Ramallah: Despite the sharp deterioration in economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, the number of marriages there increased in 2015 by 4,650 (28.8 per cent) making the largest annual increase since the Sharia courts were set up in the coastal enclave, said a senior Gaza official.

According to Dr Hassan Al Jojo, who heads the Sharia Supreme Council and head of the Higher Sharia Court in the strip, a total of 20,778 marriage contracts have been conducted in the Gaza Strip in 2015 compared to 16,128 marriage contracts conducted the previous year (2014). He said the second highest number of marriage contracts was reported in 2009 when 18,571 contracts were conducted in the coastal strip.

Although economic problems supposed to lead to deterioration in marital relationships and increase risk for divorces, a total of 3,281 (15.8 per cent) divorce cases were registered in Gaza Strip in 2015 compared to 17.9 per cent on the previous year with 2.1 per cent decrease in the divorce rate. Commenting on the divorce rate in Gaza Strip, Al Jojo said that overusing and misusing Facebook and other social networks have caused a considerable number of relationships to fall apart leading to divorce. “Scores of divorce cases have been registered in Gaza Strip for misusing and overusing Facebook and other social networks by either the man or the woman,” he said in a statement.

“Social media is a double-edged sword that affects Gaza just the way it does affect the rest of the world especially when it is misused or overused.”

Al Jojo said many social media-related disputes are amicably resolved without the need to refer them to be reviewed and decided in courts.

A group of psychologists in Gaza Strip said in a study that overusing social networks may adversely affect mental health and contribute to feelings of depression, stress and anxiety and can cause havoc in romantic relationships. The study showed that the Gazan individual is off in a world of his own and abandons reality in a way which has serious implications on his life, work and future.

The study stressed that the availability of the internet everywhere in Gaza Strip paves the way for the electronic addiction, where the Gaza Ministry of IT and Communications revealed a sharp increase in the numbers of internet users in the coastal enclave.

The number of legal internet subscribers increased in 2015 by 20,112 (30.4 per cent) to 86,265 compared to 66,153 legal subscribers in 2014. The ministry expressed concerns about the increasing number of internet subscribers and the decreasing internet charges imposed by the internet providers despite the blockade imposed on the coastal strip since 2007 when Hamas took over the strip following a brief civil war with its rival ousted Fatah movement.