More than 53,000 divorces take place in Saudi Arabia every year despite the nationwide awareness campaigns carried out by the government as well as nonprofit organizations against the growing trend.
The high rate of divorce has become a destabilizing factor in Saudi society and it obstructs the Kingdom's march to greater progress. Social consultant and researcher Salman Bin Mohammed Al-Amri has expressed his deep concern over the repercussions of the high incidence of divorce in society.
According to Al-Amri, the number of divorce cases handled by courts across the country reached 53,675 in 2017 or 149 cases each day.
The office of the Grand Mufti approved 6,163 divorces during the same year, which is an increase of 846 cases compared to 2016.
"We should know that there are hundreds of divorces not recorded by the courts, so the actual figure could be much higher than what is officially reported," Al-Amri said indicating the actual figure.
The total number of divorces in 2017 could be 40 to 45 percent of the total number of marriages, which was put at 159,386, in the same year. "This shows that we have to take drastic measures to bring down this huge number of divorce cases in the country," Al-Amri told Okaz/Saudi Gazette.
Measures must be taken to control divorces to reduce its social impact as it causes untold problems to the children of divorced couple.
Men and women who have separated after years of living together also face psychological, economic and social problems.
"We have to conduct a detailed study on the increasing number of divorce cases in Saudi society to find a viable solution," Al-Amri said while calling for greater cooperation between government and private agencies to address the issue.
Injustice, lack of honesty and trust, and confusion are the hallmarks of divorce cases across the Kingdom. It destabilizes families, the foundation of society.
The rights of both men and women must be protected to build a happy and balanced society, says Al-Amri.
"Among the lawful things, divorce is the most hated by Allah," the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was quoted as saying.
Islam has warned against divorce and its dangerous consequences. God has allowed it in certain circumstances and nobody is allowed to transgress the limits, Al-Amri said.
Saudi and Gulf societies have changed considerably in recent years as a result of foreign influences and other factors, largely affecting social, cultural and economic norms.
"Our families have been influenced by the new urban culture and modern information technology. Education and employment of women and the Kingdom's openness to foreign cultures were other factors that increased the divorce rate," Al-Amri said while stressing the negative effect of the Internet and social media networks on the Saudi family.
"Modern communication means bring closer those who are far while distancing those who are near and dear," Al-Amri said, adding that it has created a divide between mother and child, and husband and wife. It also contributed to spreading rumors that trigger conflicts between members of the same family without any genuine reasons, he added.
Al-Amri has been investigating the reasons behind the growing divorce rate in the Kingdom over many years. He emphasized the need to give pre-marital counseling for young men and women before they get married. The Ministry of Labor and Social Development has adopted this proposal and has been implementing it with the support of NGOs. The Cabinet has allocated funds for the purpose.
He cautioned against the interference by family members in the lives of couples, saying it is one of the main reasons for divorce. "Mistakes in the selection of grooms and brides, forced marriages, and unwillingness of brides to live with the in-laws are some other reasons," Al-Amri said.
Many parents have failed to prepare their sons to get married by training them to take responsibility. Some men fail to fulfill their Shariah duties toward their wives while those having more than one wife fail to treat all of them fairly and equally.
There are many other reasons including bad temper, infidelity, drug and liquor habits, miserly attitude and high dowry, in addition to psychological, health and social reasons.
Al-Amri said women are the most affected in case of divorce due to society's negative attitude toward them. A divorcee loses economic support and financial security provided by her husband and this brings down her living standard, in addition to making her a burden on the family.
"As a result of this situation, such women will be forced to seek financial help from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs and charitable organizations. This will lead to depression and push them to commit suicide," he explained.
Most divorced Arab women are unlikely to get married for a second time because of the tough attitude of society toward them.
The situation of divorced men is not very different as they too face a lot of difficulties and mental pressure. They may be forced to pay to child support. Many divorced men are afraid of marrying another woman due to the failure of the first marriage.
Children are the worst hit by divorce as they will lose the sense of security and will not be able to concentrate on their studies. The father will try to take custody of his children and keep them away from their mother. "This will create a horrible family atmosphere for children," said Al-Amri.
Such a situation will push many children to drugs and alcohol addiction and they may commit various crimes, including terrorism, murder and robbery. When the divorced people get married again, their children from the previous marriage would face a lot of troubles.
Al-Amri spoke about the impact of divorce on society, saying destabilized families would lead to the destruction of society. It will weaken society, which will not be able to channel its power and resources for constructive activities like helping the needy. Divided families will not get time to think about progress.
Instead of becoming leaders of progress and prosperity, separated men and women would become depressed individuals unable to make any contributions to the country's growth. It will increase financial burden on the state, charities and civil societies as the divorcees and their children will require financial support.