I m divorcing my wife tomorrow morning. After 15 years of marriage, life has become unbearable. She treats me like an ox tied to a wagon wheel who must work day and night to make more money for her and the children. “Every day she thinks of something new to buy that I have to pay for – music lessons, an art class – besides all the talk about securing the children’s future. I’m required to do everything she says and at the same time continue being the cow that produces milk. And if the ox dies of stress, it’s not important; there are many other men in the world.
“I’ll divorce her immediately and marry another one. I can’t have an illicit relationship. After deep thought, I’ve decided to find me a wife who belongs to a lower class than mine. At least these women still respect their husbands, unlike the likes of my wife who have become very rude. You can’t steer a ship with more than one captain. But who cares?
I’ve heard this from many men over the past three months. It’s like an epidemic virus violently threatening the Egyptian family, which we wrongly thought was immune to the virus that struck families in Western societies, simply because we still preserve the characteristics of the “happy orient.
Statistics indicate that divorce and the collapse of the family institution have become a phenomenon that cannot be ignored. Divorce strikes 46 percent of all marriages each year, compared to 33 percent a few years ago. A staggering 42 percent of divorces occur among newly-married couples in the first to fourth year of marriage.
Divorce rates among young people in the first year of marriage has risen to 34.5 percent, according to recent statistics by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMS). The figure is terrifying. In Austria, for example, divorce rates hit 48.9 percent, which has led the Austrian government to declare an emergency to tackle a disaster that threatens the security and safety of the community.
These statistics are not only in Egypt, but also in most of the Arab world. The divorce rate in Kuwait has reached 46 percent, according to a symposium on spinsterhood organized by Arabiyat forum. It hit 48 percent and 38 percent in the UAE and Qatar, respectively. Clearly this social phenomenon has undermined the family institution and threatens the next generation.
In France, for example, two thirds of schoolchildren come from broken homes and many of their parents live with second husbands and wives.
Psychologists are observing these students to predict future behavioral patterns. One must wonder about the psychological state of Arab society following three decades of its men not living under sound social conditions – at least from the old-school perspective that children must grow up in both their parents’ care.
I recently met a group of university professors. When I told them that I was planning to write an article about divorce, all fifteen confessed that they were separated from their wives. One female workmate also said that the marriages of six of her close friends all lasted less than a year.
Regardless of the statistics, I vouch for the fact that this phenomenon has reached unprecedented heights.
What has really happened in the past few years? Some social research claims that poverty accounts for a considerable percentage of divorces and that sexual incompatibility between couples is another reason.
I disagree. Poverty, need and bedroom problems are as old as sin. So what has happened then?
Some point an accusing finger at women’s emancipation as the culprit behind the collapse of the family. Once more, I beg to differ. I think that women have lost much of what they gained in the past ten years.
The divorce phenomenon is, without a doubt, the product of changes in society as a whole; the way marriages are conducted, the absence of any sense of belonging to the homeland, to a common cause or an institution.
With this feeling predominant among most young people, how can they have a sense of belonging to the institution of marriage? Young people these days change jobs and even careers as if they were changing their t-shirt. At the same time, many girls want to get away from their own broken homes, and so accept any proposal just to escape, only to continue their escapism by leaving their husbands.
Social pressure, not only financial problems, push people into a tight corner every day, and the prevalent fast food culture has made caution a thing of the past.
Globalization, the information revolution and the satellite revolution, which shower us with a barrage of images and poisoned values, have all nipped marriage in the bud. When I look at my children I wonder how long their marriages will last. Will it be years, months or hours?
Khaled Al Khamissi is a political scientist and prolific social commentator.