A Syrian rights activist urged couples who live together outside of wedlock – cohabiting – to sign a contract stipulating the rights of both parties.
Abdullah Ali, a lawyer, said cohabitation is "a verbal contract between a man and a woman who live together outside marriage and share various aspects of their lives."
The prevalence of this living arrangement – found mostly in the capital Damascus – was brought into the open after the state-owned newspaper Al-Thawra ran a story about cohabiting couples in 2006.
Ali told AlArabiya.net that the law does not prohibit sexual relationships between unmarried couples -- as long as both are adult and single -- and can thus be legally recognized.
"This relationship is only criminalized in case one party or both are married," he said.
The contract, he argued, will avoid potential problems such as parental or financial disputes.
"The contract will comprise of the terms and conditions both agree to, provided they do not violate laws already in force as far as parenting and inheritance are concerned."
Ali said children would likely be the most contentious issue, as their legitimacy in the eyes of the law could pose a problem.
Couples don't resort to cohabiting because marriage is too costly, Ali said, noting that most unmarried couples who live together already have a home.
"I think it is a rebellion against the institution of marriage and the way it legitimizes sexual relationships," he said.
Syrian sociology professor, Hossam Al-Saad, also said financial problems are not the main factor, but that they play an important role.
He said much more scientific study is needed on the phenomenon of cohabitation in Syria.
"Studies about this issue seem like taboo, and cohabiting couples refuse to talk to researchers, so we don't have accurate data," Saad told AlArabiya.net.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).