Family experts split over mandatory marriage programmes

Family experts split over mandatory marriage programmes
Photo: Reuters
Published: 4:17 AM, May 23, 2015
Updated: 7:57 AM, May 23, 2015

With statistics showing that more recent marriages are ending in divorce, family experts were divided on whether marriage preparation programmes should be made compulsory.

Responding to a question from the audience at yesterday’s Social Service Partners Conference, Ms Fazlinda Faroo, centre manager for PPIS Vista Sakinah, said she has seen the benefits for couples who attend such courses.

The private sessions before marriage give couples a platform to discuss issues that are perceived as not safe to talk about with each other, said Ms Fazlinda, whose centre runs marriage preparation classes for remarrying couples.

“It allows them to go into marriage with greater openness ... Most of them do talk about how they’re more open to consider what it would take for them to make the marriage work, as opposed to ... an idealised version of what they thought marriage should be.’

Ms Fazlinda added that such courses could also lead couples to start thinking about how to raise their children if the marriage does not work out, and how they could be more amicable during the divorce process.

However, National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said she was against the idea of legislating marriage preparation programmes as it renders individual choice redundant and reinforces the notion that the Government has to do everything.

While the benefits of early intervention cannot be denied, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin said the Government could look into mandating such programmes for certain categories, especially for younger couples, but he would be hesitant to make it mandatory for all. “I think we ought to be very careful about it — encouraging it (marriage preparation programme) and building up the capacity to be able to do it ... but stopping short of mandating it,” he said.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development, which organised the conference, currently requires all couples between the ages of 18 and 21 to attend marriage preparation courses.

Even so, Ms Fazlinda said conversations on the importance of marriage preparation “need to cut across all levels”, and working with grassroots organisations is one way of encouraging more couples to sign up for such courses.