Lawmakers in Kuwait have turned down an amendment to the law that makes it mandatory for men and women planning to wed to attend a workshop on married life.
The draft law stipulated mandatory premarital counselling for two weeks on families, communication between spouses and responsibilities of married couples.
The sessions would also highlight the reasons and factors for successful marriages and the causes for separations and divorces. The rights and duties of the husbands and wives would also be explained in the session, the amendment proposal said.
Under the new law, a spouse would have had the right to ask for the security record of the partner in order to ensure the highest levels of transparency before the formal commitment to marriage and avoid shocking surprises at a later stage.
However, 35 lawmakers objected to the amendment while 12 supported it at the parliament session on Tuesday.
“The proposal to amend the law is really interesting and is related to the increase in the number of divorce cases in the country due to the lack of a genuine culture of a married life, especially among young spouses,” Yagoub Al Sana, the minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, said. “However, some lawmakers said that the proposal violated Article 30 of the constitution stipulating that personal liberty was guaranteed. We cannot force people planning to get married to attend dedicated workshops,” the minister said, quoted by Kuwait News Agency (Kuna).
The workshops and the sessions will remain optional and the media in all their forms should contribute to educating society about the significance of family relations, the minister added.
In November, a report by the justice ministry indicated that slightly more than half of the marriages in Kuwait in the first six months of the year ended in divorce.
There were 7,138 marriage contracts and 3,751 divorce filings, the ministry said in its semi-annual report. March topped the months in divorces with 677 cases while January had the lowest figure with 530.
According to the ministry, the major reasons for divorce were that spouses were not ready to accept one another and lacked compassion. Negligence, the inability to shoulder responsibilities and adultery were also cited among the main causes of divorce in the country.
The blatant interference of families in the lives of the couples was blamed for the surge in divorce cases. According to the ministry, a formal end to marriages at a young age should be imposed and massive campaigns to raise awareness about the institution of marriage with its rights and duties should be carried out in the media.
The ministry said society should work on consolidating values and on training young people and women on assuming family responsibilities.
Families should not interfere with the lives of the couples, the ministry suggested as one of the solutions to lower the rate of divorce. A commission to reconcile spouses and to bridge gaps between them should be set up, the ministry said.
Kuwait has one of the highest divorce rates in the region, and several lawyers and sociologists have been calling for rewriting the divorce laws after official figures indicated that the trend in divorces showed an alarming annual increase.
The lawyers said that the Kuwaiti law was a major factor.
“Under the law, a divorcee gets a salary, a house, a car and a domestic helper and at the same time, she is free of all marriage commitments,” the lawyers said. “The phenomenon is widespread mainly among newly-married couples, which denotes that they were not ready for marriage. Their lack of experience and their inability to appreciate the commitments and responsibilities associated with the marriage are the main cause of this phenomenon,” they said.
Waleed Al Dossari, a lawyer, said that the reasons for divorce included the change in the definition of marriage as a whole from the perspective of both men and women.
“Families in Kuwait no longer feel ashamed that their daughter or son is divorced,” he said. “Some families are actually encouraging their daughters to divorce because sometimes that divorce gives the woman more financial gains than she already has. In Kuwait, it is a huge problem when a man cannot provide a luxurious life for his wife. It is his duty to provide her with the helper, driver, shopping every now and then, and the ability to travel at least once a year. However, not all Kuwaitis are able to provide this kind of lifestyle to their wives and children,” he told the local media previously.
The high divorce rate in Kuwait insinuates that we are too spoiled to remain stuck to our marriages, the lawyer added.
Al Dossari cited the case of a woman who divorced her husband on their wedding day because she found out at the wedding ballroom that the groom had not made the costly arrangements that she had asked for, and instead chose a reception that cost much less.
“In many cases the reasons are very silly, which makes it very difficult for us lawyers to take any stand on the issue. For example, one woman filed for divorce because she did not like the way her husband made sounds while eating,” Al Dossari said.
The lawyer also blamed cheating for the rise in divorce cases.
“There is a huge increase in the percentage of cheating wives and husbands. It has become so easy for a husband or wife to cheat on each other, especially because marriages are based neither on love nor on respect.”