Rising Rates & Mandatory Classes
Although the United States has had a divorce rate estimated to be hovering around 50% for several years now, new data shows that many other countries in the world are catching up fast. This has proven especially true in many emerging nations in Asia and the Middle East where the fast pace of modernization has taken a toll on the cohesion of married relationships. Recent reports from Malaysia show that the rate of divorce increased dramatically in that nation in just one year. Statistics from the Malaysian National Registration Department show that the number of divorces jumped from just under 3,000 in 2009, to nearly 8,000 in 2010 despite recent efforts by the National Population and Family Development Board to stem the tide with counseling and courses designed to strengthen the family institution in Malaysia.
A National Population and Family Development Board survey showed that the divorce rate for non-Muslim Malaysians alone increased by 169% from 2009 to 2010. The survey found that most divorcing couples cited “a lack of mutual understanding” as the primary cause of their divorce in 41.8% of the cases filed that year. Following the lack of understanding, 11% of divorcing Malaysians cited “a lack of responsibility” as the main cause. Interference from in-laws was shown to be the main cause for about 9% of the divorces, drug addiction caused nearly 7% to divorce and surprisingly, infidelity was only cited in 6.5% of the cases filed.
Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Heng Seai Kie from the National Population and Family Development Board expressed her concern over the issue of rapidly increasing divorces in Malaysia and said that there were many calls to make a pre-wedding education course, called the Smart Start program, a compulsory requirement for all engaged non-Muslim couples. Heng Seai Kie said “It is very worrying that couples filing for divorce have been getting younger and younger.” So far, the Start Smart program has counseled over 12,000 participants in 361 Smart Start courses throughout Malaysia from August 2006 to December of 2010. The Smart Start course includes instruction on communication issues and the roles and responsibilities of both husband and wife in a marriage. Due to Malaysia’s diverse population, the courses have been conducted in several different languages including English, Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin or Tamil.
Minister Heng Seai Kie said that the Board would consult with representatives from the Malaysian Consultative Council on Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism to receive their input on the issue before making a decision to make the Smart Start program mandatory in Malaysia.