The Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat) on Thursday released the 2020 figures for marriages and divorces in the country. The figures show the number of couples who got married in 2020 decreased by 10.1% and similarly, the number of couples who got divorced decreased by 13.8%. The coronavirus pandemic, which prompted many couples to postpone their weddings but also forced many dysfunctional couples to spend more time together, appears to have played a role in the decline.
In fact, the most significant drop in marriages and divorces was recorded in April and May, one or two months after the virus made its foray into the country. The marriage rate dropped by more than 68% in April 2020, compared to April 2019. In May, it decreased 61.6% compared to May 2019, a drop which is also linked to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, a period when marriage ceremonies are largely shunned. The pandemic caused many to postpone their wedding parties, an inseparable part of marriages in the country, as wedding halls were shut down or forced to operate on a limited capacity. Divorces in April and May decreased by more than 96%. A judicial holiday in August also affected the number of divorces which decreased that month.
Dr. Özcan Kılıç Kafalı, a psychiatry expert based in Istanbul, says the pandemic put pressure on most couples. "Economic problems, concerns about health, future, spending more time together and limits on social life hurt relationships," he told Ihlas News Agency (IHA) in a recent interview.
Kafalı said the circumstances the pandemic created also sparked problems couples may have thought they resolved. "We see divorce rates increase in many countries compared to previous years. It is inevitable for couples to have problems during this tiring and stressful process. But they should not ignore their problems and should not immediately resort to divorce when they faced problems," he says. Kafalı recommends couples’ therapy for couples with problems, to enhance their communication skills.
Last year, 487,270 couples got married. The crude marriage rate or the number of marriages per 1,000 people was on average 5.84. On the other hand, 135,022 couples got divorced.
Statistics also show an increase in the mean age of those getting married for the first time in both men and women. Men usually marry at 27 while women marry at 25. The age difference between couples stood at about three years, according to 2020 figures.
The highest marriage rate was recorded in the eastern province of Adıyaman, where roughly seven couples married per 1,000 people. It was followed by Şanlıurfa and Kilis, in southeastern and southern Turkey respectively. Gümüşhane in the Black Sea region had the lowest marriage rate, ahead of Tunceli in the east and Artvin in the northeast.
Most divorces were filed in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, which dethroned the western province of Izmir, which long dominated the list of provinces with the highest divorce rate. Izmir came second and it was followed by Antalya's neighbor Muğla. The lowest divorce rate was in the southeastern province of Hakkari and it was followed by Muş in the east and Hakkari’s neighbor Şırnak.
According to statistics, more than 35% of divorces took place within the first five years of marriage. Divorces also dealt a blow to children. Last year alone, 124,742 children were placed into the custody of their mother or father after their parents divorced. Mothers got custody of the children in the majority of cases.
The TurkStat figures also delve into the number of foreign brides and grooms. Last year, 18,909 foreign brides were married to Turkish grooms while the number of foreign grooms was 3,828. The majority of foreign brides were Syrian and Azerbaijani nationals while most foreign grooms were German and Syrian nationals.
The decline in marriage rates and the rise in divorce rates has been a continuing trend in recent years. Various factors have been identified to explain the shift, including a change from a consumption-based lifestyle, a change in social morals and amendments that have helped facilitate the divorce process. The government, meanwhile, seeks to promote marriages and children by offering incentives to newlywed couples and couples with children.
As Dr. Kafalı pointed out, marriages were on the decline across the world. In Japan, for instance, the number of marriages tumbled last year, the country’s Health Ministry announced on Monday. In 2020, marriage rates dropped by 12.7%, the highest since 1950. In Italy, official statistics show that number of people married in the first quarter of 2020 dropped by 20% compared to 2019. They further decreased by 80% in the second quarter and divorces also dropped by 60% in the same period.