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Learning English - Words in the News
25 June, 2008 - Published 13:50 GMT
Marriage training in Saudi Arabia
Women's rights are limited in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Social Affairs is reportedly considering making pre-marriage courses compulsory for couples about to tie the knot. The hope is this will cut the Kingdom's growing divorce rate, especially among young people. This report from Frances Harrison:

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The idea is to force prospective couples to attend courses on the art of married life. Run by charities, classes will look at the legal aspects of marriage, the rights of the husband and wife and their duties to their children, as well as how to deal with both sides' families. It's not explicitly stated whether sex education is included but some believe it's badly needed in a society where any discussion of sex is a taboo.

The hope is marriage classes will reduce Saudi Arabia's rising number of divorces - almost half of which take place in the early years of marriage. Clear figures are hard to come by but one academic has suggested the divorce rate is as high as sixty percent; others say half that figure.

In practice, divorce often hits women hardest because it's almost impossible for a divorced Saudi woman to remarry. One Saudi university study that looked into marriages found about forty percent were unhappy - with aspects of violence, cruelty, neglect and continuous disagreement. Some suggest part of the problem is Saudi men are unable to deal with a female population that's more educated and assertive. Others argue it's simply too easy to obtain a divorce if you're a man.

Frances Harrison, BBC

Listen to the words

prospective couples
here, men and women who are preparing to get married

the art of married life
the talents and skills needed to live successfully together as a married couple

the legal aspects of
what the law says about

explicitly stated
openly expressed/said

a taboo
a subject that people in a society don't talk about (for example, because it is considered to be too private)

hard to come by
not readily available

affects (in a strong and negative way)

looked into
studied, examined

being extremely unkind, causing people to suffer

when you do not give enough care or attention to something or someone

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