Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Natural Rate of Divorce

May 12th, 2009 · 3 Comments

America’s sky-high divorce rate is often cited as a prime example of our moral decay. But how many other nations avoid such matrimonial chaos only through the maintenance of draconian laws? Microkhan would like to direct your attention toward Uganda, which has recently experienced a surge in divorces. The culprit seems to be the repeal of a law that strikes us as only slightly less unfair than the ending of Paths of Glory:

The criminal adultery law was scrapped on April 5, 2007 in a land mark ruling by the Constitutional Court. The Court ruled that section 154 of the Penal Code Act was unconstitutional because it treated men and women differently.

The old law gave the married man leeway to sleep around as long as the women he was involved with were not another man’s wife. A married woman, on the other hand, could not have sex with any man other than her husband.

In case of divorce, a woman had to prove multiple grounds, such as cruelty and desertion in addition to adultery, while the man only had to prove adultery. Now men and women alike only need to prove a single ground.

Also recently scrapped in Uganda: A law that enabled cuckolded men to sue their wives’ lovers.

All of this raises a vital question: Is there a “natural” rate of divorce that nations should aim for as a target, and then tweak their laws accordingly until they hit it? Perhaps the rate in the U.S. is too high, but the pre-2007 rate in Uganda was obviously too low. And while we obviously want to encourage the stability of marriage, we also have to accept that humans make mistakes, and should be granted leeway to start over—for the good of themselves, and for the good of society.

So, what might the natural rate of divorce be? Twenty percent? Twenty-five?


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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Here’s another question: would the divorce rate change if there were more barriers to getting married?

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: Excellent point.

    I keep on forgetting that the notion of civil marriage is pretty recent. I mean, when did City Hall quickies start (to say nothing of Elvis-themed Vega$ nuptials)? And they’ve only made it easier in recent years–no blood test now (at least in New York). As long as you show up with $25 and are willing to wait 24 hours, you’re in. Judging by my own experience at the Bronx courthouse, a lot of those who line up do it for shotgun reasons–not always the best glue for a lifetime commitment.

    Another follow-up I’d like to pursue: How the liberalization of divorce laws affects split rates among arranged marriages. How closely does the (presumable) increase track to that for “love matches”?

  • Jordan

    The notion of making the fees for a marriage license higher doesn’t seem so out of whack when you consider all of the tax benefits granted to married couples. Not to mention people who get married so they can get more financial aid for college. By the same token, this would likely be anathema to those who seem to think that marriage is a panacea and want to do everything they can to promote it.