Monday, February 1, 2010

Divorce in the Middle East

As always, Gulf News proves to be great fodder for my blogs. I am always inspired to blog about something I read in the newspaper. The past week's papers have given me many things to talk about. The first being Divorce in the Middle East. First of all, let me say that when I arrived here I thought divorce would be taboo and not allowed. I was very wrong. I have learned quite the contrary by reading the newspaper and conversations I have had with people who live in the UAE. Divorce is quite common, although discouraged. Apparently, men frequently divorce wives (or one of their wives) for various reasons. Women seeking divorce is on the rise in the UAE. The other day I read an interesting article in the paper about divorce filings in Kuwait, which is a much more morally strict country than the UAE (especially for women). According to this article, a 50% divorce rate is prevalent in Kuwait with 20% of these cases being filed by women. Most of the cases files by women were related to abuse and adultery. However, the article emphasized the fact that separations were more commonly sought for frivolous reasons. Two such cases were sited in this article that I found astounding and amusing at the same time. One was a woman who divorced her husband on their wedding day because she found out at the wedding ballroom that the groom had not made the costly arrangements that she had asked for, and he instead chose a reception that cost much less. Another silly case was a woman who filed for divorce because she did not like the way her husband made sounds while eating! I read some time back about a woman in Abu Dhabi who sought divorce because her husband was ugly. She had been married to him for ten years, and she said she just couldn't stand it any longer.
The article stated that there has been a change in attitude in families regarding divorce in Kuwait. The families are no longer ashamed that they have a son or daughter who is divorced and that the women are often encouraged to divorce because of the financial gains involved for her. They also stated one of the reasons for the rise in divorce and the change in attitude is because in Kuwait, it is a huge problem when a man cannot provide a luxurious life to his wife. It is his duty to provide her with a maid, driver, arrange for her to shop, and have the ability to allow her to travel at least once a year. Not all Kuwaitis are able to provide this kind of lifestyle. Another issue is also adultery. There is a huge increase of adultery in Kuwait (I thought adulterers were stoned to death or something terrible like that in these countries!) I did think the article hit on one very important factor about divorce that I believe may be universal. "....the high divorce rate...insinuates that we are too spoiled to remain stuck to our marriages," said a Kuwaiti lawyer quoted in the article. I tend to agree. I know I see this in America a lot.

So much to my surprise, the Middle East is dealing more and more with moral issues that Westerners have been dealing with for many years. I just would have thought divorce would not be allowed, especially since many of the marriages are arranged.

Now we've all learned something new today!

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