An article on the Straits Times on 15 December 2005 talked about saving Muslim marriages, how such efforts have proven to be quite encouraging in terms of solving the problem of dysfunctional families in Singapore. For the purposes of this entry, I’m equating Muslim marriages as Malay marriages since a large percentage of Muslims are Malays.
Some facts mentioned :
– Project Discovery, a programme directed at Muslim couples who apply to the Syariah Court for divorce, had rescued 52% of the 124 troubled unions since 2003.
– Project New Leaf which targets couples who change their minds after registering for divorce had caused 92% of the 255 couples counselled to be reconciled after the programme.
– No of Muslim divorces fell about 12% last year from 2105 in 2003. Of this, 1368 involve first time couples, 255 had one partner divorced before and 227 were couples who had both been divorced once before.
– 1 in 4 Muslim marriages was a remarriage.
First question to ask is why are there so many Malay couples heading for divorce in the first place? Is it because of the fact that Malays make up one in five teens aged 19 and under being married, therefore having very unstable unions? Or is it because of our dire socio-economic status which makes marriage an even more precarious journey that it makes it even more difficult for it to succeed? Or that marriage is seen as an end point of education and the start of employment, entering the next stage of their lives in Singapore?
Sometimes I find it hard to fathom why some Malays marry at such an early age, not knowing what it entails being married to another and staring a family. I simply cannot imagine why they would want to get married when their incomes are still relatively unstable, or that they don’t even have a home to begin with, or a tentative plan for the future for their family. When I heard from a Malay NSF that he did not go to Taiwan for training because he was married, I was quite shocked because he was only 22 and only earning about $300+ a month! There’s even a Malay guy in my company who has been in the army for four years because he went AWOL a few times due to family problems and is now going through BMT because he has not even completed it before! And he’s married with two kids! He’s already 25, earning about 300+ a month!
One theory to explicate this puzzling phenomenon would be the fact that traditionally Malay families are relatively huge, therefore marrying off the children of the family would lessen the burden on the parents economically and emotionally. But this would only mean that our culture is anachronictic because Singaporean Malay families today are relatively quite nuclear, having three or four children only. Why would their parents want to marry off their children at such an early age, or to reflect our modern age, why are Malay teenagers so eager to marry at such a young age with no thought of their financial future?
Another possible extension to the previous theory would be the fact that while family numbers have decreased, incomes have not increased exponentially to meet the expensive standards of living in Singapore. While in the past living in kampungs and old HDB estates did not cost much for a typically large Malay family, today the standard of living demands that a large proportion of income is spent on paying rent, food and other monthly payments. Again having children would only to worsen the situation, and it will be best to marry them off at an early age.
However again I am assuming that because Malays make up one in five teens aged 19 and under being married, the divorce rates among Malays is high. there is no causal link to justify that the majority of Malay divorces involve marriages between the ages of 18 – 25 years old. I have been thinking about this and cannot really understand why Malays want to marry so early, or why we have so many divorces. Anyone care to explain why?