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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

“I was Americanized. After the Iraqi invasion, our society felt the American influence when the American troops came here. We saw movies and soap operas. But back then I guess I was already too open for my community,” she said.

Her husband, a Saudi national who works in information technology, finally convinced her father he was a worthy partner after compiling a power point presentation on his family heritage and income. They married in 2007, some seven years after he first proposed.


Mohammed al-Muharib, a married 29-year-old naval officer dressed in traditional white Kuwaiti robes, said marriage has become too costly and troublesome for some men.

“Some of my friends just don’t want to get married. It has become far too expensive,” he told Reuters outside the doors of the male wedding party.

“We live in a society where the man bears the costs for almost everything – the house, food, clothes, children, a maid, cars, shopping,” he said, counting off the list on his fingers.

Inside the hotel ballroom, men danced with swords to the beat of traditional drums. The air was heavy with the scent of bakhoor, special incense worth more than its weight in gold.

Some men do not want to be tied down, said his friend Abdulmohsen al-Barjas, also 29, though he scoffed at that concern.

“I think this idea is just propaganda. I am married and I am free. Us two, we went to Dubai recently, we get to travel.”

Many Kuwaitis still opt for a “traditional” arranged marriage, with a courting period ranging from one week to several months, mainly in the presence of family members.

The groom usually pays a cash dowry to the bride’s family to marry – sometimes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.


Compounding the marriage problem from the government’s perspective is a rising divorce rate.

The number of divorces rose 16 percent in the five years to 2011 to 172 divorces for every 100,000 inhabitants, according to Justice Ministry statistics. Kuwait had the highest total divorce rate among Gulf Cooperation Councilcountries, according to a 2010 report by Booz & Company.

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.

Health Ministry officials told Reuters they were considering setting up pre-marriage counselling clinics to prepare Kuwaitis for matrimony, rather than just testing them for hereditary and infectious diseases as at present.

“What we need is a special centre outside the court for couples to talk over their problems, but this is difficult in our society, people go to their families instead,” lawyer Waleed al-Dousari said.

He sees himself as part lawyer, part counsellor, and handles 5-6 new divorce cases a month. When he started out six years ago, the number was half that, he said.

Dousari said it is important to prevent divorce because the close-knit nature of Kuwait makes separation an especially disruptive force that pits whole families against each other.

“In our society, the problems that come after the divorce can be even worse,” he said.

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