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Turkish government aims to 'save' marriages

Turkey’s government has launched a drive to curb the divorce rate, up 38% over the past decade, but the services it has offered have come under criticism as meddling in citizens’ private lives.
Brides and bridegrooms gather on a stage as they wait for their wedding ceremony in Ankara August 6, 2006. The 206 couples got married in an annual ceremony organised by Ankara municipality. REUTERS/Umit Bektas  (TURKEY) - RTR1G5NN

Alarmed by a 38% increase in the divorce rate over the past decade, Turkey’s Family and Social Policies Ministry has rolled up its sleeves to provide couples with counseling under a project named “Divorce Process Counseling Service.” Under the new arrangement, couples that file for divorce are first sent to a “family counselor” by the court. The ministry has opened counseling centers in all of Turkey’s 81 provinces, where couples receive at least four hours of therapy before making their final decision. The process involves three stages: pre-divorce, court hearings and post-divorce.

Some may raise objections that the subject is none of the state’s business and that the minister and the judge should not meddle in private lives. Others may argue that the practice is designed to discourage women from divorcing abusive husbands. Yet, the ministry is bent on saving marriages by prolonging the divorce process. Moreover, it is unclear whether couples are offered therapy or counseling.

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