Traditionally wed Ibans can register with JPN


KUCHING: Iban couples who were married in the traditional way have the option to re-register with the Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara (JPN) if they wish to do so.

According to Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak (Native Customs Council) Iban Research section head Jimbun Tawai, couples who wish to register with JPN are welcomed to do so, but that means the validity of JPN registration takes precedence over the Adat registration.

“The Native Customs Council also offers an electronic system registration that allows Adat marriages to be registered online. This system is already active in six divisions namely Serian, Bau, Sarikei, Miri, Marudi and Limbang.

“Adat marriages from year 2005 until now are already in the system. For marriages from previous years, we still keep the physical copies of marriage certificates as they are still valid,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

Traditional Iban marriage ceremony, known as ‘melah pinang’, was considered the most proper way to get married in the longhouses in the olden days.

Today, such marriages are done more for the cultural significance rather than religious significance. Marriages contracted in accordance with such ceremony are provided for under Adat Iban 1993 and are recognised as legitimate under civil law.

“To register Adat marriages, it is imperative to get the Tuai Rumah and one other person present during the ‘melah pinang’ ceremony as witnesses. The couple, together with these two persons, will then go and meet the Penghulu of the area where the couple is residing mostly,” Jimbun explained.

The form must be signed by the Penghulu, Tuai Rumah and one other witness.

One advantage of Adat marriage is that it can be arranged relatively fast without the need to wait for months.

“As long as both the groom and bride sides agree then it is fine to go ahead with the ceremony,” said Jimbun.

In cases of divorce, similar procedures are followed, whereby the case is heard by the Penghulu of the area and decision made.

“There must be concrete reasons for a divorce case to be approved and usually it is neglect, where wives can prove that their other halves have been neglecting their needs and welfare for 2 years or more. Divorce can be filed without the presence of the man. Once the divorce is approved and registered, both sides can remarry any time.

“This is different from the marriages registered under the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Act 1976, where divorce is recognised only after two years of separation. Complications arise for those who live elsewhere and have new spouses, as their children may not be recognised as legitimate offspring as the previous marriage is not officially nullified,” said Jimbun.

However, it must be noted that Adat marriage has its flaws and a major one is the absence of provision for maintenance for the wife in the event of a divorce.

For more information, contact the Native Customs Council at 082-234719.