Friday, August 14

‘Sort out any existing marital ties first’

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Fatimah (seated centre) together with the council members after the meeting. Also seen (from second left) are Sabariah, Rosey and Saadiah.

KUCHING: Non-Muslim couples are urged to sort out any existing marital ties before considering another marriage.

Minister of Welfare, Community Well Being, Women, Family and Childhood Development Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah said this after the first State Social Development Council meeting of the year yesterday.

She said the issue was of men who married under customary law (Majlis Adat Istiadat Sarawak – Mais), and later marry someone else under a civil ceremony.

“This is a way of protecting women whose husbands try to marry again without properly annulling the first marriage,” she told a press conference.

In 2017, a total of 86 individuals who were still married by customary law attempted to register a new marriage at the National Registration Department.

Among the suggestions from council members is to get the JPN to make available online information on non-Muslim couples registering tomarry.

This is to create a greater window of opportunity for relevant parties, especially a customary law wife, to raise objections.

“We want better communication between JPN and Mais,” she said.

Presently, the forms are displayed at the JPN office but an existing spouse is unlikely to spot it, said Fatimah.

Mais has recently established the Native Marriage Electronic System (Names) and JPN has access to check their database.

Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus; the ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Saadiah Abdul Samat, and deputy state secretary (Performance Transformation and Service Delivery) Datu Dr Sabariah Putit were also present at the meeting.

Civil marriages dropped by 0.12 per cent from 8,053 (2016) to 8,043 (2017), while customary marriages rose by 8.1 per cent from 2,558 to 2,766 in the same period. Muslim marriages also increased by 0.10 per cent from 6,210 to 6,581.

Meanwhile, civil divorces went down by 12.6 per cent between 2016 (1,093) and 2017 (955).

Customary divorces increased by 1.9 per cent from 1,175 to 1,197, while Muslim couples who parted ways also decreased by 0.15 per cent or from 2,668 in 2016 to 2,664 in 2017.