x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Who is to blame for the high number of divorces?

Sara Al Hemeiri looks at the possible factors behind the rising number of divorce cases

Emirati girls grow up fantasising about marriage. AP Photo
Emirati girls grow up fantasising about marriage. AP Photo

According to the latest National Bureau of Statistics, the number of divorces among Emiratis increased by 38 per cent between 2013 and 2014. The UAE has one of the highest divorce rates in the world.

This could be happening for many reasons. One is that girls grow up fantasising about marriage. They often imagine the day of their marriage as a day when they will be free from the clutches of their parents.

However, when that time comes, they realise that there is a big difference between perception and reality, and that marriage does not mean freedom but commitment and obligation.

Secondly, it’s possible that progress and development are taking a toll on marriages. It’s worth remembering that a man’s self-esteem can be hurt by his wife’s success.

That’s perhaps because a woman’s success challenges the gender stereotype that the man should be more competent, strong and intelligent than his partner. Traditionally, men expect their wives to look after the household. When these expectations are not met, trouble is inevitable. In other words, misogyny can cut short the life of a marriage. Men who seek undivided attention also tend to feel neglected when their wives devote time to their professions. Friction takes place when women point their fingers at their husband for not paying them as much respect as they receive from their male colleagues at work.

Emirati women’s lives have undergone tremendous change over the years. Aided by the Government’s commitment to empower women and provide them with equal opportunities, the status of women in this country has flourished in parallel with the country’s growth since the union was established in 1971.

It is evident that women today constitute a vital part of the workforce and actively contribute to the economy.

Under the constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, health care and social welfare and the same right to practise professions as men. They are also guaranteed the same access to employment.

Today Emirati women account for a significant number of the national labour force in fields as diverse as science, technology, engineering, health care, media, law, commerce, politics, aviation and education. This has benefited women in another way – their independence enables them to leave bad marriages.

However, the rising rate of divorce cannot be blamed solely on women’s new-found independence.

Moreover, despite women’s ability to leave a failed marriage, divorce is frowned upon in society.Women are also taught from an early age that if a marriage does not work initially, they need to be patient and allow time to work out the differences.

One bright spot in the entire issue is that the number of marriages in people’s late teens and early twenties is plummeting. Emirati women are wising up to the fact that marriage takes work and having a university degree can be useful in overcoming fears and doubts.

Individuality and financial security allow women to avoid living with dreadful patience or the fear of being a burden on their parents if their marriages do not work out. Divorce is increasingly becoming an acceptable option also because it is financially feasible.

I am not campaigning for divorce, but I would always prefer peace of mind than marrying for the sake of it. Following the endurance narrative in a marriage can waste years, especially if there are children involved.

As the comedian Louis CK said: “No good marriage has ever ended in divorce.”

Sara Al Hemeiri is an Emirati writer who lives in Abu Dhabi