Dubai divorces up, Emirati weddings down but mixed marriages rise

According to new data from the Dubai Statistics Centre, more marriage contracts were registered in the emirate last year, but the divorce rate also increases by 26 per cent.

DUBAI // The number of divorces in Dubai rose dramatically last year, while fewer Emiratis are getting married.

The Dubai Courts issued more than 1,100 divorce certificates, a 26 per cent increase from 2011. More couples married overall, but there was a 7 per cent decrease in marriage between Emiratis and a 1 per cent increase in Emiratis marrying expatriates, according to new data from the Dubai Statistics Centre.

The reasons behind divorce are myriad but rapid social change has created tensions for families, said Suaad Al Oraimi, a professor of gender and development at UAE University.

Potential factors behind the increase in Emirati divorces include the high cost of marriage, exposure to other cultures, increased independence for women and a disparity between less-educated husbands and more highly educated wives, she said.

“Society is moving from traditional customs to modern ones,” Prof Al Oraimi said. “Our culture now is becoming mixed. A lot of behaviour, a lot of social norms, a lot of values are changed.”

Yousuf Al Sharif, a lawyer in Dubai, said marrying too young and too hastily, and financial strains, were potential causes of divorce. He criticised the expense of weddings and dowry requirements such as “gold, diamonds, cars and majestic dresses”.

“The percentage of divorce cases have increased in our legal firm,” Mr Al Sharif said. The reasons included domestic abuse, a husband’s refusal to pay his wife’s expenses or provide her with a separate home, and infidelity, “including electronic infidelity”.

The number of Emirati marriages probably declined because young people are waiting until they finish their education and establish a career, Prof Al Oraimi said.

“They want to be ready for the marriage, and that takes a long time,” she said.

The data does not include an estimate of the rate at which marriages fail. It is a snapshot of marriage contracts and divorce certificates.

There were 4,200 marriage contracts in Dubai last year, a 4 per cent increase from the previous year.

But the number of divorce certificates increased across the board. Divorces rose 23 per cent for Emirati couples and 14 per cent for Emiratis married to expatriates.

For expatriate couples, there was a 10 per cent increase in marriages and a 31 per cent jump in divorces.

This year’s statistics show a sharper rise in divorces than in previous years. The number of divorce certificates rose by 10 per cent from 2009 to 2010 and a further 13 per cent from 2010 to 2011.

This year’s statistics also show a greater increase in the number of Emirati marriages failing than in previous years.

Dr Fakir Al Gharaibeh, a professor of social work and social policy at the University of Sharjah, surveyed more than 1,700 divorced Emirati women for a study sponsored by the Marriage Fund. The results were released last year.

The study found a wide range of factors behind divorces, including disparities in the ages of the spouses, disparities in education levels, communication failures, an inability to get to know each other before marriage, family interference, domestic violence, jealousy, lack of intimacy and alcohol and drug use.

With her students, Prof Al Oraimi discusses how social change affects families.

“My students think about the change,” she said. “The change in society, a change in women’s status also – education and work.

And a change also in men’s status, because men lost a kind of authority because women became independent.”

Whereas men were the sole breadwinners, women now share that position, she said.

“All of these things together contribute to this kind of new phenomenon in our society.”

The Dubai Statistics Centre report also noted a statistical oddity: an unusually high number of marriages in December, apparently due to couples seeking to marry on 12-12-12.

More than 440 couples married in December, compared with 391 in February, the next most popular month. The least popular month to get married was August, with 255 marriage contracts registered.