GENDER issues probably rank as one of the media favourites, alongside politics, entertainment and religion.
After Women and Family Development Minister Datuk Seri Shahrizat Abdul Jalil told the Dewan Negara last month that her ministry was considering a “cupid programme” to help single professional and working women find suitable matches, there has been a flurry of debates and comments on the issue in the Malay press.
On Wednesday, Utusan Malaysia front-paged a report that there were more unmarried men than single women. Lifting figures from the National Population and Family Board publication, Handipop Malaysia, the report said of more than 6.37 million males aged between 15 and 49 years, some 3.1 million, or 48.1%, had never been married.
In 2000, there were more than 11.85 million males, compared to about 11.42 million females, said the book.
The paper followed up with a statement from Shahrizat’s ministry yesterday that for every 100 single females above 15 years, there were 130 unmarried males.
Shahrizat, quoting the Population and Household Census Report 2000, reportedly said there were, generally, 104 men to every 100 women.
Quoting more figures from the National Statistics Department, she said in 2001, single men with degrees and aged above 30 numbered more than 24,300, surpassing the figure of more than 20,100 for women.
Shahrizat reportedly said a “cupid programme” to get high-earning women to marry, therefore, was not necessary at the moment as there were more men than women.
She added, however, that such a programme might be warranted if the number of single professional women increased and became a problem.
In another report in Utusan Malaysia, the ministry’s chief secretary, Datin Faizah Mohd Tahir said there were about 30,800 men, aged 45 to 49 years, who remained single.
The figure accounted for five percent of the male population of about 600,800 in that age category in 2000.
There were about 560,600 women in the same age group, of whom some 28,000 were not married.
Rival paper Berita Harian downplayed the matter, reporting only on the comments by Shahrizat on her ministry’s “cupid programme.”
Instead, it carried several articles on the Muslim attire, militancy and jihad, the role of the ulamas (Muslim scholars) and the debate over the need to have a Syarie Attorney-General.
In its editorial, the paper recapped the keynote address by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the just-concluded World Muslim Scholars Conference at Putrajaya.
The paper took a swipe at foreign reports, which, it said, manipulated Dr Mahathir's speech to mean that Muslims must put fear in the hearts of non-Muslims about Islamic teachings.
This, said the daily, amounted to a gross injustice against the Prime Minister and an insult to the Quran.