April 04, 2007
On Citizenship and Marriage
As the number of foreigners living in the Gulf has increased, so have the number of marriages between Gulf citizens and expatriates. Foreign women who marry Gulf citizens have relatively little legal trouble in these patriarchal societies. But women from the Gulf who marry foreigners find that their husbands cannot acquire their nationality, and that their children are not citizens in the countries where they have been born and raised.
Some countries have allowed for limited exceptions to this, but these have tended to be one-off events, rather than permanent legal changes. Citizens have distinct privileges, and are costly for the state to support.
Bahrain is currently debating extending health privileges to foreign women married to Bahrainis. One member of parliament has linked the issue to the large number of unmarried women in the country. The number reflects the lower lower social barriers men face in finding foreign spouses, and also the very high divorce rate throughout the region, with the latter in turn related to a higher likelihood of cross-cultural marriages breaking down. The MP has thus lightheartedly proposed that his male peers should take four wives- three Bahraini women and one foreigner- in order to reduce the number of spinsters in the country while averting a rise in the divorce rate.
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The system in the Gulf has always been based on the closed society concept: Keeping it within the family so that the booty stays within the family so to speak. Its nice to hear that more Gulf nationals are marrying foreigner women because this is one way to prize the system open. If there is hiccups on the way (ie about foreign husbands marrying Gulf women not getting the same treatment), well this is just the way things are, but at least there is a historical process that might be starting. The Gulf state if we can call it that has always been very conscious about letting in more people than it has to. Its large "bedoon" segments like it is in Kuwait have actually no right to citizenship at all or of the benefit that it entails despite the fact that they are an indigenous part of the population.
Posted by: marwan asmar at April 5, 2007 06:36 PM
New blood is vitally important for reducing genetic diseases here, the main "tradition" that needs to go is cousin marriage. In some more remote areas people are marrying spouses that genetically are as close as siblings.
Interesting to see that according to this survey, educated women would rather be "spinsters" (I love how they still use this term so much here) than second wives. So if conservative old Sharjah is anything to go by, I don't rate Bahrain's polygamy plans.
Posted by: secretdubai at April 8, 2007 03:58 AM