I’m going to write this one on the fly so it’s purely opinion driven and honestly there’s not a lot written online about this issue. So if you’ve read the title you know this is exploring divorce in the Somali community and how ridiculously common it is. When I was younger, I went to mosque every weekend (I know this is surprising), and the mosque I went to was essentially all Somali – now here’s the thing, it was weirder to find people who had parents who were still together (first marriage), than it was for them to be divorced.
The western world states that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but I feel like in the case of Somali’s it’s a lot higher and it’s really weird now looking back at the conversations I had with family about it all. We were all children of divorce, and we didn’t really see the high levels as an issue – if anything we looked down on anyone who used divorce as a reason to be upset, which again is something we shouldn’t have done. It was really insensitive and in my case my parents split up when I was too young to give a shit, so I don’t really have a place to judge how others process their parent’s departure.
So, you might be able to guess, but because of this, we have a whole generation of children (now adults) who were raised in single parent households, or growing up with step parents and as a result the way a lot of us see relationships can become a little bit warped and generally just unhealthy.. well that’s a generalisation in the extreme but let me explain. I’ve met enough Somali boys to understand how this has impacted their relationship with women, especially the ones who didn’t grow up with a father figure. There’s a lot of weird hostility and sexism and it’s seen as normal behaviour, we do have the flip side where this hasn’t happened and in all honesty they’re the good ones.
I feel like as a whole, the post war generation had a lot to deal with. They were displaced from their homes and forced to live away from their parents from a very young age, and it makes sense that a lot of them chose to marry young, and marry the first person they were interested in. But without a parental figure, or an actual home to go to, it sort of effected how they behaved in those relationships. Me and one of my friends made a joke about how common divorce was, and how our parents generations essentially just broke up after the first fight, but when you really break it down, they didn’t really have anyone to tell them not to.
When you compare Somali’s to other Eastern cultures, our main differences come with our lack of stigma to issues life divorce, we don’t have that barrier of shame, and a lot of it is because our parent’s didn’t really have any elders telling them what to do. Of course, displacement plays a massive role in all of it and I am in no way reducing the high divorce rates to just a case of a lack of elders. But they were sort of thrown into different countries and given free reign to do whatever they wanted, alongside being the ‘only Somalis’ wherever they landed, so it’s interesting to consider how this impacted that.
Religion wasn’t really a massive driving force back then, because as much as we like to pretend we were always religious as a community – we weren’t. A lot of us who were born in the West have vivid childhood memories of our parents not practicing and in some cases we weren’t even taught it until a certain point, I remember it being around the beginning of the naughties, but everyone suddenly turned to religion. I was introduced to Islam and then also sent to an Islamic school for a year and a half – we all acknowledge that was a bad decision.. I’ll write a blog post surrounding that topic at some point… just not now.
So take a displaced generation, a lack of religion, a lack of elders and the fact that a lot of them were in their teens/twenties and you have a generation of people who didn’t really have any reason to commit to their marriages when they went through issues, because let’s face it everyone goes through their hardships.
Still not sure why we all have such big families, but I might actually have to research that topic since it’s probably just a cultural thing thats continued.