Marriage loses its sparkle in Kuwait

Wed Oct 10, 2012 10:04am EDT
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By Sylvia Westall

KUWAIT (Reuters) - In a luxury hotel suite, away from prying eyes, twenty Kuwaiti female guests at a traditional wedding party segregated by the sexes watch the men via a video link.

The women snap pictures of the festivities on their cell phones and swap stories about how they met their husbands and their views on marriage. The contrasts between young and old in the conversation expose a shift in society that has the government worried.

"The most important thing now is getting a university degree," said Noora al-Jaber, 28, who married seven years ago.

"The woman should get a good certificate and the man a steady income. Only then can they think about marriage," she said, as the women sipped fruit juice from champagne flutes.

The role of the family is extremely important in Kuwait, where large clans forge blood ties that are essential not only socially but also in politics and business.

But the marriage rate is falling: in 2011 there were 359 marriages per 100,000 inhabitants, a ten percent decrease compared to 2007, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice. Around 70 percent of the marriages were between two nationals of the Gulf Arab state, which is home to 1.2 million Kuwaitis and 2.4 million foreigners.

The government, which sees itself as the guardian of traditional values and social stability, has shown its concern about the trend with a campaign called "Marriage Comes First."

The campaign, launched in March by the Justice Ministry, encourages Kuwaitis to think about matrimony before material goods, studying, a career, travelling and having fun with friends.   Continued...