Call for more male marriage counsellors

There is a need for more marriage counsellors, especially those who are male, among the Malay-Muslim community, said Minister-in- charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim yesterday.

Speaking at an event to appreciate the work done by agencies and counsellors under the Marriage Counselling Programme (MCP), he highlighted how the scheme, which began in 2004, has helped to turn around rising divorce rates in the community.

Over the past 11 years, more than 27,000 couples have been counselled under the MCP, which is run by the Syariah Court. "Statistics show that for about 50 per cent who come to the court, their marriages are saved," said Dr Yaacob.

There are about 30 counsellors working in the 10 agencies under the MCP, of which fewer than a third are men.

Mr Ahmad Syakir Sariff, 35, has handled 30 cases since becoming an MCP counsellor six months ago. He said some men feel that female counsellors might not understand them and, in extreme cases, even think they are biased.

The counsellor with the Association of Muslim Professionals added that male counsellors can help to give the husband's perspective to wives.

Meanwhile, counsellors said that while marital issues range from religious differences to conflicts with in-laws, many problems can be traced to a lack of communication.

"Every marriage is unique, every couple is unique, but the skill sets are the same - the ability to communicate and the ability to discuss," said Dr Yaacob, who urged couples to be patient and more willing to listen and accommodate each other.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2015, with the headline 'Call for more male marriage counsellors'. Print Edition | Subscribe