court to officially endorse her divorce and supported its complaint with the SMS from her husband.

“The husband told the judge he sent the message after an argument with his wife but that he did not mean to divorce her,” a newspaper said.

“But the judge considered the SMS as a real divorce under Islam and decided to support the wife’s plea for divorce.”

According to a local study, Saudi Arabia had nearly 1.5 million spinsters at the end of 2010 and the number could soar to more than four million in the next five years because of the high divorce rate.

During 2010, nearly 60,000 national couples tied the knot in the conservative Moslem kingdom but there were more than 18,000 divorce cases.

“This means that the kingdom is suffering from a marriage failure rate of nearly 30 per cent,” said the study. “As a result, Saudi Arabia is suffering from a high number of female spinsters, who are now estimated at 1.5 million….the number could rise above four million in the next five years.”

Sabq also published comments by husbands, who defended themselves and accused women of lacking genuine feelings and caring only for cosmetics.

“Saudi women lack the language of genuine feelings and sentiments…I don’t care if the woman is very beautiful…all I want is a women with a beautiful temper, feelings and personality…external appearance is not my main concern” said a Saudi husband, identified as Ali.

Another husband said his dream was first to marry a pretty woman and that it took him nearly three years to fulfill that dream.

“After marriage, I felt that my wife care only for make up and this has cost me large sums of money…I noticed that she exaggerates in looking after herself to show off in front of her friends,” said Ahmed, who has been married for 10 years.

“I found that my wife’s personality is unbearable…she has double faces—one at home and one in front of people…I could have divorced her long time ago hadn’t we got children….but I decided to keep her and marry again.”