Marriage a lesser-known victim of the Covid-19 pandemic

GEORGE TOWN: It turned out to be a case of “till pandemic do us part”, with divorce among non- Muslim couples hitting a record high in the northern states in 2021 when Covid-19 infections were at their peak.

When the country entered the movement control order period in 2021, Kedah saw a 42.8% rise in divorces, from 336 cases in 2020 to 587 cases the next year.

According to the Marriage and Divorce Statistics Malaysia 2022 report, the number of divorces in Penang went up by 41.7%, from 761 cases in 2020 to 1,078 in 2021.

In Perlis, there was a spike of 15.7%, from 32 cases in 2020 to 37 in 2021.

From 2016 to 2021, there were a total of 8,828 divorces among non-Muslim couples in the three states, with Penang (5,687) topping the list, followed by Kedah (2,923) and Perlis (218).

For Muslim couples, there were 37,040 divorces cases during the same period in the three states.

Penang social development and non-Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Chong Eng said there were several reasons for couples breaking up but in most cases, it was due to financial woes, especially after the MCO.

Chong Eng said financial problems not only affected non-Muslim couples but also Muslim families, especially in urban areas.She said to prevent more divorce cases, married couples should try to be more resilient and willing to overcome crises, and also have a strong belief that marriage was a sacred institution.

She also said couples could seek help from non-governmental organisations in Penang that provide counselling and all types of economic aid and relief.

For Muslim couples, Chong Eng said they could seek advice and assistance from religious bodies while for non-Muslim couples, churches, Buddhist associations and even the National Registration Department could provide marriage counselling.

The statistics also show that the number of non-Muslim divorces for the whole of Malaysia rose by 30.4% from 9,419 cases in 2020 to 12,284 cases in 2021.

The crude divorce rate (CDR) for non-Muslims rose from 0.8 (2020) to 1.1 (2021) per one thousand non-Muslim population.

Meanwhile, the number of Muslim divorces recorded in 2021 was 31,650, decreasing by 16.4% compared with 37,853 in 2020. The CDR decreased from 1.8 (2020) to 1.5 (2021) per one thousand Muslim population.

But in total, the number of divorces showed a drop of 7.1% from 47,272 (2020) to 43,934 (2021). Thus, the CDR decreased from 1.5 (2020) to 1.4 (2021) per one thousand population.

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