Denmark: More Muslim divorces

The number of divorces among Muslims is rising. Women especially are leaving arranged or badly functioning marriages. But Islamic culture creates problems for the women, who are coming to crisis centers and imams for help. Researchers, integration consultants and imams say they see more and more women who are giving up the norms and traditional gender roles in the Muslim community.

Rubya Mehdi of Copenhagen University says that there are more and more Muslim women that want divorces, even though divorce is seen as bad among Muslim and there can be strong pressure against it from the family. Many women are ignoring that pressure. Mehdi is researching the legal status of Muslim women in divorce cases and will be publishing a book about it.

Denmark's statistics bureau doesn't follow up on divorces for Muslims, but there is agreement that Muslim women in Denmark, especially the younger 2nd generation are more independent and resourceful, daring to go against the prevalent norms.

Manu Sareen of the Copenhagen municipality says it is a sign of integration and a positive development. Though divorce is not a happy process, it is better than in the past when women were forced to stay in an unhappy relationship due to family and social pressures. More women are coming in contact with Danish society, realize their rights and see how life can be different.

Islamic law and culture can prevent a woman from divorcing. A Danish divorce is not necessarily accepted by Islamic law and a husband can veto the divorce. Some imams and the national women's crisis center see more Muslim women coming for help on how to leave a marriage.

Since 2005, the national organization of crisis centers has noted a marked increase in the number of women who come seeking help and advice on divorce. Farwha Nielsen says that there are many cases where the husband has refused the women a divorce according to Islam, even if the couple was divorced according to Danish law. Other women are kicked out by their families and acquaintances since a woman is perceived as 'loose' if she asks for a divorce. Nielsen says it is important that those women who break the pattern get both judicial and social support.

Rubya Mehdi has suggested creating Danish-Islamic wedding contracts that secure a woman's judicial rights, and some imams want a Islamic advisory council in Denmark which will mediate divorces.

Source: Berlingske Tidende (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Debate about polygamy

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