I was watching a video about the government dating program in Iran for some unknown reason, and one of the “match makers” for potential married parties gave a startling statistic. Apparently 96% of marriages in America end in divorce. He used this statistic to further his ideology, which is that an ideal marriage is between partners who have considered the logical motivations for marriage and not the romantic or emotional ones. Because I never believe anything at face value I had to look up divorce statistics in the world.
Divorce rates in America are 46%, in 2014. Not the leap the Iranian love doctor had in mind, but still a striking figure. And I wonder if the dating culture in America accounts for anything. Since people don’t really date in Iran, or in fact in many places in the world, it seems a bit dishonest to leave out break up statistics from this sort of census. But anyway, if anyone is wondering…
Portugal takes the cake for highest divorce rates at 71% (in 2013). 16 countries out rank America in this statistic, including Spain, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Czech Rep, Canada and Sweden. A theme arises when you compare the highest divorce rate countries to the ones under 20%. Under 20% you have places like Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Kyrgzstan, Algeria, Mexico, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Syria, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India, Libya, and Sri Lanka (which has so few divorces it doesn’t even scale comparatively). What separates these two groups and makes them different?
I think there are many factors, but one glaringly obvious one is religiosity. The low divorce group is full of countries that have high levels of religious belief, many of them being Islamic, or such as Ireland mostly Catholic, two religions that have strictly negative ideas about divorce. Another thing to consider is women’s rights. In most of the high divorce rate countries, women have no issue getting a divorce, getting settlements, getting child support and custody of children. Whereas in many of the lower divorce rate countries women don’t always have that kind of freedom.
For example, many of the Islamic countries follow sharia law when it comes to divorce. This complicates divorce for the woman, especially if she has children. Men are almost always considered more fit to take care of a child, if it is not a baby, and are usually automatically given custody. This is especially true if the women is not a Muslim. She is also prohibited from marrying another man, if she wants to keep her children (you remarry in Egypt or most Islamic countries, you lose your kids). Among many other complications, sharia law certainly doesn’t make divorce easy on women. But it also does not make it easy on men, who are forced in many Islamic countries to continue financially supporting their ex wives for 2 years or longer, regardless of anyones financial situation as well as provide financial care for the daughters until they are married. Not to mention the social pressure from not just family, but society, which makes divorce into a taboo.
In many places, like Mexico, getting a divorce is legally complicated. There are only 3 ways to divorce in Mexico. One, you agree 100% about everything with your soon to be ex and end the marriage with both parties happily getting everything they want. Two, you never had children and you dont own anything together and no one is asking for anything from each other. Or three, the more likely option, you don’t meet eye to eye with your partner and have to battle it out in court. This usually means there would be to have been some drama as well, such as family violence, abandoning the home, or religious differences for example. The last option is extremely expensive, taking over a year in court to battle out, and ultimately unrewarding as the courts usually rule 50/50 anyway. Divorce in Mexico is expensive and bureaucratic. In many countries, you will find such bureaucracy such as this. In Ireland, for example, a couple must prove they have been separated for at least 4 years prior to filing for divorce.
In Uzbekistan, divorce rates work against women, again, another theme. There, you have to go through a reconciliation commission before you can divorce. Even women who experience domestic abuse against themselves or their children, are forced to try and make amends with their husbands before proceeding with a divorce. These committees, called mahalla committees, intentionally try to delay divorces in hopes of keeping families together. All this does is force women to stay in their marriages, so that they do not become homeless or lose their children. Even if women are escaping abusive husbands in these societies, if the authorities are aware they are married, they will do little to protect the women.
The same is in India, where divorce is a social taboo and one that can take years to process completely. Similar to other countries, in India couples must prove they have been separated for some time and are only left with two options: either agree completely with one another, or fight it out. Many of the marriage and divorce laws in India work against women in such a way to make divorce a non-option for them. For example, a childless woman who dies, her property is inherited by her husbands family -not her own. Only the title of property is consider in divorce, not when it was acquired. So if a man is putting his name on everything, even if it’s bought during the marriage, for the wife, or with the wives money, she has no claim to it in the case of divorce.
It’s interesting to note that Iran is quite low on this list, at 22% divorce rate (2014). But what’s interesting about this divorce rate is that it’s rising. Since 2006, it rose by more than one and a half times to the point it was at in 2014. And in the decade, it has tripled. (This compared to America, where divorce is at a all time low in the last 40 years). A sociologist in Tehran noted that in the increase was likely due to the fact that, “Women are more educated and have increased financial empowerment. It used to be that a woman would marry and she would just have to get along. Now if she’s not happy, she’ll separate. It’s not taboo.” Another sociologist notes, “In the past, if a housewife left her home, she would go hungry; now there is a degree of possibility of finding a job and earning an income.”
However, it’s still hard to get a divorce in Iran. For one, if the husband is against the divorce, the women must prove that the husband is abusive or has psychological problems. In 2015, likely in reaction to the rising divorce rates, Iran complicated divorce even further. Divorce by mutual consent was made invalid. Couples need to undergo state-run counseling before approaching the idea of divorce. The idea of divorce as a bad thing actually seems to be unconnected.
Divorce rates did soar in America back in the 70s and 80s, but that correlates with a time when women were entering the work force in droves. Now divorce is decreasing in America, it seems to have a lot to do with the fact couples don’t just jump in anymore, without carefully considering their partner. Living together unmarried has stopped being a taboo, as well as having children out of wedlock.
Do couples stay together more now, in general? I don’t think so. But that shouldn’t be a statistic worth worrying about. Issues like domestic violence, women’s independence, and satisfaction of life should be of more concern than the rate of divorce. Falling in love and getting married motivates a person, in my opinion, to work through the tough hands life deals because you ultimately believe this person is worth it. Getting married out of convenience and logical choice, only is strengthen so long as the conditions which brought you together are met. Lose your job? Unable to have kids? In-laws move in? All the the things in life which can be thrown at us at any time can damage a foundation which is built upon certain expectations.
So many of these countries with low divorce rates also have challenging marriage prospects. People are looking for a certain type of person in a certain type of situation. To be in love is potentially, and hopefully, to love all things about a person. Including their faults and flaws, their aging skin and thinning hair. To love them when they’re sick, unemployed, or miserable. Love marriages put a lot of choice and freedom in the hands of women, who usually dominate the dating world regardless of cultural standards anyway, which in many ways helps diminish the statistics around abuse. To fall in love and marry for love is to chose faith and hope. Something, which I think, is more motivating for a person to maintain. Anyway I thought it was an interesting topic to spend some time wasting away reading about. Anyone who read this far, go you. You get a sticker. An internet sticker. An emoji. 👩❤️👨
That video I watched, the guy later went on to say that the average girl in high school in America has at least 10 boyfriends, and by the time she is married, she has had 20 boyfriends at least. I dunno who he was pulling this statistic from, but dang that girl must have been really charismatic I didn’t even know 10 people in high school.