Conservative Saudis are increasingly availing misyar, a no-strings marriage of convenience focused primarily on sexual relations, said a report in the UK daily Guardian.Misyar allows couples to live separately but come together for sexual relations and for women who conform to the idea – spinsters, divorcees and widows – it is “a something-is-better-than-nothing option”.
Misyar deprives women of almost all the rights that a normal marriage would entitle them to, but for men, it offers an “opportunity for a bit of fun on the side, in secret, and at a huge discount”. Misyar’s rising popularity also owes to the high cost of marriage in Saudi Arabia, as dowry, dinners, parties, decorating a flat and the honeymoon, set the groom back several hundred thousand riyals.
“Misyar for cash-strapped men is a boon,” Guardian said.
A Saudi cited by the report claimed that he entered several misyar marriages after his first normal marriage fell apart. He said none lasted for more than six months and said the marriages had not been as cost effective as he had hoped, irrespective of the fact that he was hoping to find a compatible partner for a permanent relationship.
He said misyar wives were “crafty and inclined to extract money and gifts”.
“Thanks to Bluetooth technology, friendly websites and an abundance of furnished apartments in major cities like Riyadh and Jeddah, there are tales of misyar wives who have clandestinely entered into more than one misyar contract. These enlightened ladies say misyar husbands never tell their full-time wives about their relationships so why can’t misyar wives have similar arrangements?” the paper said.
Clerics have called this a dangerous trend.
Internet ads for misyar marriages often reveal the desperation of those looking for partners, with some only demanding a woman with the “ability to satisfy the needs of a man who desires things permitted by religion”.
“Misyar is popular in the kingdom because in a society where extramarital and premarital sex is a cardinal sin it legitimises sexual relations outside the framework of conventional marriage,” the report says.
The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights says misyar is an insult to both men and women and a sanction for the trafficking of women.