Marriage Woes and Mores

A recent nationwide study conducted by the Strategic Research Center of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs shows that marriage is a an important preoccupation for the young generation
Based on the available data, 234,980 marriages were registered by NOCR during the first four months of the current Iranian year. Based on the available data, 234,980 marriages were registered by NOCR during the first four months of the current Iranian year.

The rate of marriage in Iran has been of the descending order for the fifth year in a row, causing concern among families and public authorities alike.

Up until 2010, the rate of marriage was on the rise. Since then, however, the numbers have been falling and have decreased by 8% so far.

Based on the available data, 234,980 marriages were registered by Iran’s National Organization for Civil Registration during the first four months of the current Iranian year that started in March, indicating a 2.2% decline compared to the corresponding period of last year when 240,329 couples tied the knot.

This is while the youth population of marriage age has increased significantly as the baby boomers of the 1980s are now in their late 20s to mid-30s. Presently 11.5 million young boys and girls are of marriage age across the country, which is the highest number ever, Salamat (health) news website reported.

Social scientists and economic experts attribute the grave situation to the youth’s lackadaisical interest in settling down and starting a family. But a recent nationwide study conducted by the Strategic Research Center of the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs rejects this observation.

The research, which assessed youths’ standards and viewpoints in several areas, showed that marriage is not only important for the young generation, but also one of their three main preoccupations along with social exclusion (marginalization) and employment.  

  Traditions in Vogue

Cumbersome wedding customs and traditions have often been blamed as one of the major obstacles to matrimony. However, the same study indicated that more than half of the respondents (56%) were in favor of the traditions and believed they can help ensure lasting marriages.  

Economic woes also pale and fail to explain the young generation’s disinclination to wed simply because the rate of marriage is noticeably higher in low-income societies and small cities than in affluent areas and metropolises. The average age of marriage also is lower in less developed regions compared to privileged regions.  

Mohammad Reza Rostami, deputy of youth affairs at the Ministry of Sports and Youths Affairs, believes that the priority of getting married has dwindled in the mindsets of the youth and they no longer deem it as a step forward.

“Many young people have jobs and stable financial status and can afford a family, yet they refrain from pairing up. However, in the deprived regions like the southern Sistan-Baluchestan Province people get married in spite of the social and economic challenges,” said the official.

He noted that a positive image of marriage has to be promoted so as to encourage people to seek a spouse.

  Social Constraints

According to sociologist Nayyereh Tavakkoli, many people refuse to marry  because they fear divorce. This is particularly true about women who think they have less social support and prefer to live with their parents than begin a married life for which there is apparently no clear and ensured future.

The average years of Iranian marriages has decreased to three years. About 38% of all divorces are related to couples aged between 25 to 29, and only 11% of Iranians have the chance to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, according to the State Organization for Registration of Deeds and Properties.

“To promote matrimony, some perks have to be charted such as maternal leave and pre-wedding counseling,” said Tavakkoli, stressing that incentives must be compatible with and emanate from youth needs.

She also pointed to psychological issues, occupational problems, lack of job security, fear of redundancy, lack of life skills, and cultural challenges such as Mahriyeh (a mandatory payment paid or promised by the groom to the bride in case of divorce) as other causes that have made marriage a rather prohibitive enterprise.

“Due to the absence of effective social and familial support mechanisms before, during and after marriage, young urbanites see early marriage as a grave risk.”

Parvin Reyhani, a family consultant, is of the opinion that the “shift in value systems” is among the main obstacles to marriage.

“Material and superficial benchmarks, namely background of family members, the family’s place of residence, the property they own and even physical qualities that have replaced ethical and cultural criteria have made it difficult for both men and women to find a partner,” she says.

Higher education has also come into play as many young boys and girls opt for staying single until they finish higher education and get high-paying   jobs.

Mohammad Bermaee, a teacher at Shahid Beheshti University, dismissed the idea that young people are unwilling to marry, maintaining that marriage was, is and will be part of the natural process that will always endure.

 Instead, he says insufficient support by the government and families are factors that have led to dwindling rate of marriage.

“Even families do not help couples the way they used to in the past,” he said, stressing that matchmaking methods must also be updated to meet the demands of the modern day and age.

Last June, the government-sponsored official matchmaking website ‘Hamsan,’ (Find Your Equal), was launched in cooperation with the judiciary, in conformity with Iranian-Islamic lifestyle as part of a drive to promote  matrimony.