Till divorce us do part


The number of local couples living together has grown, and the divorce rate has also followed a rising trend. This is one of the main findings in a recent socio-demographic studies.

The rate stood at 3.1 every 1,000 inhabitants, totaling 35,034 divorce rulings in 2009, according to the National Office of Statistics' Cuban Population Yearbook.

The number of divorce rulings every 100 marriages has almost tripled between 1970 and 2009, when there were 64 rulings every 100 marriages. The gross rate has moved from 0.41 every 1,000 inhabitants in 1955 up to 4.9 in 2009.

"Such an increase has been closely associated with socio-demographic variables other than the number of marriages," said María E. Benítez, a researcher at the University of Havana's Population Study Center (CEDEM).

They include getting married at younger age, age difference, gender equality, and women's social and economic independence. "Relations between people having the same rights are satisfactory, but they are also difficult to maintain," she added.

"It is better to separate than go on living together in the midst of a crisis or conflict that will eventually lead to violence," a report on Cuban households at the turn of the century indicated.

It was put together by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment's Psychological and Sociological Research Center (CIPS) in 2008.

Esperanza Ballester, a 48-year-old resident in Havana, fully agrees with the statement. After having divorced twice and separated once, she is now on her fourth attempt.

"It was my first husband who decided to get divorced. It really took me a long time to get over," she recalled. "I was only 28 then," she told SEMlac.

"I asked my second husband to move out of the house. We lived together for eight years and had a daughter, but the daily routine killed love. I felt all alone even when he was by my side," she added.

"I have been living with my fourth couple for over a year, but we have signed no papers. So far so good," she stressed.

"The fact that women can support their families on their own has made them more independent," wrote psychologist Patricia Arés in an article entitled Cuban households: new challenges.

"And the fact that married couples do not usually last long shows that they are not very well equipped to live under the same roof," Benítez emphasized. "In fact, most of them get divorced before their fifth year of marriage," she commented.

"It is interesting to note that the divorce rate grows again after 15 years of marriage," she remarked. "These couples accounted for 31 percent of all divorce rulings in 2009," she exemplified. "This is partly due to longer life expectancy," she noted.

Divorce was legalized in Cuba as far back as 1918. Today, court rulings are based on just cause or declaration in default. Adopted in 1994, a third procedure establishes divorce by mutual consent, requiring only a notary deed.

"The act of getting divorced should be guaranteed rather than facilitated," said Olga Mesa, president of the Cuban Society on Civil and Family Law.

"Children get seriously affected because they are forced to live away from one of their parents, usually their fathers. To top it off, the latter often decides to provide them with no maintenance," she added.

Recent studies have revealed that high divorce rates are mainly caused by poor communication and housing shortage.

"Many people here get married without thinking about the difficulties they will have to face," Benítez indicated. "We are still more concerned about divorce than about marriage," she concluded.

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