What can you get for 27 sen? What about RM2.70?

Probably a sweet for the former and a can of soft drink for the latter.

But it seems one can get a wife for that amount if you know where to look.

Malay daily Harian Metro reported that Malaysian men are flocking to Batam, Indonesia, to get extra wives in secret, for between RP1,000 and RP10,000.

Such union is what the locals there refer to as “Nikah siri” — a religious but unregistered marriage not recognised by the Indonesian Marriage Law.

It is usually done in secret for reasons ranging from polygamy to poverty, and a child born out of this union is considered illegitimate.

In case of a divorce, the wife cannot sue for maintenance from her husband and if he dies, neither can she claim inheritance.

Such shaky foundation in a marriage doesn’t seem to deter Malaysian men from flocking to the island, located just some 20km off Singapore’s south coast.

The daily interviewed a “Jurunikah” (marriage official), a man known as Pak Ayubi in his 60s, for the story. He is also an imam in a mosque in Batam and he conducts many of these marriages.

According to him, no documents or approval from the courts were needed for a man to take extra wives there. The only thing needed is consent from two consenting adults.

The attendance of family members or witnesses from the girl’s side is a bonus.

According to Ayubi, personnel from various Malaysian security agencies are his biggest clients.

The report added that taxi drivers on the island are more than willing to point Malaysian and Singaporean men who are looking to get hitched there to the right direction.

Apart from playing match-maker, Ayubi also provides accommodation to newly married couples, by renting out any of the 20 houses he owns around the mosque where he works.

“This is my way to contribute to prevent sex out of wedlock,” Harian Metro quoted him as saying.

The phenomenon of married men taking wives in Batam is almost a threat to Singaporean marriages if news reports from the republic island are anything to go by, but it seems that the trend has started catching up on our shores.

Many of these men are married in their home countries – some with teenage children – while they have wives and kids in Batam, who they visit on weekends.

In some cases, some of the Indonesian women are former sex workers or those from other districts who come to Batam to work jobs that pay meagre (by Malaysian and Singaporean standards) salaries, to better their lives.

Most of these second (or third or fourth) wives are aware that they share their lives with another unseen woman overseas but most of them are powerless to do anything about it or ignore it.

Some are married to men twice their age but some interviews have quoted “Batam wives” as saying that they don’t mind the age gap, as the money given by their foreign husbands enables them to experience luxuries that they never had before.

Although there are cases where these men had divided their times equally between their two homes (in secret) and some of them retiring for good in Batam, there are also sad endings for the women.

Some of them, usually the young ones, fall prey to sweet talkers who promise the sun and the moon, only to disappear after the girl gets pregnant. She is then left to fend for herself and her illegitimate child.

It is easy to take a moral high ground in this case but legally, it is hard to pinpoint a fault.

A reminder to Malaysian wives – if your husband is making frequent trips to Batam on weekends or every fortnightly for “business” or “golf” trips, it would be worth checking what he is up to.

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