Divorce rates up, marriage down in Egypt, Islamic world

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Marriage and divorce have surfaced across Egypt and the Islamic world as a major social problem, as a result of rising divorce rates. Local and international newspapers have been quick to pick up on the trend that has put marriage on the back burner of the Egyptian society.

Foremost US newspaper, The New York Times, wrote in February that marriage in Egypt ”is the gateway to independence, sexual activity and societal respect.”

The newspaper added that while marriage was important for financial reasons and the community, Egyptians are not getting married due to a lack of finances and poverty.

According to the Daily News Egypt, divorce rates are up to nearly half of couples splitting within the first four years.

It said that majority of those breakups were due to financial difficulties and sexual frustration.

Leading Islamic scholar Gamal Al Banna, 86, brother of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al Banna, said one way to combat the increasing sexual tension in Egypt and the Islamic world would be to stop condemning couples who kiss outside marriage.

“We should not contradict ourselves and the reality we are living in,” Al Banna said.

“Now there are a lot of youngsters who cannot afford to get married. Also, there is the fact that sexual desire is the strongest human instinct, and Islam cannot ignore such facts,” he added.

Scholars and analysts believe that the social stigma revolving around sex has a major impact on the quality and length of marriages.

“People are so quick to get married because they have no other outlet, especially the poorer segments of society, that they forget that this will not solve all their problems,” a feminist activist in Cairo told panapress.

She said people should readily accept that sex was not going to resolve all issues.

However, money seems to be a larger factor in breakups.

In Egypt, couples often become engaged at a very early stage in relationships in order to be accepted in the society, unlike in the West where lengthy relationships usually precede marriage.

“This quickness to get engaged and (be) married is probably a leading cause of the problems, because people don’t really think of the many other responsibilities that come with marriage,” said Melanie, an Austrian-Egyptian who has been married for a couple years.

She said Egyptians needed to be educated more about what marriage entails, adding: “It isn’t simply about sex.”

But with rising prices and no increase in Egyptian salaries, the issue of marriage will continue to be at the forefront of many debates.

Egyptians want marriage, but without the proper financial means to achieve it, many are turning to longer stints as bachelors.

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