Tough economy changes marriage in Morocco

The World

This story was originally reported by PRI’s The World and America Abroad. For more, listen to the audio above.

Marriages in Arab countries like Morocco can cost between four and ten times the per capita income. “Everything is getting really expensive,” Morroco resident Mohammed Mahoufi, who recently married off his eighth child, told PRI’s The World. He explains:

Now the people are really demanding. The people will not accept just anything or to live just anywhere. They ask for very nice furniture and marriage has just become really, really hard for someone who has a limited salary.

Since young men are expected to have a good job and an apartment before they pop the question, Moroccan men have begun to marry later and later. A generation ago, the average age of a Moroccan man on his wedding day was 24. Today, it’s 32.

Those changes are having profound effects on Moroccan culture. Some men have been looking to women to help them out with finances, a situation that would have been unthinkable in the past.

“Before the husband must pay anything, but now, about the situation, the world has changed,” Jawad, an unmarried fish salesman in Casablanca told The Word. “So, she must help her husband a little bit.”

The delayed marriages may also be fueling “a sexual explosion in Morocco,” according to sociologist Abdel-Samad Aldealmi. He says the changing norms have led to “a lot of premarital sex, non-marital sex, emergence and visibility of homosexuality and lesbianism. A lot of emergence of prostitution also.”

The tough economy can also make it very difficult for people who can’t afford to get married. “My father is always telling me, all the time: Without wife you are always weak in my eyes,” Jawad told The World.

Housing prices continue to rise faster than wages, and Jawad estimates it will cost about $40,000 to buy and furnish an apartment and pay for the wedding. In the meantime, his sweetheart’s family is encouraging her to find someone with a better job and more money.

“Here in our community, in our society, if you are married, you are an important person,” he says. “And if you are like hanging out in the streets and with your friends, you mean nothing in your society.”

PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More “The World.”

To hear more on the economic issues facing young people in the Middle East, listen to America Abroad’s radio program, Overlooked and Underpaid: Arab Youth in Today’s Economy.

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