What Hinders Marriage?

What Hinders Marriage?What Hinders Marriage?

A memorandum of understanding was signed by the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs and the Iran Insurance Company last week to provide insurance for couples getting married.

Within the framework of the MoU, families can subscribe for insurance by paying a monthly premium and the beneficiaries are their children when they get married.

The insurance covers costs of prenuptial counseling, wedding ceremony and reception, and marriage portion (or ‘mahriyeh’, a mandatory payment in the form of money or possessions paid or promised to pay by the groom, or by groom’s father, to the bride at the time of marriage) for divorce, and compensation in case of death of a spouse.

Diverse traditions and customs govern marriages across the world, but the impact of automated modern life, urbanization, and development is almost the same across continents.

At a roundtable organized by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), officials from the State Organization for Registration of Deeds and Properties, Vice-Presidency for Women and Family Affairs, and academia discussed the issue of marriage and the existing challenges citing recent statistics.

Marriage is not the first priority on the list for youngsters and comes fourth after employment, education, home ownership as per a survey conducted in 2012. “The younger generation is more concerned with improving their financial status rather than creating a home and family,” says Shahla Kazemipour, sociologist and faculty member of Tehran University.

“Student loans for marriage have been given since 1999, but practically to no avail, since they have clearly not succeeded in encouraging marriage among the youth,” she added.

Head of the Population Information Office at the Organization for Civil Registration, Ali Akbar Mahzoon, said even if economic obstacles were removed, the younger generation would still refuse to marry early.

“The change in demographics can also be blamed for the emerging marriage trends,” he said.

The huge number of youth, in the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups characterized by the population boom of the 1990s and early 2000s respectively are marrying late and having fewer children.

 SCI Data

“The figures provided by the Statistical Center of Iran, which puts the number of marriages at the end of September this year at 368,205, are satisfactory, but we need to look at the rate of marriage compared to the earlier years,” Kazemipour stressed.

Annual surveys by the SCI reveal a pattern in which the rate of marriage each year is lower than the preceding year. The average marriage age for men and women has increased to 28 and 23.5 years respectively from 24 and 19 years in 1979.

There are 11.2 million people in the country of 80 million who are single. Nearly 3.5% of all marriages are for the second or third time.

“The rate of marriage has been declining since 2011 (down by 6.5%), and it will continue to decline as the generation born during the 1990s bypass the crucial marriageable age,” she noted.

Maryam Nejabatian, director of the Counseling Center at the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, attributed the increasing trend of divorce to lack of life skills in young couples besides economic factors.

“As individualism thrives in the society, fewer and fewer people are willing to accept commitment and responsibility,” she said, adding that “divorce should not be considered a catastrophe in life, and it is okay for people to get divorced and remarry.”

The “social consequences” of divorce that exist within traditional societies has pushed people to stay single or resort to “white marriages” or cohabitation.  Though mind-frames and thinking has changed in Iran over the past few decades, divorce is still taboo as parents normally oppose separations, especially when the couple have children.

 Major Factors

Kazeminejad cited urbanization, higher education particularly among women, and multiculturalism as some of the major factors contributing to late marriages.

“Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, about 47% of the Iranian population was urbanized. This has increased to 73% in recent years.”

“However, the reluctance to marry is not necessarily an evil if it has a rational side to it, and prevents legal and emotional divorce among youngsters.” Also, it is not a bad thing if marriage is delayed due to constructive reasons such as higher education, but “if it’s due to unfavorable social circumstances then we have a serious problem.”

The sociologist noted that the actual figures regarding emotional divorce (when in a relationship although couples appear far from physical separation or may not even be rowing, they are already emotionally disentangling from each other), which has critical social ramifications for a nation, remain unknown. She lamented that there is no authority on family affairs to compile accurate and detailed data, or prepare action plans to address the status quo.

Secretary of the health, sanitation, and environment workgroup at the Vice-President’s Office for Family and Women’s Affairs, and head of the Iranian Association of Midwifery, Nahid Khodakarami, questioned the lack of scholarly analysis of the increasing marriage age.

“Merely stating that higher education among women is an obstacle to marriage is not accurate. The problem is multidimensional and the social dimension has rarely been examined compared to the economic or political aspects.”

Pointing out that the society “is in transition from traditional to modern” which has an impact on the Iranian community, she said weak cultural policymaking, planning, and management, have to be blamed. “If the trends were closely observed and addressed earlier, we would not be dealing with this,” she said referring to the crisis-like situation regarding late marriages, high divorce rates and problems associated with children of broken marriages.

She also said that to blame western lifestyles that make cultural inroads via foreign satellite channels or websites is wrong. “We should accept responsibility for our mismanagement instead of pointing fingers; we need to take stock of the situation and evaluate the causes behind the shift in perceptions of today’s youth towards marriage and family life from those 40 years ago.”