Saturday, November 20, 2010

Freedom to Marry Includes the Freedom to Divorce

The right to marry must have with it the freedom to divorce, because consent should be at the heart of full marriage equality. Those who want to deny marriage equality will often claim that polygyny oppresses women. However, in Qatar, polygyny rates are apparently declining as some women choose divorce when their husband wants to take on another wife. No marriage construct is right for everyone, and if these women prefer to be unmarried rather than to go from a monogamous relationship into a polygynous one, they are free to leave, and some do.

According to the study conducted by the Qatar Statistics Authority, the percentage of Qatari men taking second wives has dropped from 6.6% to 4% which is seen as an indication of the decline of polygamy in Qatar as well as in the Gulf region in general.

Just as consent is at the heart of marriage equality, gender equality is important to consent.

Financial independence is seen as one of the factors that contributed to the decline of polygamy.

“Qatari women are no longer dependent on men,” said Abeer, a student. “In the past, only men worked so women did not object when their husbands remarried.”

For Abeer, the decline in polygamy was not only a sign of development for women, but also for men.

“The fact that men are not taking second wives show that they are more focused on their work and are becoming more productive instead of only caring about their personal pleasure.”

It could be that they care more about material gain than personal relationships.

While the drop in polygamy is seen as healthy, several researchers find it detrimental to the well being of society. For researcher Ibrahim Gomaa, when men started having only one wife, the number of single women has remarkably increased.

“The Qatari society did not suffer the problem of spinsterhood before,” he said. “Now this problem will be magnified as polygamy drops especially that the Qatari society is small and conservative.”
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