On Tuesday (5 May), the Parliament has passed the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures for Solemnisation and Registration of Marriages) Bill to enable the civil and Muslim marriages solemnisations and registrations to be conducted virtually through video link in the midst of ongoing pandemic.
The Bill, introduced on Monday (4 May), allows the couples where at least one party is a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident to verify documents, make statutory declarations and have their marriages solemnised through a video link.
Certain key processes that related to marriage, which currently must be done in person, may be done via video link, and will be equally valid under the law, says Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee during his parliamentary speech.
Mr Lee added that there would no need for the couple, witnesses, wali as well as the licensed solemniser, kadi or naib kadi to be physically present at the solemnisation venue with the implementation of temporary measures.
However, the couples with foreign-issued documents will still need to verify their documents and make statutory declaration in-person to ensure a “greater scrutiny” can be given to the authenticity of the documents and the identities of the parties, says Mr Lee.
Noting that a total of 2,723 marriage solemnizations were originally scheduled between 7 April and 1 June, he said about 1,100 civil marriages and close to 200 Muslim marriages have so far been postponed as the current marriage solemnizations must be conducted in person.
He then thanked those couples for their patience and understanding during these difficult times, saying, “It is not easy to cope with the uncertainty, especially for important life events such as getting married and starting a family.”
“While some couples may prefer to wait until it’s safer to celebrate their big day in person with family and friends, others may not wish to wait any longer, or may face extenuating circumstances that make postponement challenging. We want to support them,” he added.
To ensure only legitimate marriages are solemnized and registered through the video link, Mr Lee also said there will be “safeguards” to put in place.
For each marriage application, he said that the Registrars of the Registry of Marriages (ROM) and the Registry of Muslim Marriages (ROMM) will be given the discretion to decide whether video link can be used for verification and statutory declarations, as well as marriage solemnizations.
“This enables the Registrars to ensure that cases that require more careful scrutiny are still handled in person, when it is safe to do so,” he explained.
In line with the Women’s Charter and Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA), all parties involved in video link solemnizations, including the couple, witnesses and the wali for Muslim marriages must be physically present in Singapore.
The new Bill also allows couples for civil marriages to get married within 12 months from the date of filing a notice of marriage, instead of the current three months.
Mr Lee said, “This means that marriage notices filed up to 3 months before the commencement of this Act, and which have not been cancelled or not expired, will automatically have their validity extended to 12 months. Couples do not need to re-apply for this extension.”
With the extension of validity of the marriage licence, he hoped that the couples could have greater flexibility in planning their marriage solemnization date while adding that the measures will apply and last until the COVID-19 situation improves.
He went on, “If these temporary measures to allow the marriage process to be carried out via video link prove to be well received by couples and we are satisfied that there is no compromise to the integrity of the marriage process, we can consider extending this option beyond the COVID-19 period.”
According to Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), the implementation of this Bill could be started in the second half of May.