Over 5.6 million Saudis remain unmarried past marriage age, survey shows

The average age of unmarried men in the Kingdom is 40 while unmarried women is 36

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More than 5.26 million people in Saudi Arabia including 3 million men and 2.26 women remain unmarried, according to the latest statistics released by the General Statistics Authority after conducting a demographic survey in the second quarter of 2016.

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by al-Watan Arabic daily showed that the average age of unmarried men in the Kingdom is 40 while unmarried women is 36.

A Saudi woman, who requested anonymity, said most Saudi families marry off their girls soon after secondary education except for a few.

“I decided to get married after graduation,” she told al-Watan. “When I was 19, a lady came to me asking for my parents’ telephone number to discuss a proposal for me.”

Another woman interrupted and said: “You can look for another girl because this girl will be always available. I did not like that woman’s nasty comment and I asked her what she meant and whether she considered me a maiden. She replied: ‘Something like that’.”

She added: “I would not forget that woman’s comment throughout my life, although I am now married and a mother of three children.”

An unmarried Saudi man, 37, said he had tried to find a suitable bride but all girls refused to marry him because of the age difference. “I have been repeatedly asked why I did not get married till now.”

He was a scholarship student abroad. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, he went for higher education and did not get time for marriage because of preoccupation with his studies.

Another Saudi man said there are different reasons for celibacy among Saudi men and women, adding that money was not the main factor.

“Some youth will be ready for marriage but it will be delayed due social and family reasons. Women in villages will not be getting married early as the family would use them for various purposes including rearing sheep. When she gets married the family will be in trouble.”

A young woman said most women refuse to get married with a man who has crossed 35 even if he fulfills all other conditions. “His unmarried status raises several questions and doubts about having any chronic diseases or immoral activities.”

Al-Watan conducted a survey on 1,225 individuals comprising 805 men and 520 women. What will be the age when woman would be considered a maiden was the question leveled at men and what would be age of men to be considered a celibate was the question posed to women?

The survey results showed that the average age a woman would be considered unmarriageable was 36.4 years and 39.9 for men.

Dr. Humaidi Al-Dhaidan, associate professor of psychology at Majmaa University, said raising the ceiling of demands was the main reason for spinsterhood among Saudi women, adding that some demands would have social, economic and psychological dimensions.

“Young men and women are looking for a suitable life partner and they will have their own dreams about future brides and bridegrooms. Most of them live in a virtual world due to the information revolution brought about by modern technology and social media,” Al-Dhaidan told Al-Watan.

He said modern men and women give top priority to romance as they want to enjoy their lives to the maximum unlike in the past when marriages were fixed by parents.

The difference between an individual’s biological age and psychological age is another reason, he said. Customs and traditions are the third reason. Some families will not marry their youngest daughter until the eldest one has got married.

Some guardians will be greedy and want to grab a woman’s salary and they will not allow her to get married. The law allows such women to take legal action against their guardians, he added.

Al-Dhaidan urged society to support initiatives that would ensure early marriage by bringing down the value of dowry and promoting mass weddings. He emphasized the importance of including sound marriage principles in school and university curriculum.

Sociology professor Amani al-Harbi has found another important reason for the growing number of spinsters in Saudi society. “These women want to continue their studies abroad or in other Saudi cities and get employed to ensure their financial stability before marriage,” she said.

She emphasized the need to educate parents on the importance of protecting the rights of their children, including marriage of a bride or bridegroom they like.

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