DUBAI // Statistics released by the Juma'a al Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage suggest more than a third of Emirati marriages end in divorce, and many experts believe a lack of understanding among young people of what matrimony entails is part of the problem.
Accordingly, attitudes towards marriage among young Emiratis will be the subject of a study by a committee aiming to help reduce the high national divorce rate. The new "consultative council" at the UAE Marriage Fund will be set up to find out what young nationals think about marriage and try to educate them on the responsibilities involved in tying the knot. "This council will look into what the youth are interested in, the new trends developed by them and their attitudes," said Dr Maitha al Shamsi, the Minister of State and director general of the fund, which provides marriage grants and sponsors group weddings for nationals.
She was speaking on Tuesday at the signing of an agreement between the marriage fund and the Dubai courts that promised a new level of cooperation aimed at reducing the number of divorces. The memorandum of understanding outlines a greater exchange of information between the two organisations and better access to matrimonial legal experts for staff at the marriage fund. A four-member committee will be set up to oversee and establish a work plan between the organisations.
The Ministry of Social Affairs announced in November it planned to conduct the first nationwide enquiry next year to determine how many Emirati couples were divorcing and why. The results of that survey, expected next December, aim to provide an overall picture and help policy makers come up with preventative measures. There are no official statistics on divorce, but a number of bodies, including the Juma'a al Majid Centre, have released their own data. The centre's figure, indicating a national divorce rate of 34 per cent, would represent a significant decrease when compared with statistics compiled by the Dubai courts.
The divorce rate among Emiratis was recorded by the courts at 55 per cent in 2005, 56 per cent in 2006, 61 per cent in 2007 and 53 per cent in 2008. The marriage fund has previously suggested that four out of 10 Emirati marriages are failing, while the Abu Dhabi-based Al Tawasel Centre for Training and Family believes the rate to be about one in four. Despite the widely varying estimates, it is generally agreed that too many Emirati couples are getting divorced and that the problem lies primarily with newlyweds.
Anas Sabry, a social researcher at the Juma'a al Majid Centre, said "misconceptions of marriage" were the main reason. "Couples enter into marriage without understanding the requirements for it," he said. "They get married for various reasons but in many cases they do not understand the requirements needed to have healthy and long-lasting marriage." Fawzia Taresh, the head of family development at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said previously: "One of the reasons for these young couples divorcing is that the whole concept of marriage has changed and many seem not to understand that marriage comes with responsibilities."
Experts have suggested a number of possible reasons for the UAE's apparently high divorce rate, ranging from the influx of foreign women into the country to the ease with which divorces are granted. The trend has added to anxiety in some quarters that the country may be in danger of losing its Emirati identity. The UAE Marriage Fund was established in 1992 by the late Sheikh Zayed, founding President of the UAE, to facilitate and fund Emirati marriages. More than 44,000 weddings have been funded by the institution since its inception.