Malaysian state mulls polygamy incentive

KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian state run by an Islamic opposition party is considering rewarding Muslim men who take on divorced women as their second, third or fourth wives.

Wan Ubaidah Omar, a lawmaker responsible for women's affairs in northern Kelantan state, said a male colleague had proposed "that men should take up divorcees as second wives... and proposed the government should give incentives to these men."

"If men are kind enough to take them, why not? They shouldn't hide them somewhere," she told AFP, adding that the state had a high divorce rate.

The reward might be a financial incentive, a gift or a certificate, she said, but a decision may not be made until next year.

Ivy Josiah, executive director of help group Women's Aid Organisation, said that a reward for polygamous men would send the wrong message.

"We should be discouraging polygamy rather than rewarding men," she said. "What we want is happy families."

Kelantan state is governed by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and has made headlines in the past with such controversial moves as banning women from wearing lipstick and introducing separate shopping queues for men and women.

Muslim men are allowed to take up to four wives in Malaysia, where some 60 percent of the population practises Islam. Activists estimate that about five percent of marriages are polygamous.