Study: Traditional marriages were stable and rarely lead to divorce. Modern marriage, based on new ideas of love and romance, on the other hand is leading to frequent divorce cases.

This is according to National Statistical Bureau’s (NSB) monograph – Sexual and Reproductive Health of Adolescents and Youth in Bhutan.

NSB’s deputy chief research officer, Lham Dorji, said that traditional marriage is more stable probably because nuptials are based on close kinship ties. In many forms of traditional marriage, the assessment of a bride and groom involve parents and relatives. If couples found each other acceptable, they would go for arranged marriage.

Serga Mathang and Serga Kothkin (golden cross-cousin) marriage, Jomo Ngengi (practice of arranged in Merak and Sakteng), Ngenzhung (early age arranged marriage of Lower Kheng) and Chungngen (childhood marriage) are some of the traditional marriage practices in the country.

The study also makes mention of increasing rate of extra-marital affairs and divorce cases. The number of divorced female is higher than male.

“One of the solutions to reduce early age marriages and divorce among youths could be to encourage young people to start relationship at later age and be in love relationship for longer before opting for marriage,” said Lham Dorji.

The study defines adolescent as a person in the age group of 10 to 19 years, and youth between the ages of 20 to 24. Those between the ages of 10 and 24 are considered young people.

In the past, early-age marriage was favoured because starting a family and assuming parenthood early were relevant and practical to uphold social norms, procreate for farm labour and to maintain the integrity of extended family system and kinship ties, says the study.

Sexual activities among the adolescents and youth and early pregnancy were not considered social and health issues as little was known about the health aspects of sex, pregnancy and child rearing in the past.

The findings of the study show that despite the age restriction, the practice of marrying before the age of 18 is still common. Early age marriage is more common among the female. Some 30 percent of young female and about 15.9 percent of young male reported that they were married.

It was also found that the rate of young people married is more in eastern part of the country. Of about 24 percent of young people who are married, about four percent are adolescents.

Lham Dorji said that rise in divorce rate among young people today could be attributed to changing social values and norms.

“There is a need to relook at how we can better instill values such as Tha Damtsi and Ley Judre in young people, who today spend more time in school than with their parents and relatives,” said Lham Dorji.

Dechen Tshomo