Maldives holds Guinness world record for divorce rate

Fathimath Leena* was 15 when her boyfriend raped her. Having grown up in the conservative city of Malé – where sex outside of marriage is seen as a sin and punishable by law – Leena felt obliged to marry her boyfriend when she turned 18.

“I held very conservative values at the time. Since we had already had sex, I felt like I had to marry him to legalise sex,” the slim, curly haired woman said over a cigarette and coffee.

The marriage lasted one month.

“He would frequently lock me up in our room. I was not allowed to see or speak to my family. He beat me every day. Once, he even burnt me with an iron. He had always been possessive, but I did not expect that kind of violence,” she said in a matter of fact tone.

“I did not have the courage to tell my parents. They were quite happy I had settled down. But one day, he started beating me in public in a shop. I ran out, he followed me into his parents apartment and in a fit of anger he told me I was now divorced,” she recounted.

Since then, Leena, now 29, has been married and divorced twice more and has a child from her third marriage.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Maldives ranks highest in the world with 10.97 divorces per 1000 inhabitants per year. Maldives’ divorce rate is twice as high as second placed Belarus.

“Maldives may rank highest in the world for divorces, but at least the ease in getting a divorce ensures women or men do not stay in abusive or unhappy relationships,” Leena said.

Ease of divorce

Obtaining a divorce is relatively easy under the Maldives’ mixed Shari’ah and common law system. A man is allowed to divorce his wife out of court simply by saying he was divorcing her. He is also allowed to revoke the divorce within three months.

A woman can only seek divorce through the courts, and if the judge decides the grounds for divorce are justified.

According to the Department of National Planning, 5,699 couples got married in 2012, but 3,011 couples got divorced in the same year.

The Family Court in Malé says it processed 784 cases of divorce in 2013. Of the 784, 360 were out-of-court divorces, and 262 cases were women seeking divorce through the court.

According to a family court official, who wished to remain anonymous, the court has imposed a MVR 5000 (US$ 324) fine to mitigate the high divorce rate and ensure couples seek reconciliation before obtaining a divorce. However, in 2013, only 14 couples sought reconciliation.

The family court is at present conducting an analysis of reasons for divorce, the official said.

Legal sex

Leena believes most couples get married  young in order to legalise sex. According to a 2011 UNFPA study on reproductive health, knowledge and behavior of young unmarried women in the Maldives, Maldivian youth are sexually active outside of marriage despite existing social belief systems, which consider sexual behavior outside of wedlock to be unacceptable.

“Parents and society frowns upon unmarried couples spending time together alone and press for marriage even though the couples may not be financially independent,” she said.

Leena said she had married her second and third husband for love. However, living in congested households with extended families had strained both marriages.

“People get married without financial independence and when they are not emotionally mature. There is no privacy to solve the smallest issues. So they escalate. Also, most couples live with their children in the same room and this can strain marriages,” she added.

A 2008 Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) study said 12,000 families living in Malé do not have their own housing and are forced to share accommodation with other families.

Historically high divorce rate

State Minister for Gender and Family Dr Haala Hameed said a lack of research on Maldives’ high divorce rate made it difficult to pinpoint exact reasons for divorce.

She said that Maldives had historically had high divorce rates, but believes recent increase in divorce rates may be due to stress within families as women enter the work force.

“In this globalised era, more and more women are entering the work force. High standards of living necessitate women supplement their husband’s income. However, there are no childcare facilities. And certain religious elements see women in the workforce – or active in public space – in a negative light. All of this can create stress within families and lead to divorce,” she speculated.

A myriad of problems emerge when divorce becomes common, she said. “Children tend to bear a huge loss when parents separate. Children from broken families are often neglected. They then tend to become school drop outs, engage in drug abuse or resort to violence,” she said.

Meanwhile, Leena said she had no regrets over her three marriages.

“It’s life. What can we do but live and learn from it? I have no regrets. Relationships do not last forever. When the time comes, I am ready to settle down again.”

*Name changed


24 thoughts on “Maldives holds Guinness world record for divorce rate”

  1. Being a small country Maldivian men have a little choice but marry some one, anyone, at least for sex. There is no real dating. And there is few or no choice. As a result marriage does not last. Marriage is for conveneince of both.

    eg, if you live in small town out of no where, which is too small even to have a supermarket, you may not know about many goods.. But to live you buy/consume some stuff, because thats what is only available. This is what happens in Maldives relationships. The market is so small, you cannot have no choice but to settle for some substandard product… out of necessity. not out of love.

    Same applies to Marriage in maldives.

    divorce is more in maldives not because something extra ordinary.

  2. My heartfelt congratulations to Maldives on the issue of the high divorce rate. We hold a world record, and we have good Belarus company too. Both are good for our self-esteem.

  3. Relationships do last forever. You have to learn how to do that, just like anything in life. Even in the animal kingdom there are relationships that last a lifetime.

    Maldives has probably held this world record for the last several decades. This is not something new. Speculating about the cause without proper research is not a responsible thing to do. There could be a number of factors, including social, economic, religious, educational and so on.

    Will the Maldives National University do something useful for the country for a change and do some proper research on this? After all, this sort of research doesn't require tons of money.

  4. @mohamed couldn't have elaborated better .

    Now that we have set a benchmark on this , might as well understand the leading factors that lead to divorce so that gov can initiate a holistic policy directive that can address the root, underlining and immediate causes of it. I just wonder how much of a proportion of it abuse ( verbal and physical) and out of mere boredom.
    There are important aspects that needs to incorpoared in the mainstream life skills program conducted in schools.

  5. Zaheena you conveniently forgot to say this single parent allowance instead of helping resolve the issue of the family law, facilitates the irresponsible parenthood. Now by law men can go marriage hopping without thinking cos tax payers will take care of it huh!!
    I am ok even if to hold high divorce rates 10 times to that of the next competitor, the problem is the children in broken families suffer immensely

  6. The article only gives a cursory statement from an anonymous source about the MVR 5000 fine for divorces outside of court, which by the way is common knowledge. It also fails to note that this fine was imposed about 8 years ago in response to public attention regarding the world record as an initiative to mitigate baseless divorces. The article could have delved deeper into the socio economic reasons that lead to the high divorce rates instead of quoting a few statements and reports. Nor is it responsible to highlight just one case of a thrice divorced woman when there are thousands of successful marriages that have lasted decades. My own grandparents were married for over 50 years till my Grandfather passed away. My parents had a loving marriage of almost 30 years till my Dad passed away. Perhaps the article should have given more insight into the differences between successful marriages and those that end in divorce. This is seriously sad journalism during a slow press week.

  7. Wow! where is Adhaalath now. Imran should be very happy now. Any fatwa?

  8. There is something called lust, all animal have lust for sex which is very natural. Maldivian are still not that highly evolved with human emotion, like empathy, love, passion. You need a language that can stir human emotion and good artist to express that emotion in order for human to cultivate all emotional seeds. May be Maldivian relationships are all based on lust and the marriage comes from lust for sex which fades away after few night’s F******.
    The proof is that we Maldivian never get married with those who are disabled or have physical disadvantage, you will not have lust for sex when the opposite sex is no attractive and the attraction basically is, how the mating partner is fertile.

    Mainly all the problems comes when your environment is limited, Dhivehi is not a language it is just simply a way of communication for day today human need in a particular environment and Dhivehi is not evolved as a rich language which can stimulate and touch every nerve in human brain. So let’s cut all rubbish and be realistic and start over everything based on how great civilizations evolved. Learn English or Chinese and reprogram your brains through fine education without extremist religious views that blinds your brain. Without such radical change you may never be able to address the issues that are engraved in your culture. You can’t treat the disease without eliminating the cause of disease by suppressing the symptoms.

  9. Beautiful exquisite world of Islam in the Mordis.

    Taking care of women as objects.

  10. Instead of focusin on Leena's traumatic first marriage, it should have focused on the second and third marriage, because that's how most marriages end in the Maldives. That was an unneeded diversion from the issue at hand.

  11. My two cents: a large number of divorces happen because in-laws butt in every aspect of couples' relationships - as most couples and their offsprings live with either the husband or wife's family. Cheating (amazingly, sleeping with the househelp or foreigners is often thought as not-cheating! go figure.), drug abuse, financial difficulties, homosexuality, sterility are all very good reasons to divorce. Don't try to make the process of divorce difficult. Address the social issues that lead to the divorce. I'd like to also mention that the outcome shouldn't be surprising as we have placed the right to divorce and the right to marry several women at the same time, in the hands of men who are brought up and molded in this society to be juvenile and chauvinistic sexists. And Oh the darling women are hardly satisfied with their uncommunicative juvenile pigs. We should have a national holiday to mark all the brave souls who have tried on marriage more than once. God bless the fools.

  12. Haha at least its not the record for the most corrupt, most incestuous, most child abuse, most polluting country!
    Dear author, if you were trying to note the importance of addressing and controlling the divorce rate, then your implication to legalize sex and making the process of divorcing more difficult is entirely misplaced. If there is any more room for this society to become more promiscuous we may have to legalize rape and incest as well- rape is already legal so long as you are married to the victim or are a politician. Many a person has had a second chance at life because the divorce processing is as easy as it is.

  13. @ maumoon Abdul c
    So you are saying that divorce rate is high in US because American English language is not evolved.,

    Really ?

  14. Maldives is too small. You either have have to marry a cousin, a distance relative or a relative of an extended family. Or some one connected to you somehow.

    So it's not possible protect a couples marriage from the influence of the network. And if you marry young, your whole life is dictated by so many peers. Add poverty to this situation and you have the perfect recipe for marriage breakdown

    Get it. It's not rocket science

  15. How predictable. Every commentator now has his or her theory on the high divorce rate of Maldivians. Each and every one is totally blind to what reality might be. This is yet another very typical small minded behavior of Maldivians.

    Look! Marrying cousins, extended family power, poverty, lack of diversity, boredom etc is not the privilege of just Maldivians. Villagers in most South East Asian countries and large parts of Africa suffer from the same issues. Yet, do they have the same marital problems as Maldivians? If not, why not?

    Stop the stupid speculation and do something original for a change, for God's sake!

  16. Short, fat, dim, ugly.....and now you hold the record for the highest divorce rate in the world!! You don't have much going for you, do you poppets?
    It seems your Allah created you on one of his off days.
    Is it the rancid body odour I wonder?
    Bad teeth and foul breath perhaps?
    Or is it the vacant looks and needle marks?

  17. Only a good research study can satisfy everyone. All you need are simple policy amendments and understanding with regards to how come this is particularly happening in the Maldives. I honestly don't know the reasons so won't even give my opinion on it.
    The Family Act needs to be amended. Why attack the messenger? The author simply tried to analyze and give her point of view in my opinion.

    Lastly, since divorces are common, a proper amendment in the Family Law how children can be taken care of needs to be there as they are the most affected. Each family most probably has witnessed a divorce, so it wouldn't be hard to convince everyone to agree to this. Policy makers need to be more aware and responsible and please stop the judging!! Unbelievable.

  18. Maldivians would show all sorts of excuses to justify this. In truth it's because of a lack of discipline and responsibility shown by the general population. There is a notion that you could get away with anything. Historical context and social development must be considered here.

    In the small island setting, isolated and with a population of few, majority was highly inbred, thus people in the island in some way or another related. A divorce wasn't considered much back then because divorce means man moves 2 doors down. Another comes along marries off with the woman, lo and behold that guy would be also somewhat related to the previous dude. All kept within, and all is well, maltreatment of the children would be sort of kept in check due to familial relations.

  19. Maldivians marry to satisfy social peer pressure, lust for rape(as permitted by law) and money.

    Verily, they are the worst of creation.

  20. Really marriage is an wonderful occasion who loves truly each other.Now a days making friendship for peer pressure totally absurd.Even if it is acceptable immaturity not holding the life long value.They are free to select their own partner in the adolescence stage but most of the time selection is for fun. That is why Maldives hold first place in Divorce.

  21. Whoa, there! Take it easy, "MissIndia". Are there people that fit your description in Maldives? Well, of course! However, the same also applies to your country and a number of (if not all) countries across the globe. The divorce rate is horrendous and I agree with mohammed that our conditions are not particularly singular, proper research needs to be conducted. I, for one, would never attempt to justify it. It's not something anyone could/should argue for with any semblance of logic, anyway. The age-old indifference towards mental/emotional compatibility certainly lends to the issue. Seriously, though, MissIndia. Relax on the blind bigotry. Let's not send humanity back a step in evolution.

  22. mohammed and MissIndia need a chill pill eh? I guess divorce is a little touchy for m and MissIndia is missing her goat herd back home.

    A very narrowly thought out article. Minivannews, is there no quality control?

  23. One main reason of the whole social issue... divorce. Agreed with some of the above, we have a base line, we had had this baseline for decades, and media, NGO's government have been talking and expressing their concerns for ages. The BIG questions stay "Does ant one care? So what! Life goes on". I at least as a common citizen got no idea if anyone came up with any strategy to tackle the issue. IT’s not time yet!! Maybe we need a higher divorce rate…
    From here I would like to highlight one flicker of a fact perhaps, yes many gets married to have legal sexual pleasure, mostly lust. Men is Maldives believes that women should stay home after work while men enjoy smoking and sips of coffee getting entertained by gossiping about women (yes! Men do gossip) with their friends. Sharing their daily life with once so called “love of life” wife makes them weak “kada”. Taking them out also makes them very low, cox their friends might say “anbi dhashu vefa” … Men in our families are brought up like kings. So they would want to be treated as kings in the marriage as well. Can come up with a huge list….
    We need a foundation to bring a change.


Comments are closed.