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Traditional marriage needs fixing

  • 02 September 2015

The last time I was in Turkey, a rug salesman offered me 500 camels for my daughter. Not a bad offer. In other parts of the world I would have been expected to send 500 camels with her as dowery.

In either case, she probably would not have fared very well. But we think of all that as primitive; we are way beyond camels.

Admittedly, we have moved on from the days when King David had eighteen wives and, gathering pace, King Solomon had a thousand, though, to be fair, about three hundred of them were concubines.

We no longer pay heed to the musings of the likes of Sts. Thomas Aquinas ('children, imbeciles and women') or Paul ('seen and not heard') or Jerome ('when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman and will be called a man').

By the middle of the eighteenth century we were still hearing from Blackstone, father of English law, that: 'the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during marriage'.

Each opinion is worst than the last. Even today, with apparently the best intentions in the world, the current Catholic patriarch offers a shocking metaphor, describing Europe as a 'grandmother, no longer fertile and vibrant' but instead 'elderly and haggard'. I wonder does he think of himself as no longer vital and effective at 78 years of age?

Our view of women has changed, and mercifully, is still changing. This change sheds further light on the contours of traditional marriage. We no longer sanction polygamy, and we set age limits to prevent the marriage of children while we joyfully celebrate the weddings of elderly, infertile couples. Today there are laws against wife-beating and rape within marriage but because these crimes happen in private they still happen.

The one thing about marriage that does not seem to change is its popularity. We are entranced by the new dream of love and mutually sustaining support which will enable us to become our best possible selves. Until we start leaving.

Today, nearly a third of marriages will end in divorce and this figure is expected to rise to 45 per cent in the next few decades, and women are the initiators. Of divorces initiated by one party, 69 per cent are initiated by women.

Not surprisingly, the more education and money a woman has the more likely she is to end the