Dahi Khalfan Tamim at the press event held at his majlis in Jumeirah. Image Credit: Atiq-Ur-Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: The rise in Emirati men marrying foreigners has led to an increase of 20 per cent in compatriot spinsters, a forum has heard.

The forum was organised to discuss the rising number of Emiratis who are marrying foreign women, and the effect such marriages are having on Emirati identity.

According to recent figures collated by the Dubai Statistics Centre, a total of 30.7 per cent of marriages which took place in the first half of 2010 were between Emirati men and foreigners. This number had risen from 26.3 per cent in 2006.

Jamal Obaid Al Bah, Chairman of the Arab Family Organisation, said: "Due to the fast shift in the UAE from being a tribal community to an urban environment, a lot of changes have occurred and especially to the institution of marriage".

"The UAE achieved great leaps, but without considering social changes or protection laws of the institution of marriage," he said.

"The UAE culture also did not do justice to Emirati women, where the case of an Emirati man marrying a foreign woman is reluctantly accepted. Emirati women are forbidden to marry foreign men. This injustice and the rise of Emirati men marrying foreign women have forced 30,000 Emirati women into spinsterhood."

The forum also examined the religious aspect of the issue, and stated what was religiously accepted and forbidden when it came to marrying foreign women.

Dr Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz Al Haddad, Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, said: "The concept of a ‘foreign woman' must be defined. You have foreign women who are people of the book [belonging to divine religions] such as Christianity and Judaism, these women are not forbidden to be married to. But women who do not belong to these religions are forbidden to be married to. Also social interests must always come before personal interests; especially if it was in the benefit of the country".

A recent survey conducted by Al Itihad newspaper said one of the main reasons why Emirati men decided to marry foreign women was the rising expenses of marriages and dowries. Other reasons included avoiding arranged marriages, seeking more liberty and freedom when marrying a foreign woman, and the fact that the Emirati community didn't allow enough time for couples to be properly acquainted before a marriage.

Lieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, Chief of Dubai Police, said: "Marrying a foreign woman is a method of escaping singlehood by Emirati men".

"Many Emirati men cannot afford the extravagant expenses that the Emirati bride or her family might require," he said.

"I address parents with this message and tell them that they should avoid these superficialities and look at marriages as a method to bring two people together instead of an excuse to show off."

The discussion forum took place on Sunday evening under the patronage of Lt General Dahi Khalfan and organised by the Juveniles Welfare Association.

Special permission

A proposal in regard to the laws that regulate the marriage of Emirati men to foreign women has been prepared, although it has not yet been approved. The law will include obtaining a special permission to marry from the Ministry of Interiors. Permission will only be granted if the marriage meets criteria such as:

1. The wife must be Arab and Muslim.

2. The husband must not be married to any other woman at the time.

3. The age difference should not exceed 25 years.

4. The husband must be financially capable of supporting the woman.

5. The couple must be free of any hereditary or sexually transmitted diseases.

6. The wife must not be banned from entering the country for any reason.