MUSCAT: An alarming increase in the number of divorce cases in the Sultanate of Oman is a cause of concern with a leading official at the Ministry of Social Development (MoSD) attributing the rise in divorce to growing influence of social media.
Speaking to Al Shabiba radio recently, Dr Jalal bin Yousef Al Mukhaini, director of family counselling and guidance at the social development ministry, said: “We have seen a marked increase in the divorce cases in the Sultanate of Oman from 2020 to 2021. According to official statistics, 6,000 divorce cases have been filed in the country in 2021, an average of 16 cases every day and an increase of 75 per cent approximately or 2,574 cases compared to 2020.
“In 2020, divorce rates in Oman also rose by almost 50 per cent, compared to the previous year, with pressures caused by the pandemic to be one of the main reasons. At least 3,426 divorce certificates were issued in Oman in 2020, which meant nearly nine cases a day.”
As for marriage, according to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, (NCSI), marriages of Omanis increased from 18,000 in 2020 to 39,000 in 2021.
Al Mukhaini said: “The statistics give us a grim picture of today’s world. I even have doubts that the stats provided are complete and correct. I have heard there may be more divorce cases that go unreported. The rise of divorce is increasing among young people and groups with low educational and economic levels.”
Al Mukhaini expressed his concern on the impact of social media on newly-married couples.
He said: “We see young married couples getting carried away with their own ideas, believing that marriage is all rosy and full of love. But the fact is that there are a lot of adjustments to be made by both. And when there is a lack of communication between partners and families who fail to intervene, it causes a rift. At times, the expectations towards life differ for both with financial issues often leading to clashes.
“In today’s world, infidelity caused by social media interactions has also led to a rise in divorce cases in Oman, where women are now looking for equal life partnerships.”
Al Mukhaini opined that the reasons for divorce differ for each couple but denial of parity in marriage partnership or a shift in the gender role expectations are among the other reasons.
Government data also show that more women in Oman are now seeking divorce compared with 10 years ago with 67 percent of all divorces being initiated by women in 2021.
Al Mukhaini said: “Studies have shown that among the other causes of divorce include poor communication and conflict resolution skills, lack of quality time spent together, and a delay or reluctance in seeking marriage counselling.”
The ministry official said there is “a need to bring down the number of divorce cases in the Sultanate of Oman and it would be possible only if efforts are made at all levels to safeguard family life.”
Al Mukhaini also revealed that the statistics indicate that the divorce in Oman happens mostly within the first four years of marriage.
He said: “When divorce happens in the early years of marriage the grounds for divorce were found to be weak. Such marital discords could have been resolved through dialogues, family mediation and the involvement of counsellors.”
In her remarks to Times of Oman, a Muscat-based marriage counsellor said: “Everyone agrees that there is a need to find solutions but that can only happen if we understand the reasons for the rise of divorce cases. Divorce cases are a result of rapid social change that we are witnessing in all aspects of life. The pace of development has brought key changes to today’s lifestyle. More women work, leave the family home, and are financially independent creating a gap at times between the husband and wife’s understanding.”
She added: “Culture plays an important role in forming young people’s impressions of marriage. For instance, most movies and soap operas on TV highlight how beautiful and fun it is to be in a relationship, creating a vivid image in young people’s minds that it is easy to be married. They fail to consider that one of the biggest challenges of marriage is to understand and support each other and that this is a two-way process.”