Marriages down, divorces up — RGD, STATIN

Marriages down, divorces up — RGD, STATIN

BY JEDIAEL CARTER Staff reporter

Saturday, January 23, 2016

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Most girls dream of their wedding day — the white silhouette of a dress, the beautiful diamond ring, and the guy in tux. But according to data obtained by the Jamaica Observer, this dream never becomes reality for some members of the Jamaican society.

Statistics provided by the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) and the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) show that there has been a gradual decrease in the number of marriages registered and an increase in divorces.

Reverend Stevenson Samuels – a certified marriage officer and pastor of the Escarpment Road New Testament Church of God — believes that though some Jamaicans have maintained the tradition of marriage, the secularisation of society has caused a decline in the practice in comparison to years ago.

"From my observation, less Jamaicans are choosing to get married now than in former times. This is in keeping with a global trend, however, as statistics show that fewer persons are choosing to get married," Samuels noted.

Based on statistics provided by the RGD, there has been a decrease in the number of marriages registered in Jamaica since 2006. The number of marriages registered has moved from 23,181 in 2006 to 18,480 in 2014, a 4,701 decline.

Asked why people are not interested in marriages anymore, Samuels said: "The society has become more secular, and secularism doesn’t promote marriage as the ideal union. The society is ignorant about the benefits of marriage even though more research and data is available on these benefits now than before."

He noted that the fact that the church — the major advocate for marriage — has become less influential in the wider society is another factor, explaining that its beliefs and practices are not widely accepted anymore.

"There is less inclination to bureaucracy and a greater attraction to responding instinctively to physical passion. The Christian marriage is bureaucratic and requires restraint that youths find difficult to observe," the clergyman also explained.

Similarly, Reverend Napoleon Black, also a marriage officer and pastor of the Maverley Gospel Hall, stated the law as one of the reasons why people are opting not to get married.

"The law recognises a couple with all the benefits of the married couple after I think 5 years, and so some people see that as kind of binding enough, saying ‘why get married if you going to get the benefits after 5 years of marriage anyway?’," he explained.

Data from the latest demographic statistics compiled by STATIN indicated that as the number of marriages decreases, there is a corresponding increase in the number of divorces. A marriage rate of 6.79 per 1000 in 2014, shows that approximately seven out of 1000 people got married; while out of every 1000, nine were granted absolute divorce with a 9.44 divorce rate per 1000.

The officers lamented that there are also various reasons why people are seeking divorces.

According to Black, legally, people get divorced because of "the irretrievable breakdown of the union."

"But people are getting divorced because the expectations and what they actually find are like miles apart. So I expect that this is going to happens but when I get into the relationship it is a totally different thing. When people end up finding out that it’s not what they expected, then they say boy I never really married for this and then get out," he stated.

"Some get divorced, too, because of meddling relatives, especially meddling parents, so they find that they are not married to this person but married to a whole family, and so what the matriarch of the family says goes for everybody and that creates problems," the clergyman continued.

He also noted that some even get divorced if they give birth to a child that is not well or deformed.

Samuels listed unfaithfulness, poor communication, finance and intolerance as some reasons why Jamaicans have been breaking up marriages.

When asked whether people tried to fix relationships before moving to a divorce, Black stated that some try to fix it, but others proceed to divorce without consideration.

"[Some] people fix but what is sad is that a lot of people live under the pretence of everything is good. But some do try to fix, but the tragedy is too many live under the pretence that everything is ok," he explained.

"Others say ‘you know what we don’t have that ‘stick-to-itiveness’, ‘mess with me and that’s it,’ ‘look too hard at me and that’s it,’ that’s the kind of thing. Or the relationship changes so it is not what it is supposed to be, so you live a kind of shell of a marriage rather than what it’s supposed to be in its essence," he further stated.

The STATIN figures show that males generally get married between the ages of 30 and 39 and females between ages 20 and 39.

This coincides with Black’s statement that older persons are more likely to maintain the marriage tradition than younger.

"I think the older generation think it (marriage tradition) is important and form an important part of family life what the traditional family life is about," he told the Sunday Observer.

"Among the younger persons it’s not so much because they tend to see marriage as too binding, too restricting and many persons especially the younger ones want to spend their time celebrating their singleness so to speak so what we find is that they are delaying marriage until much later," he continued.

The officers reasoned that Jamaicans who get married do so for a myriad of different reasons. Both stated religious beliefs as one reason outlining that most religions in Jamaica encourage the marriage union.

They lamented that some people get married for economic reasons, highlighting that it is less expensive to live as married couples.

Another reason stated was to acquire wealth and status in society.

"Some persons get married to gain access to wealth," Samuels reasoned.

"For some it is a status symbol. Some people think that now that you’re married, it’s a symbol of how you have arrived, you lan a man kind of a thing," Black outlined.

Samuels also stated that people get married "with the hope that their children will acquire traits of the spouse they’re marrying," as well as "…because they are experiencing genuine attraction, friendship and commitment between each other."

Black also highlighted that people marry to leave the country as well as to escape their family situation.

The clergymen highlighted that not only is there a shift in the interest in marriages but stated that there have been changes in itself.

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