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Feature – Marriage loses its sparkle in Kuwait

Kuwait Marriages losing sparkle?

Kuwaitis say divorce and remarriage have become easier and carry less of a social stigma. Nearly a quarter of those who divorced in 2011 had been married for less than a year.

October 11, 2012 8:59 by


Although Kuwaitis live in a far more open social environment than their counterparts in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, relationships before marriage are largely taboo and people are encouraged to marry early, usually in unions arranged according to family ties and social status.

Polygamous marriages are not uncommon in Islamic societies but only small numbers of Kuwaiti men have more than one wife. Traditionally, up to a third of marriages have ended in divorce and that figure has been rising in recent years.

At the ladies’ gathering, accessed by an elevator shielded by a wooden screen to allow the women to enter and leave unseen, 22-year-old Nour al-Rujaib said the pressure for women to marry starts from around the age of 21.

“Girls want to get married so they can have freedom. We cannot travel alone,” she said, dressed in a red cocktail dress and black high heels.

She said she was happy to marry early if the man could afford for her to have a comfortable lifestyle.

The number of men getting married later than age 24 grew to 65 percent in 2008 from 61 percent in 2000, according to a calculation based on statistics compiled by the United Nations.

For women, the number rose only slightly over the same period, from 38 percent to 40 percent.

Some urban Kuwaitis say that attempts to encourage early, traditional marriages belong in the past.

“Society is much more open than when I was a teenager. You can socialize through the Internet, go travelling more easily,” said 34-year-old Taiba al-Jaber, who caused uproar in her family by insisting on marrying a man she had picked herself.

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