SINGAPORE: From Oct 1, Muslim minor couples – where one or both parties are below the age of 21 – must complete a marriage preparation programme and obtain consent of their parents or guardian before applying for marriage.
This follows amendments to the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) last year, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim said in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 8).
"While the proportion of minor marriages has declined from 10 per cent of Muslim marriages in 2007 to 3.6 per cent in 2017, this group still needs support," he said, adding that the marriage preparation programme will benefit about 200 minor couples each year.
The programme, conducted by INSPIRASI Hubs, helps minor couples make informed decisions about marriage and prepares them for the adjustments and challenges.
"The hubs are centres dedicated to preparing minor and young couples for marriage, and to raise awareness of these new requirements and the importance of marriage preparation and parental support," Dr Yaacob said.
He added that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) is working with the hubs to improve the marriage preparation curriculum.
As for obtaining parent or guardian consent, MSF said in a release that this requirement is similar to laws under the Women’s Charter.
The existing requirement of seeking consent from the bride’s wali, or lawful guardian as defined by AMLA, is unaffected.
"Obtaining consent signals the support given to the couple for their marriage," MSF added. "Strong family support from parents or guardian, especially in the first few years of marriage, is critical in helping couples stabilise their relationship."
Meanwhile, Dr Yaacob said PPIS Vista Sakinah – the centre for Malay/Muslim remarriages and step-families – will work with agencies to waive the remarriage preparation programme fees for low-income step-families.
"They will provide step-family awareness talks at key touch points, such as mosques and other community agencies, and leverage on social media and radio," he said, adding that the centre will build its trainer capabilities and improve evidence-based content.