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March 3, 2012 / Man in the Mirror

Why divorce is a great, great thing

This entry was posted on November 14, 2011, in Culture, Legislation, Marriage, Religion, Workplace and tagged Al Jazeera, Catholic Church, Divorce, family, gender-raito, India, Japan, marriage, Philippines, Physical abuse, Vatican, Vatican City, work. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments
The Phillipines is the last country in the world, together with Vatican City, to ban divorce. This may change as they try to pass a law to allow it, yet how would this change the landscape?

Al Jazeera’s reports on the lives of women who are victims of abusive marriages, and are desperately trying to find a way out of their current state. The legal path of doing so is through annulment, and the only acceptable cause is proved dementia when the marriage took place. Physical abuse, negligence or disloyalty are not grounds for obtaining it. We all know that divorce is another way of empowering women, who would otherwise depend on their husbands socially, economically and psychologically.

Until now, the main deterrent for the state is the pressure from the Catholic church. They fear that if divorce is an option, people will get married without serious consideration.

But the demonizing of divorce is not a purely Catholic endeavor.

Last year, I remember going to an exhibit on India at the Kennedy Center, here in DC. I went with my Indian friend, who very proudly showed me all the things that represented his culture. I was rightly impressed, until we reached the divorce statistic written along a wall. A  tiny 10%! He told me this as something to be proud of. Family values still exist in India!

So even if they legalize it in the Philippines, will people get it? How much societal pressure is put on people to not get a divorce? We all know men are allowed to stray but, what of women?
The girls who get married off at 14 years old have never known independence so, how would they ever dream of a divorce?

Japanese women on the other hand, seem to be taking another route: just not getting married at all. I’m cross-posting here from a former blog, but an Economist article back in August left my with my jaw open:

“Among certain groups, people are not merely marrying later. They are not getting married at all. In 2010 a third of Japanese women entering their 30s were single. Perhaps half or more of those will never marry. In 2010 37% of all women in Taiwan aged 30-34 were single, as were 21% of 35-39-year-olds. This, too, is more than in Britain and America, where only 13-15% of those in their late 30s are single. If women are unmarried entering their 40s, they will almost certainly neither marry nor have a child.“

Apparently, in some Asian countries the latest trend is for women not to get married. Why? Well, education in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan for women has caught up with the West. About half of the people earning masters degrees are women. Yet Asian societies are still expecting their women to be an appendix of their husband. Thirty hours of housework vs. three for men… So essentially they must choose between work or marriage, and the trend choice is becoming pretty obvious.

My biggest shock at this is that since Asian societies continue to stigmatize cohabitation or childbearing outside of marriage, a lot of these women are living in celibacy! In Norway, marriage is becoming obsolete, but just the institution. People continue to co-habitate and have children out of wedlock in the same manner as if they were married. Also, if India and China star following in this trend, the two giants that already have female-male ratio problems of their own due gender-selective abortion could lead to a greater amount of men unable to find suitable wives.

What can we do about it? Policy change to begin with. Changing a culture’s mentality on gender roles is not easy. God knows we are far from achieving it on this side of the world. But I am a firm believer of enforced paternity leave to begin to even-out roles. Women will never catch up with men in the workforce if they continue with the second shift. And in cases like Japan, they may decide to skip the whole family thing entirely.



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