First Published: 2012-07-02

 

Spinster crisis: Why 30-year-old UAE women still single?

 

60 percent of Emirati women over 30 are still single due to high dowries, appetite for education, career.

 

Middle East Online

By Emane Mohammed - ABU DHABI

Opting for a longer educational career

If you are a 30-year-old Emirati woman and still single, then you've have missed the marriage boat. By UAE standards, you are now considered to be an old maid.

The problem, authorities in the Gulf state say, is that more and more women fall into this category: some 60 percent, according to the latest statistics, raising concerns among officials and sparking online debates as to why.

The issue has been the focus of discussions for weeks at the Federal National Council, the country's appointed consultative body, where members are scrambling to find a solution to what they believe could be a serious demographic problem.

"This is very worrying," FNC member Said al-Kitbi said, adding that there are now more than 175,000 Emirati women who are over 30 and unmarried.

Though he conceded that being a "spinster" is "not a bad thing in itself", he argues that the demographic consequences of these women not having children is the real problem.

The United Arab Emirates is home to more than eight million people, only 950,000 of them UAE citizens. The rest are foreign, and young Emirati men are increasingly choosing to marry them instead.

The latest government statistics show that at least 20 percent of UAE men are marrying non-Emiratis.

The reasons behind this growing trend of spinsterhood are not entirely clear.

UAE planning ministry statistics show that in 1995, only 20 percent of women over 30 were unmarried. By 2008, that figure was 50 percent.

Some evidence suggests that excessively high dowries are preventing men without the means from choosing a spouse.

The latest survey by the UAE Marriage Fund, a government institution that provides financial assistance to those who want to marry but cannot afford to, showed that 87 percent of respondents blamed high dowries for low marriage rates among Emirati women.

The government has imposed a $14,000 ceiling on dowries, but many families still demand much more -- in some cases over $135,000.

"One of my friends is still paying his dowry bill and he's been married nine years," said Ali Mansouri, 30.

'Lost between tradition, modernity'

To address the rising costs of marriage, the government has ordered that each Emirati man who wants to marry be given $19,000 -- but on condition that it is his first marriage.

However, the Marriage Fund will make an exception for men who married women who cannot conceive. In this case, the fund will give the man money to take a second wife.

In the UAE, as in many Muslim countries, polygamy is sanctioned by both religion and the law.

The Marriage Fund also routinely organises mass marriages to help cut costs and reduce the burden on individual men seeking a wife.

There are also other reasons why Emirati women are not getting hitched before 30: they are opting for education and a career before settling down.

Take Mansouri: he is looking for a wife but says he prefers that she not work. And if she insists, he would rather that she do so part-time only.

"Most men who succeed in their lives have wives who do not work, or do so from home," Mansouri said. "It's impossible to reconcile work and family life."

A survey of 200 medical students at the UAE University showed that 57 percent of respondents believed a desire to pursue higher education and a career were the main reasons why UAE women are not marrying before 30.

The students, however, said they would not classify a woman as an "old maid" until she is 32.

"We're a little lost between tradition and modernity," said Wafa Khalfan, a single Emirati in her twenties.

"Many girls are pretty and all grown up but they can't find a spouse," she said, adding that "if liberal they're considered easy, and if they're conservative, men think they're too uptight."

FNC member Kitbi says that the problem could be "the girls themselves, as they prefer to complete their university studies and work rather than get married."

He said it also seems that young Emirati men "prefer a woman who does not work."

Tribal traditions, meanwhile, have made an already difficult situation worse.

Some families refuse to marry off "their younger daughter before the first-born," while still others will not allow their children to marry into a family of "lower social status", Kitbi said.

Some of the most interesting statistics from a separate survey of 200 medical students show that many men and women believe polygamy may be the solution.

Some 73 percent of those surveyed said encouraging polygamy was a reasonable solution to the spinster crisis -- and 59 percent of women surveyed agreed.

For Emirati writer and journalist Al-Saad al-Minhali, however, polygamy is not the answer.

"This is not a solution," she said. "Marriage is a personal choice and should not be used to satisfy a national agenda."

 

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues

Iraq top court declares Kurd referendum unconstitutional

Libya to investigate 'slave auction' footage

15 women killed in food aid crush in Morocco

Lebanon FM will not attend Arab League Iran summit

Syrian forces liberate Albu Kamal from IS

Israel votes to shut migrant centre, deport Africans

Diplomats from Iran, Russia, Turkey discuss Syria

Libya to investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

Piece by piece, Iran moves towards a ‘new empire’

Netanyahu faces new questioning over corruption case

Syria troops, allies retake most of Albu Kamal from IS

EU cuts funding to Turkey in 2018 budget

Lebanon's Hariri arrives in Paris

Egypt opens Gaza border for first time since unity deal

US-Russia rift threatens fragile prospects for Syria peace

'Caliphate' in tatters but IS still a threat