By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli March 27: The Libyan Transitional Government has passed Law No. 119, dated March . . .[restrict]19, 2012, which encourages marriage in Libya.
Article 1 of the law creates a marriage support fund as part of the Ministry of Social Affairs. The fund will specialize in supporting marriage.
Article 2 covers aspects prescribed by the Ministry of Social Affairs including housing for those wishing to get married, financial help to cover wedding costs, funding of communal weddings, helping organizations that are dealing with the problem of late marriage and the encouragement of marriage between Libyans so as to help preserve social ties.
The headquarters of the fund according to Article 3 will be in Tripoli, with the possibility that the Ministry of Social Affairs will open branch offices in other cities.
The passing of the law creating a marriage support fund is in reaction to the problem that many Libyan young people face in getting married.
The importance of the problem was partly highlighted by the fact that Mustafa Abdul Jalil, head of Libya’s highest political office, the National Transitional Council, felt it important enough to refer to the topic in Libya’s Independence Day Declaration on December 24 by encouraging Libyan men to exercise their Sharia right and marry a maximum of four wives.
The political root of the housing problem goes back to some of the failed socialist policies of the past regime.
The biggest obstacle to marriage for Libyans is usually housing. Many are forced to live with their parents or family after marriage due to their inability to afford a house or flat. The rental and housing market in Libya is totally underdeveloped due to the previous regime’s laws on ownership and rent.
At one stroke in the 1970s, the former dictator changed property ownership and rental laws so that occupiers became owners of the dwellings they were living in. Equally, rent was massively reduced and was payable directly to the state rather than to the title deed holders.
Libyans were each permitted to own only one residential property. Moreover, they had to prove they had a need for it by constantly occupying it. Any vacant properties were occupied and ownership was transferred by virtue of possession or squatter’s rights.
This discouraged Libyans from building and renting housing, especially to other Libyans who would automatically become owners.
Libya’s underdeveloped banking and legal systems have also contributed to the problem. Libyan banks, although cash-rich, are not lenders of money due to the poor legal infrastructure that fails to protect their rights.
Under the old regime’s socialist/welfare system, it was in practice legally unenforceable and politically unacceptable to evict Libyan residents from their homes for failing to keep up mortgage payments. This discouraged banks from lending and caused the supply of the rental and housing market to fall well behind demand.
As a result, decades on, Libya’s affordable rental and housing shortage still plagues young people, university leavers, those working for SMEs and all those on the lower pay scales.
Marriage is a sensitive issue in Libya, especially for the youth. It is an important part of Islam and is a respected institution in an Arab Muslim society where strong family ties are still the norm.
The inability of young people, both men and women, to get married is causing strains and tensions in the fabric of Libyan society. At the same time, Libyan men are more likely to marry non-Libyans and sidestep the expense of a traditional Libyan wedding. On the other hand, due to social traditions and constraints Libyan women are less likely to marry non-Libyans.
Whilst the fund may hopefully be able to offer some relief to unmarried Libyan young people, the problem is probably much bigger than either this small fund or even the Ministry of Social Affairs’ LD 451 million budget for 2012 can deal with.
It will probably need many years of investment and work, during which Libya’s property and rental market is allowed and encouraged to flourish, to make up for the shortage of supply created over the last three decades. [/restrict]