Geographically speaking, wherever there is marriage, there will be divorce. Largely this is true, but what do the trends and statistics show us about how different cultures treat matrimonial breakdown?
In America, the divorce rate is almost 50%. The recent legalisation of gay marriage could have the knock-on effect of an increase in the divorce rate. There are calls on the US government to relax state-specific divorce rules, because divorce is so commonplace. Another trend in the US is moving around – more than 50% of people born in one state and end up living in another. The different state laws on dealing with family finances in divorce cases results in diverse financial outcomes, depending on where the divorce is filed.
Meanwhile, in Iran, a law has recently been passed to make divorce harder. To satisfy the requirement for a mutual-consent divorce, a couple must first undergo state-run counselling. This new law is the government’s reaction to a rise in the rate of broken marriages, which was at 21% last year. In Tehran, one third of marriages end in divorce. The focus on reducing divorce is perhaps part of the Iranian government’s drive to increase the population of Iran. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants Iran’s population of 80 million to nearly double to 150 million by 2050. As such, various new measures have been introduced to increase the birth rate. Last month the government launched a matchmaking website via which clerics and professionals of good standing in their communities (such as doctors and teachers) will try to pair off young men and women. The government has also reversed past policies to control population growth, by cancelling subsidies for condoms and birth-control pills, and eliminating free vasectomies.
A trend in China has been recognised that links the post-Mao climate, which has seen the wealth of the population increase as well as the people’s freedom to make life choices, to a rise in marital breakdown. Prosperity and a rise in social media has brought a 3.9% rise in the divorce rate in 2014. For every four couples married in China last year, there was one divorce. The government has reacted to this cultural shift by drafting a Family Education Bill which will address some of these issues.
In Italy, divorce is a notoriously difficult and lengthy process but there are moves to ‘unclog’ the legal system and resolve cases within three years – a relatively short time frame by Italian standards. Francesco Mannino, a Sicilian judge stated outside Rome’s civil courthouse: “We are doing what we can to rationalise our trials, boost our productivity, and speed things up.”
This is just a snapshot of course, but what it shows is that divorce is a common thread through most cultures. How it is dealt with by governments is very different. For some countries it is a problem that requires tackling, while for others it is part and parcel of a free society. Some countries are making the process harder, whilst others are facilitating their people to go their separate ways.