MALAYSIA — Kubang Kerian member of parliament (MP) Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man has suggested a policy aimed at providing “moral support” for single women over 30 to enter polygamous marriages.
The Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) deputy president stated that polygamy should not be treated as a sensitive issue and argued that moral support should be extended to eligible individuals.
However, female MPs criticized his suggestion, labeling his statement as “sexist.”
According to malaymail, in Malaysia, polygamy is legal for Muslims but the practice remains controversial.
Muslim conservatives contend that Islam permits polygamous marriage, whereas progressives argue that the interpretation is debatable in the modern era.
Polygamy as a “possible solution” for late marriage among single women: PAS MP
On 22 November, the Kubang Kerian MP told the Dewan Rakyat that the government should not perceive polygamy negatively.
During the Budget 2024 committee stage debate under the Ministry of Women, Children, and Community Development, he put forward polygamy as a “possible solution” to tackle the issue of late marriage among single women..
“I don’t understand why polygamy is a sensitive issue. When we mention polygamy, it’s like someone committed a crime.
“We must be rational. If a man is capable, qualified and fair, a huge moral support must be given to them (to practise polygamy),” he said.
He expressed concerns about the number of single women in the nation, of which he estimates to be around eight million.
“I know this is not the final solution, but this matter can be a way out to address the issue of late marriage, and I am sure some of those on the other side (government bench) will also consider this,” he said while pointing at the government bloc, and drawing laughter from the floor.
Datuk Mohd Isam Mohd Isa (BN-Tampin) then asked Tuan Ibrahim, “Do you have one or two (wives)?” which drew laughter again from the MPs.
Tuan Ibrahim replied that he only supports the suggestion.
“In terms of capability and needs, if you are capable, please go ahead. Although I only have one (wife), I have three more empty spots.
“I will wait, maybe we can move together,” he told Mohd Isam.
Criticism from female MPs
However, the proposal faced criticism from female MPs, including DAP MP for Puchong, Yeo Bee Yin, and Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh.
Yeo criticized Tuan Ibrahim for making a “sexist” remark on polygamy.
“It is impolite to encourage polygamy and it hurts the sentiments of women and wives within the Dewan Rakyat and outside,” she said while Women’s, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri was winding up her ministerial reply on the Budget 2024.
She also added that women should not be deemed as being “problematic” for being unmarried, adding that it is the right and personal choice of each and every woman.
“Why is it that women not being married is a problem? Why is it that women marrying late is a problem but when men aren’t married or marry late, it is not a problem that has to be addressed?” she added.
Tuan Ibrahim then defended himself, saying his remark was not meant to be sexist.
The PAS leader said his proposal was only based on data that suggest difficulty finding a husband was the second biggest reason for women staying single.
Yeo also urged Tuan Ibrahim to retract his statement.
“Don’t bully women just because we are smaller in numbers (in the Dewan Rakyat),” she said.
Additionally, Minister of Women, Children and Community Development Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri refrained from taking a stance on the issue but mentioned that her ministry is exploring ways to address the declining fertility rate, which reached a 50-year low in 2022, according to data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia.
In an X post, Minister Yeoh questioned why being single is perceived as a problem, emphasizing that women’s marital status should not be a societal concern.
She wrote, “A PAS member of parliament suggested polygamy to solve the problem of women getting married late. Yang Berhormat, in my opinion, marrying late isn’t a problem that needs to be solved.
“What’s the use of marriage if you’re going to be neglected? There’s no time frame for when your significant other shows up in your life.”
Perbahasan peruntukan @KPWKM. Ahli Parlimen PAS cadang poligami untuk selesai masalah wanita lambat kahwin😳😳. Yang Berhormat, pendapat saya lambat kahwin bukan satu masalah yang perlu diselesaikan. Apa guna kahwin tapi diabaikan? Jodoh datang tak mengenal masa. pic.twitter.com/sNPuG5y04A
— Hannah Yeoh (@hannahyeoh) November 22, 2023
Public backlash against focus on polygamy in parliament
Online users also responded unfavorably to Tuan Ibrahim’s recent statements on polygamy during the parliamentary session.
Some questioned the appropriateness of discussing this issue in parliament, suggesting that more pressing matters such as the increasing cost of living could have been addressed instead.
An X user wrote, “Polygamy. Late marriage. Those are personal issues. Why discuss them in parliament? Can’t the MP find more relevant topics?”
Another user mentioned that she would prefer to remain single than be involved in polygamy.
“This is ridiculous; in parliament, the discussion should focus on issues concerning what happens in each state, not on women marrying late!” she added.
Meanwhile, another user expressed that Malaysians are finding it challenging to afford marriage due to the high cost of living.
They noted that the average cost of baby products and childcare services in the Klang Valley area is at least RM500 on average (around S$143.26), which could be a lot for a family in the long run.
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