Manama: A leading Saudi religious figure has called for holding compulsory special workshops on matrimony for all young men and women about to get married.

“The justice ministry should ensure that the marriage contract is not endorsed by a court of law unless the two spouses prove that they have gone through the mandatory workshop,” Saeed Al Qah’tani said.

The scholar attributed his call to the high rise in divorce rates in the Saudi kingdom.

“The rate has exceeded 50 per cent in some regions in the country and this is alarming,” he said. “This clearly indicates that there is a serious and grave issue about understanding and appreciating the responsibilities of spouses towards each other,” he said, quoted by local Arabic daily Okaz on Sunday.

Several focus groups with expertise in families in Saudi Arabia could offer the required counselling, he said.

“We have noted that several young men and women are not good at the art of living with their spouses, and this often results in the failure to interact with them positively, especially in the beginning. This often leads to a divorce in the first year of their married life,” he said. “It is obvious that they need a counselling workshop that should last at least five days. An evaluation test is needed at the end of the workshop,” he said.

Al Qah’tani said that local businessmen should assume their responsibilities towards the Saudi society by supporting pro-family groups.

“The business community should support the society in which they invest their money,” he said. “Investment should not have returns only for the business people, but also for the society as a whole because without the society, there can be no investment. We call upon them to support groups promoting family cohesion,” he said.

Warnings about the rise in divorce in the Gulf countries have become more intense as figures released by several ministries have become a source of concern about the future of the local societies.

According to reports, the Gulf countries now have some of the highest divorce rates in the world, and activists have been pushing for promoting campaigns and introducing new requirements, such as the mandatory counselling workshops, to help reverse the tendency.