By Mohamed Shiil

Mogadishu, Somalia

Confusion accompanies every Somali thinking about marriage due to the course of conflict and instability in the country in the past two decades. Unemployment, lawlessness, fear and the lack of a united central government have left Somalia's young men and women in despair with less appetite to marriage.

"Social links, attitude and interactions become loose and damaged by the growing hostilities and every section of the society is in anguish," said Mohamed Abdikadir, a social worker in Mogadishu "Marriage delays become in the first of setbacks led by the ongoing conflict and soaring violence in the country."

Ahmed Mohamed Ali, 34, lives in Mogadishu and has been engaged for three years. He and his prospective bride have not been able to have an official marriage ceremony because he can't afford the expense.

"I had hardly offered the dowry (money given to the parents of the woman) but expenses of the furniture, marriage ceremony and almost our daily expenses after marriage were not available because I am jobless," said Ahmed. "It is difficult finding a job in a country where fighting sparks everywhere, and where nobody is safe."

In Mogadishu, people were accustomed to attending marriage ceremonies and long lines of newlyweds could be seen strolling the main streets of the city. Now, such celebrations seem little more than legends.

Many young women have abandoned hope of marrying in these hard times. Their potential counterparts cannot offer them a good house, precious jewelry such as expensive gold necklaces, a good income to pay bills and a marriage ceremony with many guests. So they delay marriage.

It's "better exposing my life into the perilous sea voyages or trying [to] immigrate to the Western world amid danger of dying in the Mediterranean Sea, instead of marrying here (Somalia) where husbands could not afford because of unemployment as well as continuing violence and killings," said 32-year-old Halima Abdirahman.

Those who might not be ready to tie the knot have sometimes been compelled into it. Forced marriages have been known to occur in Somalia from time to time. However, in the last four years forced marriages have been regularly practiced by Al-Shabaab.

For the extremist group, forcing women into marriage is a matter of personal convenience. Al Shabaab leaders can claim for themselves the prettiest women in a village, while rewarding their fighters with wives. And it was an inexpensive to get a bride, as they wouldn't pay a dowry to the woman's parents.

Al Shabaab has banned the reading of the traditional marriage rituals, an action seen as un-Islamic by moderate Sufi and Alha Sunna clerics.

Both marriage delays and forced marriage have led many young people to flee the country.

An elder in Mogadishu, Awale Abdi, complains of the "brain drainage" as young people endure perilous sea voyages to pursue better and safer lives in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.

"They do not think about marriage due the tradition of early marriage in the country, things are not the same as before, everything is changing," said Abdi.

The postponement of nuptials and the decline of marriage proposals concern Muslim scholars and clerics.

Sheikh Abdulahi Qasim, a cleric and Muslim scholar, believes that marriage constitutes a family structure and increases the productivity of mankind. "Society without marriage will go extinct and disappear and the Islamic religion urges marriage," he says.

The only chance for marriage may be for young people living in Somali communities abroad who have opportunities to offer expenses for marriage. They demand girls from their relatives in Somalia matching their specific criteria, or sometimes girlfriends they left behind in the country.

"We call this the hawala marriage and sometimes it does not last longer because the couple knew little about each other," said Awil Hussein, a scholar in Mogadishu. "Sometimes the ceremony is being held in Mogadishu without the presence of the husband living abroad and girl is later sent to him after ceremony."

Elderly people denounce the country's marriage delays. Some of them cited the lack of weddings as a "curse and bad habits following the new age of civilizations and intermingling with foreign cultures." They prefer early marriage rather than delays or abandoning marriage.

"Whenever marriage practice decreases, evil things such as adultery will take position and drastically go up, and that is not good for our society," noted Mohamed Omer Dalha, a lawmaker in the parliament. "It is a tragedy that marriage is declining and people could not be able to do it for many reasons associated with war and conflict in the country."

There are no government plans to encourage and support young people in marriage and couples in need do not have opportunities to fulfill their ambitions for starting new families, or a brighter future for passion and happy marriages.

World - Hard Times Lead Young Somalis to Delay Marriage | Global Viewpoint