UAE women focusing on profession, not marriage.
DUBAI: Manal enjoys here life. She is single, working her way up at a Dubai-based real estate firm and lives alone. But the United Arab Emirates is looking to marry off women over 30, like Manal.
“It’s funny, really, but in many ways it is scary that the government is trying to get involved in our personal lives here,” she told Bikyamasr.com on Tuesday, following reports that Abu Dhabi was “concerned” over the rising number of spinsters in the country.
“It isn’t like I don’t want to get married, but I have other priorities at the moment and haven’t really found a man worth my time,” she added. But then her criticism of the “fear” of spinsters became sharp.
“The government has no place to tell us to get married or not. This is a personal decision and it angers me that they would even talk about our rights to choose our own life,” she continued.
In the Arab world, women over 30-years-old who remain single are seen as pariahs, outside the cultural traditions that want women to marry no later than their early 20s. For women like Manal, work has become more important, and recent studies have shown that in the UAE in particular, more and more women are foregoing and early wedding in favor of focusing on their profession.
According to new statistics released by the UAE government, some 60 percent of women are like Manal, pushing back marriage, which has become a cause for concern for government officials and has led to a debate in the country over marriage and women’s rights.
The Federal National Council, the country’s appointed consultative body, has seen members in recent weeks looking to find a “solution” to what they believe could be a serious demographic problem.
Emiratis are already a minority in the country, with the vast majority of residents being foreigners, who have arrived to work in the wealthy Gulf country.
“This is very worrying,” FNC member Said al-Kitbi told AFP, 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 argued that the demographic consequences of these women not having children are the real problem.
Home to some 8 million people, less than one million are Emirati citizens, and the rise in the rate of locals marrying foreigners has led the government to question, even issue a report saying foreigners are “detrimental” to UAE society, is seeing the already tiny minority get smaller.
Despite the fears from government officials over the rising number of “spinsters” in the country, they are still uncertain as to what is causing the decline in women wanting to get married.
Manal said it is simple: “We want a life, we want to live and make something for ourselves before we get married, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.”
The UAE planning ministry statistics revealed that in 1995, only 20 percent of women over 30 were unmarried.
By 2008, it had risen to over 50 percent.
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.
To address the rising costs of marriage, the government has ordered that each Emirati man who wants to marry be given $19,000 – on the 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.
But Manal and others are not worried. They believe the effort to push for women to get married is misinformed. “We will marry, I am sure, but no government is going to push us to do it,” she added.
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