Kuala Lumpur: The divorce rate in multi-ethnic Malaysia is rising sharply with at least one split registered in every 6.1 marriages and the trend is catching up among the Indian and Chinese minorities.
Dr Anjli Doshi-Gandhi of the National Population and Family Development Board said the rising rates could signify a turn in the public`s perception of the marriage institution.
"Those days, being divorced was embarrassing but now, people are more open. Times have changed. Marriages must be strengthened. We don`t want what is happening in developed countries, where divorce rates are very high, to happen here," she said.
The board, she added, counselled 700 to 800 troubled couples a year.
The National Registration Department registered 2,706 divorces among non-Muslims in 2002, which subsequently climbed to 5,647 last year.
Between 2006 and last year, the rates mostly stagnated at about 5,000 a year. However, seven months into this year, there were already 7,428 cases registered, way higher than years before.
John Emmanuel Kiat, a Statistics and Cognition tutor in HELP University College, while describing the jump as "statistically significant" stated that the number of marriages had increased by 21 per cent (153,318 to 199,586) from 2002 to last year, the number of divorces had gone up by as much as 105 per cent (16,013 to 32,763) during the same period.
In 2002, for every 9.6 marriages registered, there wasone divorce. Last year, in every 6.1, there was one, Kiat said, adding, the question is, would you consider this rise big enough to be regarded as a problem?
Psychologist Charis Wong said, in self-arranged marriages, many young Malaysian men and women adopt an unrealistic, Western-style conceptualisation of love which is strongly influenced by the media. These couples enter into marriage with intense, passionate feelings but without exploring their beliefs and values about marriage.
"The moment a marriage becomes challenging, they become disillusioned, frustrated and give up easily," Wong said.
"There was an appreciable rise in the number of divorces among Chinese and Indians this year," University Malaya`s Associate Professor Dr Tey Nai Peng was quoted by local daily New Straits Times as saying. However, the report did not provide details of divorce rates of Indians and Chinese in Malaysia.
"The high ratio of divorce over the number of marriages is a cause for concern. The rising rate may be a contributory factor to falling fertility," Tey said.
The divorce rate was still much higher among Muslims compared with non-Muslims, with the former making up more than 82 per cent of total divorces, Tey said.
As for the Muslims, the Department of Islamic Development recorded 27,116 divorces last year, up from 13,937 in 2002. Over the years, the upward trend has been consistent.
Malaysia has a multi-ethnic mix of population with Muslim malays accounting for 60 per cent of the country`s 27 million people while ethnic Indians composed eight per cent and ethnic Chinese 25 per cent of the population.