This statement is in response to PAS politician Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man’s polygamy solution for late marriage among women as featured in The Star on 23 November 2023: https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2023/11/23/pas-leaders-polygamy-solution-for-late-marriage-among-women (Headline: PAS leader’s polygamy solution for late marriage among women)
In light of recent events and public statements, it has become apparent that PAS continues to redirect attention away from substantive societal challenges by emphasising matters that do not address the pressing issues confronting our communities, particularly women’s rights in today’s realities.
The persistent fixation on polygamy as a solution, amidst a context where 8.4 million women remain unmarried, starkly showcases PAS’ lack of sensibility and disconnect from the urgent needs of our society. In reality, the ramifications of polygamy, extensively examined by SIS, unveil the intricacies and hardships endured by wives in such unions. This is reflected in the Telenisa: Statistic and Findings Report 2022 that:
- 24% of polygamous marriages occur without the wife’s consent;
- 18% of husbands in polygamous marriages fail to provide maintenance and
- 14% of husbands in these marriages neglect child maintenance.
Furthermore, legal gaps, exemplified by the 1994 amendment permitting polygamous marriages without prior court sanction, contribute to emotional distress and financial adversities such as the rise in cost of living and child care for first and subsequent wives. According to a recent podcast from BFM, it takes around RM400,000 to RM1 million to raise one child, that is, from the time of birth to university expenses.
PAS’ feigned display of concern serves as a facade for self-serving objectives. They prioritise the retention of power at the expense of genuine advocacy for women’s rights, gender equality, and internationally recognised conventions such as CEDAW. Their actions, rather than reflecting the responsible conduct of an opposition, demonstrate a desperate attempt to sustain attention through any available means.
The consistent portrayal of superficial concerns, while disregarding critical issues such as the tolerance and approval of child marriages, escalating divorce rates by 43.1% in 2022 to 62,890 cases as compared to 43,936 cases in 2021, domestic violence, the soaring cost of living, the lack of essential support systems for single mothers and the existing inequality of Malaysian mothers to confer citizenship to their children underscores a glaring misalignment of priorities.
Furthermore, the absence of a centralised marriage registration system enables men to sidestep the obligation of informing existing wives about polygamous intentions, intensifying the predicaments faced by women. The reduced support after subsequent marriages, and regressive amendments to the Islamic Family Law (IFL) compound the challenges for first wives. The 2005 IFL amendment at that time, no longer mandating a polygamous marriage to be proven both just and necessary, undermines the fundamental principle of justice in such unions.
Thus, it is imperative for the public to discern the true nature of PAS: a failed opposition more preoccupied with inconsequential matters than fulfilling its role of responsibly scrutinising and balancing the government. The time has come to discern their diversionary tactics and refocus efforts on addressing genuine issues that significantly impact the well-being of our populace.