Spinsters Denied Financial Help
By Abdulhadi Al-Rabie
Okaz/Saudi Gazette, Taif
15 January 2009
The stigma of spinsterhood looms in the Kingdom with no help as the Ministry of Social Affairs has denied reports that the ministry would provide monthly financial assistance to spinsters in the Kingdom, estimated at a new high of 1.5 million, an informed source at the ministry said.
The ministry classifies spinsters as women who have reached the ‘optimum age’ of marriage, 35, without getting married. In Saudi society, the term ‘spinster’ could be used as a derogatory description of unmarried females regardless of any reference to age.
The increasing number of spinsters in the Kingdom has prompted the Ministry of Social Affairs to start a thorough investigation of this emerging phenomenon in the Saudi society, the source said.
The problem has sent an alarming message to the authorities. “It is as problematic as unemployment,” the source said. If left alone, it could create social problems among the rising female population in the Kingdom, the source added. The Kingdom’s population reached about 27.6 million last year including foreigners and females constitute 45.5 percent of the population. Statistics indicate that spinsters make up 18.5 percent of the Saudi women.
A report published by the Ministry of Planning said that women are slowly overpowering men in population count and this is sure to create a problem in the future.
The Shoura Council recently decided it was not time to simplify marriage laws concerning Saudis marrying foreigners, believing that would aggravate the problem of spinsterhood in the Kingdom.
It is, however a complicated process for Saudi women to marry foreigners as the Shoura Council refuses to streamline marriage laws when it comes to marrying non-Saudis.
Complicating the league of unmarried females in the Kingdom is the soaring divorce rate which has reached more than 30 percent, according to a report from the Ministry of Social Affairs published earlier this year. Talal Bakri, head of the committee for family affairs at the Shoura Council, told media that a majority of husbands were resorting to reckless pronouncements of divorce, and not informing their wives, who were then “shocked” to receive divorce papers.