Rising Saudi 'spinsterhood' sparks alarm

High dowries blamed

15 April, 19:10

    Eid al-Fitr in Saudi Arabia [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20120819 ] Eid al-Fitr in Saudi Arabia [ARCHIVE MATERIAL 20120819 ]

    ( by Virginia Di Marco)

    (ANSAmed) ROME - Though it may seem a somewhat derogatory joke, in Saudi Arabia the number of unmarried women over age 30 is a major concern to the kingdom's institutions and public opinion. Numerous articles have appeared in local media on the issue recently and there is an ongoing, lively debate around it. There are currently some 1.5 million Saudi women of marriageable age, out of a total population of 27 million. This figure may rise to 4 million over the next few years, say experts and institutes that have studied the issue. One of the latter is the University of Qassim, in the province of the same name. Some of the professors claim that high dowries are the main cause, as the men are required to pay dowries for their brides that are set by the woman's family. The amount usually runs into the tens of thousands of dollars and includes cash, jewels and gifts such as highly popular technological gadgets. A growing number of men seem to have instead decided not to pay. A few years back, a group of Saudi bachelors launched a campaign to 'Boycott Girls to Lower Dowries', complete with a Twitter hashtag. Behind anonymous online accounts, some women responded that 'Saudi men prefer to pay for a car instead of a wife' and 'Saudi men hope to pay a dowry for one wife and get three others for free'. The trend has significant social and legal effects, including on the high and rising divorce rate in the country.
    Official figures say that 4 out of every 10 marriages end in divorce and that 60% of those that do not work out fall apart in the first year. The news came out in March that Saudi courts received in only 7 months some 84,000 disputes to be solved concerning dowries and child custody. The Riyadh justice ministry recently said that it intends to analyze the phenomenon to understand it better and announced that a handbook was in preparation to inform newlyweds about problems that often arise in marriages. (ANSAmed).

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