Has Indonesia forgotten contraception?

Contraception is not simply a method to prevent pregnancy. Given the suspicion – if not outright hostility – toward contraception that is common to most religions, debates over its regulation are often deeply political and value-laden.

 

The problem is that suspicion does not solve problems. In Indonesia, adolescents cannot legally access birth control unless they are married. Yet many adolescents are sexually active, whatever their marital status. In fact, according to Unicef, one in nine Indonesian adolescents are sexually active. The Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey (SDKI) puts the figure even higher, at one in four. They have an urgent need for contraception.

 

There are more than 45 million 10-19 year olds in Indonesia. In 2017, the Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey (SDKI) found that only 45 per cent of married or sexually active adolescents aged 15 to 19 said they used contraception. This means the other 55 per cent either had no plans to use contraception or had limited exposure to knowledge about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health, and contraceptives. These are concerning findings.

 

A 2016 study by Rumah KitaB found that from 52 female adolescents who married in childhood, 36 (about 70 per cent) got married because of unwanted pregnancies. Nearly all admitted that they never used contraception when they had sex, either because they didn’t know how to obtain the pill or didn’t have the courage to ask their partners to use a condom.

 

Only one tenth of the child brides surveyed had access to contraception. They usually acquired it from private midwives, not state-run community health centres (puskesmas), with the help of their mothers or mothers-in-law.

 

On World Contraception Day on 26 September, Indonesia received the distinction of being the country with the greatest unmet need for contraception. Lack of legally available contraception for adolescents contributed to this result. Indonesia was once a leader in family planning but it is fast becoming one of the worst performers in the region.

 

How did we get to this point? The main problem lies in flawed population policies. Grounded in the ideology of “developmentalism”, which held that the nation would become prosperous if population growth could be controlled, the New Order regime strictly applied a Family Planning project called Keluarga Berencana, or KB.

 

Using a wide range of methods and approaches, Indonesia’s population policy was deemed successful. But the program’s occasionally coercive methods, in which those who did not practice KB were treated as “the other”, alienated many. This included sections of the Muslim community, which was under the most suspicion when the program was first applied. Any effort to question, let alone oppose, the assertion that families would become prosperous through the KB program was simply crushed by the state.

 

Islamic mass-based organisations – first Nahdlatul Ulama, and later Muhammadiyah – tried to assuage Muslim anxieties about New Order enforcement of the KB policy. These two organisations agreed to support the New Order government’s population program, relying on interpretation and exploration of Islamic arguments. They justified support for KB in the name of both darurat (emergency) and maslahat (the greater good) to avoid even greater mudharat (harm) if the size of the population were not controlled.

 

However, this theological discourse from NU and Muhammadiyah certainly did not comfort everyone in the Muslim community. Even today, many Muslims are suspicious of family planning as a “western project” to reduce the size of the Muslim population.

 

This is not simply because the religious arguments are insufficient to convince them, for example because of differences in interpretation or exploration of Islamic law. Rather, narratives about “genocide of the Islamic community” have taken root, and are now considered truth by many people.

 

Those who reject family planning point to the fact that promises about family planning delivering prosperity were never truly realised, but it did reduce the size of many Muslim families.

 

Another problem is that there was never any theological debate or discussion of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) on the use of contraception by young people during the New Order era. The state seemingly sought to increase the moral acceptance of the KB program by guaranteeing that it would not be accessed by adolescents.

 

The Criminal Code (KUHP) (under Article 283) and the 2009 Population Growth and Family Development Law (under Article 26) still explicitly prohibit provision of contraception services to adolescents and unmarried couples, apart from information, and even that is restricted, with punishments of fines and imprisonment if violated. These prohibitions on serving the needs of adolescents were clearly a “band-aid” strategy to contain the anxiety and suspicions of the religious community.

 

Ignoring adolescents’ need for contraception has created a huge gap in addressing the problems of reproductive health in Indonesia. Adolescents are now a quarter of the population and among those who most need information on reproductive health and contraception services.

 

Indonesians cannot simply shut their eyes to the reality that the age at which girls are menstruating and becoming sexually active is steadily decreasing. At the same time, underage marriage is also becoming more common – on the grounds of fear of committing the “sin of premarital sex”, or if pregnancy has already occurred.

 

As long as the government remains closed to discussion on reproductive health education for adolescents, and the law remains unchanged, young people will remain shut off from accurate information.

 

The government’s reluctance to address adolescent sexual and reproductive health also provides room for conservative religious groups to push their position. And their solution is worryingly simplistic: Just marry them off!

 

Now is the time for the state, assisted by NU and Muhammadiyah, to come down from the mountaintop, and take a frank and pragmatic look at adolescent sexuality. Gaps in information and reproductive health services, including contraception services for adolescents, must be addressed.

 

If not, Indonesia can look forward to a grim future of more and more child brides and unwanted pregnancies.

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/has-indonesia-forgotten-contraception/

How saying ‘I do’ can help millions of girls to say ‘I don’t’

(CNN)Every bride gets a little nervous on her wedding day. It’s a moment of intense anticipation, as friends and family gather to witness the beginning of a lifelong commitment. Thankfully, for most brides, it is a day of joy and beautiful memories.

But what if the bride is a 12-year-old girl? And instead of walking excitedly down the aisle, she is dragged into a secluded room to be married to a man she has never met?
We tend to think of a wedding as a happy, consensual occasion, but, according to UNICEF, for 12 million girls each year, marriage is rarely a matter of choice. Child marriages upend the lives of young women around the world, preventing them from attending school and severely limiting their future opportunities. Instead, child marriage puts them at great risk for early pregnancy and childbirth (and the associated health risks), as well as violence and poverty.
The costs of child marriage for these girls, and the world, are enormous. According to the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women, failure to end child marriage by 2030 will cost developing countries hundreds of billions of dollars in loss of potential earnings by women and higher welfare costs. This is because child marriage is directly linked to higher fertility, poverty and poor health. Keeping girls in school, marrying later and having fewer children are key components of global poverty alleviation and development efforts.
Of course, in the United States, we think differently about what it costs to get married. Every year, Americans spend $100 billion to say “I do.” Weddings are a huge business — one that involves planners, designers, venues, travel companies, bakers and much more. It’s a jaw-dropping disparity, but perhaps one that can be leveraged to help us bridge the gap between child marriages and those entered into with support and ceremony.
Today, the wedding industry is coming together to give millions of girls the chance to say “I don’t.” In an incredible show of unity, sought-after brands like Crate and Barrel, The Knot, and Malia Mills are joining forces in an effort, called VOW, that enables couples and their loved ones to celebrate marriage in ways that also advance the empowerment of girls and their basic rights to health, education and equality.
When planning their wedding, couples who choose VOW products or list them on their registries will see part of the proceeds go toward ending child marriage. Guests can also donate directly to VOW, making it possible for weddings based on choice to help support girls for whom marriage is anything but.
Picture how a VOW centerpiece might put girls at the center of the conversation, by funding organizations that give them “a seat at the table.” Imagine how the gift of a couples’ retreat could help give girls the tools they need to realize their potential as young women.
That’s because all funds raised through VOW are directed to the Girls First Fund, which supports organizations working to end child marriage in Asia, Africa and Latin America by building women and girls’ collective power so they can make their own decision about when, whom and if to marry. These community-based organizations — including many led by women and girls who have escaped child marriages — use their unique expertise and insight to connect with girls, families, faith leaders and policymakers to provide vital services, help transform laws, policies and harmful social norms, and develop solutions.
Consider the traditional Malawi leaders I (van Oranje) have met, who work to convince men that child marriage keeps everyone in poverty, or the girls in Bangladesh who escaped violent marriages and today help teach parents about the benefits of educating their daughters. The Fund is grounded in the belief that girls have an essential role in designing and implementing the programs and policies that affect their lives.
Even a small fraction of the current spending on weddings would be transformative for people and organizations on the ground. By harnessing the positive power of consensual marriages, companies and couples can make an enormous difference in the lives of young women and girls around the world.
We know there is more work to be done. To extend the impact of this partnership, we’ll need more companies inside and outside the wedding industry, as well as more foundations and philanthropists, to participate.
And this kind of partnership has enormous potential — not just for addressing child marriage, but for disrupting global inequality. When companies, consumers, philanthropies, nonprofits and activists come together, we can unlock the vast resources necessary to confront our greatest global challenges.
Indeed, ending child marriage will not only eliminate a human rights violation — it will have significant ripple effects that improve gender equality, health, education, poverty alleviation and violence prevention everywhere.
Together, we can put an end to child marriage and ensure that every girl understands her rights, knows her worth and can be a force for freedom in her own life — and in the lives of everyone she knows. We can make sure the marriages we celebrate build a world where all girls are celebrated and all marriages are by choice.
Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/09/opinions/how-to-bring-end-child-marriage-van-oranje-walker/index.html

Bid to stop child marriages: NHRC report says RTE should be extended to children till 18 years

The NHRC has based its recommendation on research that shows a strong correlation between a girl child’s education level and age of marriage, with better education levels showing lesser likelihood of her being married early.

Even as a Bill to make child marriage void in India is pending before the cabinet, the National Human Rights Commission’s (NHRC) core group on child marriage has, in its report to be submitted to the Ministry of Women and Child Development this week, recommended that the Right to Education must be extended to all students up to the age of 18 years so as to prevent child marriage. The NHRC has based its recommendation on research that shows a strong correlation between a girl child’s education level and age of marriage, with better education levels showing lesser likelihood of her being married early.

A report released by the apex child rights body National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) on Tuesday shows that being out of school at 15 years is a strong predictor of early marriage. The finding is based on analysis of National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 4 data (2015-16) for determining prevalence of child marriage among girls in the 15-19 years age group.

NHRC Secretary General Ambuj Sharma, who released the report on Tuesday, said, “The NHRC had recently formed a core group on child marriage. In our report, we have noted that a necessary step to prevent early marriage is to make education free and compulsory for all children up to the age of 18 years. Accordingly, the Right to Education Act must be amended so that it is applicable up to class 14 instead of class 8 right now.”

The report, ‘India child marriage and teenage pregnancy’, compiled by NCPCR and the NGO Young Lives India, shows that in almost all states, the completion rate of secondary schooling is significantly higher among unmarried girls in the 15-19 years age group. The report shows that in the 15-19 age group of married girls, 30 per cent have never received any education, 21.9 per cent have got primary education, 10 per cent have secondary schooling while only 2.4 per cent have higher education.

Among states, in Bihar, which has a child marriage prevalence far above the national average, the completion rate of secondary education among girls who married before 18 years is 51 per cent, followed by Delhi and Rajasthan at 54 per cent and 57 per cent, respectively. “There is a strong correlation between educational attainment of girls and early child marriage. There is also a strong association between parents’ low aspirations for child’s education and teenage marriage,” said Renu Singh from Young Lives. The data also showed that 32 per cent of married girls aged 13 to 19 years had their first child when they were still in their teenage. NCPCR Chairperson Stuti Kacker cited the example of Karnataka, which has made child marriage null and void.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2006 doesn’t invalidate child marriage but only gives the contracting parties the option of annulling it within two years of becoming adult or through a guardian in case they are still minors. The WCD ministry’s proposal, seeking to make make child marriage ‘void ab initio’, is pending approval of the Union cabinet for a while now.

Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/bid-to-stop-child-marriages-nhrc-report-says-rte-should-be-extended-to-children-till-18-years-5351429/

Why is family planning taboo for youths?

On the surface, we look like we’re in our prime. People say my generation is young and determined, and that we have our whole future ahead of us.

But what if I told you that the young people of my generation are regularly denied the basic tools and information we need to plan our lives and protect our health? What if I told you that our future is at risk — and without action now, the future prosperity of Indonesia could be at risk, too?

In my region, we face a lot of problems, from early-age marriage to unplanned pregnancy, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and more. But our biggest challenge is one of perception.

Sixty-five million young people, aged 10 to 24, live in Indonesia. We comprise 28 percent of the population. Whether we stay in school will determine how educated our country is. Whether we stay healthy enough to keep our jobs will determine how strong our economy is.

And yet many people in my community think there is no problem with early-age marriage that pulls girls out of school, robbing them of their youth and their education.

According to Statistics Indonesia (BPS), in most Indonesian provinces, more than a quarter of married women aged 20 to 24 reported they were married before the age of 18.

Further, many people still think it is better to have more children, even if that means stretching resources thin and preventing mothers from having jobs, because their time is absorbed by repeated pregnancies with short intervals, and by tending to the family.

Even though the data show that 1.7 million young women under 24 give birth each year — including half a million teenage girls — people still fear talking about family planning with youth, because of taboos and perceptions.

My generation accounts for more than a quarter of the population, yet our reproductive health is often overlooked.

At clinics we are told we are too young to need contraceptives, or that the services we want are not available. At school we find inadequate or nonexistent reproductive health information. And at home, reproductive health is shrouded in social taboos.

For the sake of Indonesia’s future, this needs to change.

Here, both married and unmarried young women don’t have access to sexual and reproductive health information and services they desire.

Only 45 percent of married girls (15 to 19 years old) who want to delay or prevent pregnancy are using a modern contraceptive method according to the Indonesian Demographic Health Survey (SDKI). And Indonesia has one of the highest rates of unplanned pregnancies across all of Asia.

These unplanned pregnancies undermine opportunities for education and employment, exacerbate poverty and perpetuate gender inequity.

Imagine what our communities and our economy would look like if the 1.7 million young women who have children each year finished school and joined the workforce instead?

Give us the chance to choose to have smaller families, later in life, that we’re better able to support. Give us a chance to contribute to the social and economic development of our country.

If we make small family changes like these, we’ll also have the potential to shift the demographics of Indonesia. We can be part of a movement to boost the percentage of working-age young adults, while reducing the number of dependents we support. This is key to helping the Indonesian economy reap the demographic dividend and grow.

We know we won’t get there alone. Around the world, thousands of youth are gathering, calling for greater access to family planning as I write these words.

Some of us are hosting events in our home countries today in recognition of World Contraception Day, while others are preparing to travel to Kigali in November for the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning. Together, we are starting a global movement.

But nothing will change for our futures or the futures of our home countries if we relegate these conversations to isolated events and conferences held at a safe distance. We need you to join us now, here in Indonesia, in making an investment in our shared future.

If you are a parent, consider the life opportunities your daughter might have if you give her your blessing to delay marriage and use contraceptives.

If you are a healthcare provider, consider how many lives you can change if you offer counseling and services to youth.

And if you are a politician or one of our leaders, consider what my generation can do for our country if you support our access to a range of family planning options. In 2017, Indonesia committed to providing access to modern contraceptives to an additional 2.8 million people by 2019. To reach this goal, the unique needs of youth cannot be left by the wayside.

As taboo as it may be, sexually active teenagers and young adults are capable of getting pregnant; that’s basic reproductive science. The question is: How will we support them? We ask that you carefully consider your role and response. Your answer and your actions will determine the future for all of us.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/09/25/why-is-family-planning-taboo-for-youths.html

New Moroccan law fails to protect women from forced marriage: activists

BEIRUT (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A new law criminalizing violence against women that came into effect in Morocco on Wednesday does not fully protect women against forced marriage or domestic violence, activists said.

Campaigners broadly welcomed the new law, which criminalizes “harassment, aggression, sexual exploitation or ill treatment of women” in Morocco.

But they criticized loopholes that would allow girls under 18 to marry and said a failure to define forced marriage would make it difficult to enforce a ban.

“How are women supposed to be protected when there is no definition of what is forced marriage?” said Stephanie Willman Bordat, co-founder of rights group Mobilising for Rights Associates.

“For some women, choice doesn’t exist. When you have family pressure, social stigma on single women, poor economics … all of these things – so what does forced look like?” Bordat told the Thomson Reuters foundation by phone from the capital, Rabat.

Nearly two-thirds of women in Morocco have experienced physical, psychological, sexual or economic abuse, according to a national survey.

A video of a young woman being sexually assaulted by a gang of teenage boys on a bus in Casablanca last year sparked outrage in the country.

According to the advocacy group Girls Not Brides, 16 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 in Morocco, where they are allowed to wed with judicial consent.

“More must be done to ensure girls are protected from the harmful consequences of child marriage,” said Matilda Branson, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at Girls Not Brides.

“The law also places the onus on girls to report their own marriages, who may face reprisals from their husband and family as a result,” she said in an emailed statement.

In 2014 Morocco overhauled a law that let rapists escape punishment if they married their victims. The change followed the suicide of a 16-year-old girl forced to marry her rapist.

Activists said Tunisia, which passed its own law protecting women against violence last year, had set a strong example. Unlike Morocco, Tunisia explicitly outlaws marital rape.

Suad Abu-Dayyeh, a Middle East expert with the global advocacy group Equality Now, welcomed the law as a “positive step” to protect women, but said implementation was key.

“We want to see the implementation of this law – forced and child marriages are very much happening in Morocco.”

Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-morocco-law-women/new-moroccan-law-fails-to-protect-women-from-forced-marriage-activists-idUSKCN1LS2SW

The true story of Fatima al-Fihri, the founder of the world’s first known university

Forgotten Women is a series dedicated to giving women of history the exposure they deserve. This week, were paying tribute to Fatima al-Fihri, a woman who established the concept of a university as we know it today.

It’s all thanks to Fatima al-Fihri that universities around the world exist. After founding the world’s first known university, the University of al-Qarawiyyin, a centre of higher education, it ultimately paved the way for modern universities around the globe.

What did she do? 

Fatima al-Fihri was a Muslim woman from Tunisia who founded the first known university more than 1,000 years ago: the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco. Guinness World Records acknowledges it as the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world.

Much of the information about al-Fihri’s early life is lost to time, but we do know that she was born into a wealthy merchant family who prized education – even for women. Fatima and her sister, Mariam, were well schooled and devoutly religious. In the early 9th century, the al-Fihri family, along with many other Arabic people, left Tunisia and emigrated to Fez – considered a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis by the standards of the time. When her father died, Fatima inherited his fortune. The sisters then decided to invest the money in something that would benefit their local community.

“Al-Fihri’s idea for an educational hub spread throughout the world in the Middle Ages”

In AD859, al-Fihri decided that a place of higher learning was much needed in the city and founded the al-Qarawiyyin Mosque and University, naming it after her hometown. She oversaw construction of the building – 30 metres long with a courtyard, prayer hall, library and schoolrooms.

In the beginning, the educational part of al-Qarawiyyin offered courses in religious instruction and the Qur’an, but its curriculum gradually expanded into Arabic grammar, mathematics, music, medicine and astronomy, and then began conferring degrees on its graduates. The university swiftly became a famous spiritual and educational centre, visited by scholars and intellectuals from all over the world. Al-Fihri attended lectures there until her later years.

Why was she a trailblazer?

Al-Fihri established the concept of a university as we know it today. Her idea for an educational hub that provided opportunities for advanced learning spread throughout the world in the Middle Ages, resulting in the founding of Europe’s oldest institutions in the following centuries, including the University of Bologna (founded 1088) and the University of Oxford (founded around 1096).

What influence has she left behind today? 

After al-Fihri’s death, the institution continued to be extended. The mosque became the largest in Africa, with a capacity of 22,000. Al-Qarawiyyin university is still going strong – alumni include Fatima al- Kabbaj, one of its first female students, who later became the sole female member of the Moroccan Supreme Council of Religious Knowledge.

The Forgotten Women series is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign, dedicated to raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present. See more Visible Women stories here.

Illustration: Bijou Karman 

Images: Unsplash 

Source: https://www.stylist.co.uk/visible-women/fatima-al-fihri-founder-world-first-known-university-this-weeks-issue-430/224181

Indonesian province bans men and women from dining together

Islamic Aceh district rules only married or related couples can eat out at the same table

A district in Indonesia’s deeply Islamic Aceh province has banned men and women from dining together unless they are married or related, according to an official who said it would help women be “more well behaved”.

Aceh is the only region in the world’s most populous Muslim majority country that imposes Islamic law and has been criticised in the past for putting moral restrictions on women.

It also attracted global condemnation for publicly whipping people found guilty of a range of offences including homosexuality, gambling and drinking alcohol.

Under the latest regulation, women in Bireuën district on Sumatra island will not be able to share a table with men at restaurants and coffee shops unless they are accompanied by their husband or a close male relative.

Co-workers on their lunch break will also be forbidden from sharing a meal.

“The objective is to protect women’s dignity so they will feel more comfortable, more at ease, more well behaved and will not do anything that violates sharia (Islamic law),” the head of the local sharia office, Jufliwan – who like many Indonesians has only one name – told AFP on Wednesday.

Another part of the directive, signed by the district head on 5 August, said women who were alone or without a family member should not be served at restaurants and cafés after 9pm.

Authorities say it will be up to restaurateurs to enforce the regulation, although offenders will not be punished.

Three years ago the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, banned unaccompanied women from entertainment venues including cafes and sports halls after 11pm.

In 2013, Lhokseumawe city in Sumatra’s north ordered women to sit “side-saddle” on motorbikes. The mayor at the time said straddling male drivers on motorbikes was “improper”.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/05/indonesian-province-bans-men-and-women-from-dining-together-islamic-aceh

Florida bans child marriage as it raises minimum age to 17

The bill was inspired by Sherry Johnson, who was forced to marry a church deacon aged 11

 

Florida has banned marriage for children under 17, after a campaign by a woman who was forced to marry her rapist when she was just 11-years-old.

Sherry Johnson watched from the gallery as the state legislature voted 109-1 to pass a bill removing exemptions allowing boys and girls of any age to marry if a pregnancy was involved.

“My heart is happy,” she said afterward. “My goal was to protect our children and I feel like my mission has been accomplished. This is not about me. I survived.”

Republican Governor Rick Scott has indicated he will sign the new bill after the House and Senate reached a compromise on its terms.

Florida currently allows children of any age to marry if a pregnancy is involved and a judge approves. Children aged 16 and 17 can marry with the consent or both sets of parents.

In one case a man in his 90s was able to marry a girl aged 16 or 17 and there were several cases of girls marrying men more than twice their age.

An analysis of state statistics revealed 1,828 marriage licenses involving a minor were issued between 2012 and 2016. They included one 13-year-old, seven 14-year-olds and 29 15-year-olds.

The new bill bans marriage for anyone under 17 and prevents 17 year-olds marrying people more than two years older and without parental consent.

The only person to vote against the bill, Republican Representative George Moraitis, had described current law as “very good”.

He added: “I don’t want the message to be that it’s better to not get married.”

After the bill was passed, Sherry Johnson was described as “the star” by a sponsor of the bill, Republican Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto.

Ms Johnson was nine when she was raped by a church deacon, 10 when she gave birth to his child and 11 when she got married to him 47 years ago.

She said her church pressured her mother to consent to the marriage and a judge approved it. Ms Johnson ended up having five more children with her husband before she broke free of the marriage.

“I feel the whole system failed me,” Johnson told CBS News. She said that “it would have changed my life” if the child marriage had been banned at the time.

“I would have been a single mother and I think would have done well,” she added.

Child marriage is a major issue in the US. Most states have a minimum age of 18 but every state has “loopholes” allowing unions if there is parental consent or pregnancy.

Last year it emerged that more than 200,000 children as young as 10 and 11 got married in the US between 2000 and 2015.

In the last two years Virginia, Texas, Kentucky and New York have all voted to ban or limit child marriage.

Source: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/child-marriage-banned-florida-minimum-age-17-campaign-rape-victim-a8249341.html

ITACI UNITES YOUTH IN CILINCING PREVENTING CHILD MARRIAGE

Andriantono, known by his nickname Andre, is one of the beneficiaries of the BERDAYA program for teenagers in Cilincing who managed to raise the issue of preventing child marriage through lenong, a Betawi traditional form of performing art. Attracted to lenong from an early age, Andre saw training materials to prevent child marriages as suitable for retelling in the form of Betawi drama.

Andre first acted in the theatre in 2010. He recalled that his friends at RW 06, Kalibaru, Cilincing, North Jakarta were surprised at his choice which was considered outdated.

Andre, who at that time was still attending secondary technical school, was really fond of acting. Outside of school, Andre often joined activities held by non-governmental organisations for performing arts and theatre, one of them with World Vision, a few years ago, in relation to Children’s Day and the Children’s Rights Campaign. Since then he has been enamoured of the world of art and performances, including lenong.

Andre’s theatre hobby continues even though now he works full time as a security officer at Tanjung Priok-Cilincing port. He routinely trains a small group of about 10 teenagers forming part of the ITACI network (Cilincing Theatre Association), He was accompanied by Jumadi who worked as an officer to load and unload the tent for neigborhood’s events. Like Andre, Jumadi began acting because of his love of music.

Attracting the interest of young people in arts and cultural activities in neighborhood unit (RW) 06 is not an easy matter. “Most of them lose interest in artistic activities because they prefer to hang out, use social media, or participate in football gangs,” Andre said. In agreement with Andre, Jumadi saw that actually local teenagers need positive activities. “During the recent fasting month many teenagers travelled around in groups at the time of sahur, leading to unrest and vandalism,” he added.

The incidence of adolescent promiscuity, which leads to child marriage, is well known to Andre, Jumadi, and Kalibaru residents. Economic stress and discomfort communicating with parents encourages some teenagers to spend time with peers without guidance. The accessibility of social media also influences their interactions. “People who have married young are not always with partners from this village. There are also those who have got to know people from outside [Kalibaru] via Facebook or chatting,” Andre said.

Based on the 2013 National Social Economic Survey (Susenas) data which was processed by the People’s Welfare Statistics, the number of girls in DKI Jakarta married under the age of 15, at 16 to 18, and at 19 to 24 years of age was 5.6, 20.13 and 50.08 percent respectively. With the high population in DKI, the number of child marriages is high.

The results of a study assessed in Kalibaru by Achmat Hilmi, Program Officer of Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB), recorded that in 2017, as many as 20 percent of women giving birth at the Kalibaru Health Centre were children (under 18 years old). The assessment also noted that the causes of child marriage there included occurrence of unwanted pregnancies, parents’ concern about possible pregnancies, the culture/traditions prevailing in locations such as South Sulawesi, Riau, and West Java promoting marriage of underage children, the increase in the number of school dropouts then becoming unskilled labourers, as well as the incidence of a large number of people at all levels of society who are not yet aware of the dangers to girls of child marriage.

The opportunity for Andre to understand the issue of child marriage began when Haji Karim, Head of RW 06 Kalibaru Village, asked him to invite and assist several teenagers to take part in training on the prevention of child marriage for adolescents in Kalibaru, organised by Rumah KitaB and taking place from 29 June to 1 July 2018. This training focused on prevention of child marriages in three regions – Cilincing, Makassar, and Cirebon – for adolescents, parents, and formal and non-formal figures, and was supported by the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice 2 (AIPJ2).

Shortly after the training, Komar, the founder of ITACI, invited Andre to participate in the Lenong Festival competition organised by the Department of Tourism and Culture of DKI Jakarta Province. “I propose that we try displaying the theme of child marriage. The festival is also to commemorate the anniversary of the City of Jakarta which is celebrated every year while welcoming National Children’s Day.” The event was held on 16–20 July 2018, or exactly two weeks after the child marriage prevention training in Kalibaru. “Lenong is entertaining, so the message of prevention can be delivered in a light style,” said Andre about his strategy of socialising “Prevent Child Marriage” through lenong.

Andre and Komar then wrote the screenplay and trained about 10 teenagers as lenong actors. Introducing the theme of an arranged marriage for a girl in a family in Cilincing, the scenario inserted a lot of everyday fragments focusing on interactions between friends, parents and community leaders. “For example, there is the character of a girl who just graduated from junior high school and expresses her desire to rush into marriage. This indeed resembles the conversations of the Kalibaru children,” he added.

“In addition to the risk of child marriage, we also convey the message that as children, we can express views which are different from those of our parents without rebellion. Of course our reason is good, not just because we do not want to obey our parents,” explained Andre. Despite not winning the competition, ITACI and the Lenong Festival have brought together Cilincing teenagers to continue to create and spread the message to prevent child marriages.

Together with the BERDAYA Program, Andre and his friends, who are members of the small theatre in RW 06 and ITACI, will fill various advocacy activities to prevent child marriages. Among these are lenong and dance studio activities, counselling in schools for Kalibaru teenagers about the hazards and risks of marrying while still children, and in RW posts for teenagers dropping out of school. They are in the midst of initiating a campaign by putting up various creative images with the theme of the dangers of child marriages in various teenagers’ centres, including at locations where teens gather. [Hilmi/Mira]

Andre (middle) at lenong festival Jakarta