How is attitude towards marriage changing in Azerbaijan?
According to the recent findings, there are fewer marriages and more divorvces in Azerbaijan, and there is a reason behind such a societal change.
There is a table on the website of the State Statistics Committee that shows the dynamics of these two indicators since 1935. Here you can compare marriages and divorces in Azerbaijan per thousand people.
The marriage rate in 2019 was the lowest in 20 years, and the divorce rate was 1.7, the highest since 1990.
At the end of 2019, 63,869 marriages were registered in Azerbaijan, 17,148 (26.85%) broke up. There is still no complete statistics for 2020, but the figures that came to the press from interviews with officials (for example, statistics for the first half of 2020) look even more frightening. The reason for this is clear – a pandemic, associated unemployment and stress. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the trend has appeared even before the pandemic and has been going on for ten years.
The reason for this phenomenon is most likely multi-dimensional, and in order to establish it “scientifically”, it is necessary to carry out complex and large-scale research. To try to understand at least some of the factors, we conducted a small survey among the residents of Baku. The questions were designed in such a way as to confirm or refute our guess that, perhaps, people’s attitudes towards the institution of marriage, and not just the economic situation in the country, are changing. 200 people were interviewed, mainly residents of the center of Baku.
Male and female views on divorce
What is striking at the first glance is the difference in the responses of men and women. For example, women almost unanimously declare that men are the ones causing the divorce, while men tend to believe that both parties are responsible, or that the wives are to blame. Of course, the question about guilt was not asked in order to really find the culprit, but in order to find out how the respondents understand the distribution of responsibility. 30% of respondents agree to share responsibility equally.
Almost a third of female respondents say they would get a divorce because of physical violence of their spouse. Only a small percentage of male respondents name this reason, which once again confirms two things – firstly, women are main victims of domestic violence, and secondly, in Azerbaijan, most women do not see violence as a reason for divorce.
Is divorce good or bad?
When asked about the arguments that the respondent could have brought up, dissuading a loved one from divorce, almost half of the respondents refused to dissuade such a decision. It turns out that not everyone perceives divorce as a catastrophe that must be avoided at any cost. The second most popular option is the standard “you have to stay for the sake of children” (20% of respondents).
Azerbaijani officials, however, perceive the disintegration of the family as an unambiguously negative phenomenon.
Dilara Efendiyeva, head of the Woman – Peace and Security center operating under the Society for the Protection of Women’s Rights of Azerbaijan, lists a number of reasons for divorce, including the inability of young people to take responsibility for their families, betrayal, violence, the inability to discuss such taboo topics as sexual dissatisfaction, patriarchal and the traditional attitude towards marriage, and even the simplicity and cheapness of the procedure. “Many of these problems can be solved by contacting a family psychologist, doctors, with the help of law enforcement agencies, and, first of all, by informing the population in order to form a system of social and personal values focused on the authority of the family and marriage, strengthening family relations and traditions”, says Efendieva.
Early marriage is another long-standing problem in Azerbaijan. In 2019, 4 girls who were not even 18 years old but already getting a divorce. According to Azerbaijani law, from 16 to 18 years of age, marriage can be concluded with parental consent. The real figure may be much higher, because often marriages are not registered at all and statistics “see” them only in the form of the number of illegitimate children, which, by the way, has been steadily growing in recent years, especially due to early marriages.
Exactly a third of people divorced in 2019 are under 30. The relatively early age of marriage is one of the hallmarks of the traditional Azerbaijani family model, when parents choose spouses for their children or at least “supervise” the choice.
This pattern often leads to the breakdown of a marriage on its own. As their answer to the question about possible reasons for divorce, many respondents cite the intervention of older relatives.
It is likely that it is the inability to combine the requirements and possibilities of the modern world with the outdated model of the Azerbaijani family, where the newlyweds are led by parents, and leads to divorce in many cases, because the new model, where the husband and wife from the very beginning make decisions and bear responsibility themselves, still exists only in theory and as an experiment.
Divorce and the cult of virginity
Commenting on this topic on the oldest Baku forum disput.az, Baku residents illustrated this very struggle between the new and the old model. Some of the commentators expressed the revolutionary idea that it would be good for a couple to live together before marriage (this is an absolute taboo for most Azerbaijani families).
“Here the girl is no longer married, but on trial … no matter how hard we try to Europeanize, this rarely takes root in our normal families.”
“As a guy, I believe that marriage is forever. I look at men who get divorced, or cheat, or disperse and find new ones, as if they were nothing. …
Psychologically, I would not be able to take an oath in the registry office in all seriousness, and therefore break it. Accordingly, I will try and test as much as I need. “
“Exactly. You will test one, then the other, then the third. And for you, the excuse is that there was no official marriage, so you bare no responsibility. And the girl has already been used … “
This is an obvious reason for the mismatch between spouses – most couples only really get to know each other after they get married. The double standard of “honor”, when a man can have as many partners as he wants, and a woman – only one, obviously hinders the creation of an informed marriage. Nevertheless, the Western model of equal rights for partners is still perceived by most of society as depravity and sexual promiscuity. Meanwhile the old model, the union of a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home obedient wife, led by the husband’s parents, is beginning to give up its positions.