New York ends child marriage, raising age of consent from 14 to 18

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation putting an end to child marriage in the Empire State.

The legislation raises the age of consent from 14 to 18, and amends the process to require parental and judicial consent for marriage involving 17- and 18-year-olds, CBS New York reports.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect children and prevent forced marriages, and I am proud to sign this legislation that puts an end to child marriage in New York once and for all,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a news release.

According to a 2016 report from the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that protects immigrant women and girls, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina and Alaska also allow 14-year-olds to marry with parental and judicial consent.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/why-is-it-so-hard-to-end-child-marriage/

Twenty-seven states have no minimum age for marriage in state law, meaning children of any age could technically marry with court approval.

New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who sponsored the legislation, said children have no escape from forced marriages because minors have limited access to legal services and domestic violence shelters.

The previous law, which dates back to 1929, did not provide any guidance to judges on whether to grant consent, Cuomo’s office said.

“We cannot solve the child marriage problem globally if we don’t first solve it here in the United States,” Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of the organization Unchained at Lasttold CBS News in May.

Health department data shows that between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minors were married in New York. Eighty-four percent were minor girls married to adult men.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-ends-child-marriage-raising-age-of-consent-from-14-to-18/?fbclid=IwAR0IMx7wlmUibnR4qeCS1NgHLOCM0zc1yoDHeSt-MAd2JJS3XvSGPk3Rcnw

Child Marriage in Indonesia: Resolving an Issue

by Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri

Child marriage is a form of violence against women and girls, as it deprives them of their rights to education, healthcare, and freedom from violence, among others. Indonesia has committed to end child marriage in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

However, as of 2016, it is estimated that one in nine girls in Indonesia will marry before the age of eighteen1 and, due to its large population, the country is among the ten countries worldwide with the highest absolute number of girls married while underaged.2

The Issues
The research on child marriage in Sumenep Regency, Madura, East Java undertaken by Rumah KitaB3 in 2015 shows that close to 70 percent of the people in the regency got married before the age of eighteen. The district of Dungkek in the regency had the highest number of child marriage, with about 80 percent of its nearly four thousand people – as per national population records in 2015 – having married as children.

The research also reveals that child marriage is caused by different factors and circumstances. But there is one common factor that led to it – either the complete absence of parental guidance due to migration, or weakened family structures resulting from divorce or pressures related to survival in the face of poverty.

Another research conducted in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara province involving four girls (identified as Rita, Ida, Vera and Idawati)4 reveals the significant roles played by religious and community leaders in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. Young couples who eloped (merariq) are urged by these leaders to marry immediately, and insist that marriage is the only solution to the situation to prevent shame on the whole village. The community has a strong culture of shame. It recognizes the religious and community leaders as custodians of customary rules. These customs are reinforced by Islamic religious values that add greater pressure to eloping young couples to marry.

Unmarried girls who eloped and failed to immediately marry are subject to social pressure including gossip and ridicule. They would be referred to as mayung bakat (literally meaning “injured deer”), dedare toaq/mosot (old spinsters) or “tainted” and thus a disgrace to the family. Boys on the other hand are not subject to these social mores.

For girls who get pregnant, religious values require marriage in order to have the names of both parents listed on the child’s birth certificate. According to Islam, the relationship of a child to the father can exist once ijab qabul (exchange of marriage vows) has occurred. Outside of marriage, the child would only be officially related to the mother.

Girls who marry early are forced to bear the financial burden of their households through informal work, and not allowed to continue their education (but the boys continue their study). Many are forced to raise children alone (as in the cases of Rita and Ida). Child marriage is also associated with the high divorce rate in Lombok. Being psychologically ill-equipped at such young age to deal with marriage and economic pressures, many child marriages lead to divorce within one year.

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Wedding reception in Lombok (Photos by Morenk Beladro)

Health and Child Marriage
Studies on child marriages often refer to the impact of underage marriage on women’s reproductive health. From the four case studies in Lombok, three of the girls experienced adverse effects on their reproductive health. One showed signs of anemia during her pregnancy, and another experienced bleeding due to an underdeveloped uterus. A third one was administered contraception at a very young age. 80 percent of teens in Lombok suffer from anemia, a condition affecting the uterus and nutrient supply to an unborn child. This poses risks during and after (postpartum) birth. Furthermore, the impacts of child marriage on reproductive health are not limited to physical health, but also to the psychological health of the girls who have not yet reached a level of maturity required to raise a child.

The 2013 data from Lombok, show the mortality rate of women as shown in the table below.

Number of Maternal Mortality in Lombok in 2013
Pre-natal Natal Post-Natal Amount
Mataram 3 2 9 [14]
East Lombok 10 0 25 35
Central Lombok 1 3 16 20
West Lombok 4 3 3 10
North Lombok 0 0 2 2
Total [81]

(Source:West Nusa Tenggara(NTB)Statistics Office5)

The Lombok statistics show that the highest rate of maternal mortality occur at the post-natal phase. The leading causes of maternal mortality in Lombok are bleeding, infection, complications associated with heavy workloads following birth, and poor health and sanitation facilities.

Infant mortality, on the other hand, usually occurs when infants are around one month old, and two-thirds of the cases occur when infants are around one week old. The West Lombok Health Department sees low birth weight, often related to the physical and mental condition of young, ill-prepared mothers, as the biggest factor for infant mortality. These factors also relate to the high rate of maternal mortality in Lombok, especially when a mother’s reproductive organ is not yet fully mature.

Measures to Address Child Marriage and Health Problems
The Indonesian Marriage Law of 1974 provides that a girl of at least sixteen years of age can marry with parental consent. But the Law on Child Protection of 2002 defines a person under the age of eighteen as a child regardless of gender. The conflict between the two laws was brought to court. On 13 December 2018, the Constitutional Court of Indonesia issued an order declaring the provision of the Indonesian Marriage Law of 1974 on marrying age for girls unconstitutional and discriminatory against girls. It also considered this legal provision as against the law on child protection.6

But the question remains, how can child marriage be stopped at the level of the community? The people know the law on marriage and in a number of cases prevented the application of the law by using the traditional marriage system to allow child marriage,7 or by using the legal process with falsified documents on their age.

Of the four case studies examined in the research, it is clear that there is a link between child marriage, social change and cultural stagnation in terms of the application of merariq in Lombok’s case or fear of becoming an “old spinster”8 in other cases.9 Due to the absence of parental guidance and support, low levels of maturity and education, the girls agreed to marry. They viewed marriage as a solution to the problems they faced at home. Social and institutional pressures and the strict application of cultural traditions by community and religious leaders make it difficult for girls like Rita and Vera to be allowed to continue their schooling and postpone marriage until they are physically, emotionally and psychologically more equipped to deal with the pressures of marriage and raising a family. The case of Vera (who continued her study after marriage) however is a clear example of how intervention by legal aid providers and provincial and district legal institutions can lead to much better outcomes for girls particularly in relation to education.

Therefore, besides working at the national level to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls, working together with formal and non-formal institutions at the community level is crucial since these institutions are the “gatekeepers” who have power to allow and, at the same time, to prevent child marriage at the community level.

Lies Marcoes is the Executive Director while Fadilla D. Putri is the Program Manager of Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama. 

For further information, please contact: Lies Marcoes  and  Fadilla D. Putri, Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB), Rawa Bambu I, Blok B/7, Pasar Minggu, Jakarta 12520 Indonesia; ph (6221) 7803440, 778837997; e-mail: official[a]rumahkitab.com; www.rumahkitab.com .

*This article is largely based on the 2015 report of the authors entitled Child Marriage and the Phenomenon of Social Orphans in Lombok, Rumah Kita Bersama and Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice, and the 2016 report entitled Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, April 2016. More recent documents supplemented the discussion from these reports.

Endnotes

1 UNICEF Indonesia Factsheet: Child Marriage in Indonesia, 2017.

2 UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2017.

3 Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri, Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, April 2016.

4 The four women in the case studies were identified through consultation with local activists, government officials and community members. The interviews were held after getting the approval of the woman, her parents and village leadership.

5 Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri, Child Marriage and the Phenomenon of Social Orphans in Lombok, Rumah Kita Bersama and Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice, 2015, page 4.

6 See Agustinus Beo Da Costa, “Court ruling brings Indonesia closer to ending child marriage: campaigners,” Reuters, www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-women-marriage/court-ruling-brings-indonesia-closer-to-ending-child-marriage-campaigners-idUSKBN1OC1CM 

7 See discussion on role of institutions in Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, op. cit.

8 Translated from the Indonesian language “perawan tua.”

9 Marcoes and Putri, Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, op. cit.

My mother died because my father killed her. Full stop.

I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

By

Nour Naas

My mother was planning on leaving my father, and he knew it. Three days after my high school graduation in 2013, I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

Within minutes of her murder, the police arrived on scene. Upon demanding that my father surrender his gun, he aimed it at the responding officer and was fatally shot.

My mother lost her life to domestic violence homicide in 2013. As a Muslim immigrant, my mother’s strongest roots were with the Muslim community; for that precise reason, I expected the most support to come from community members and leaders. I quickly learned, however, that the culture even in this most intimate setting was no different than the culture outside of it.

In the wake of her death, I was told by my mother’s friends that she should have listened to my father, that she should have been more compassionate with him, that she should have left, that she should have been more patient.

In the wake of her death, I was told by my mother’s friends that she should have listened to my father, that she should have been more compassionate with him, that she should have left, that she should have been more patient.

What continues to outrage me is the fact that my mother continues to be held accountable for her own murder. Friends of my parents would pin the responsibility on her, while demanding me to be silent about my father’s actions. This pattern made it clear to me that their refusal to acknowledge my father’s crimes has nothing to do with respect, as many of them claim. If it was about respect at all, my mother would have been afforded the same.

But my mother did not die because she did not listen to my father. She did not die because she did not dress the way my father wanted her to. She did not die because she chose not to go to a shelter. She did not die because she did not give my father enough attention. She did not die because she filed a police report against my father once. She did not die because she returned to my father the first time she left him. She did not die because she was not patient enough. She did not die because she talked back. She did not die because she chose to resist in whatever ways she knew how.

My mother died because my father killed her.

nour

Nour Naas.

My mother, Nadia, was a remarkable woman. She was well known in the community for her cooking, a skill she inherited from her own mother. Her cooking and gardening were the two constants in her life. At the height of her suffering, she continued to carve out time to care for and to nurture the lives of those around her. Even as my father pressured her into isolation, even in the face of all that she had lost, her capacity to give made me marvel.

Growing up in an abusive household made me restless. The first time my father hit my mother was in February 2009. The days following the incident, my father began making more and more peculiar demands of us. The most vivid included meeting him promptly at the front door once he got home from work each night. He expected not to have to knock or use his own key. He wanted the world to revolve around him. Mine certainly did. For weeks, the closer it got to 6pm, the more my fear swelled. I would sit by the door, heart pounding, and stare out the window to await his arrival. When I opened up the door for him each night, like clockwork, I would greet him with a smile and hug him.

The more time that passed, and the more abuse I was exposed to, the easier it became to testify – even if only to myself – that I no longer loved my father. I wondered what had happened to him. I would daydream about preparing the suitcase nestled in the corner of the room that my mother and I shared, and leaving with her and my brothers in the middle of the night.

The abuse carried on for years, until the week that I finally graduated from high school. My mother was planning on leaving my father, and he knew it. Three days after graduation, I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

It was so difficult to watch my mother suffer. Even though the abuse affected us all, my mother bore the brunt of it. I watched as she and the rest of us became more and more isolated from the community. The community iftars during Ramadan we had regularly attended growing up, we began to avoid. My father would gossip about my mother to people within the Muslim community – and when my father talked, people listened.

The abuse carried on for years, until the week that I finally graduated from high school.

When the coroner released her body four days later, we had the Islamic janazah funeral for both my parents. During the khutbah, the imam stated to the entire congregation that, had my mother listened to my father, this would not have happened. I spent most of my time holding back tears, stifling my anger, my rage, running away from the guilt I carried from being there that afternoon but being unable to stop what was happening.

I didn’t know how to encounter grief. My community didn’t seem to know how to, either. For a long time, whatever way I chose to express my emotions was discouraged. The day my mother died, I sat crying on the couch of an aunt’s home and was told to be strong, that my mother wouldn’t want to see me crying. I was told that the more I cry, the more my parents will suffer in the hellfire. When I expressed anger at what my father did, I was told I needed to forgive him.

I was told that the more I cry, the more my parents will suffer in the hellfire. When I expressed anger at what my father did, I was told I needed to forgive him.

My father was given an esteem that was not extended to my mother. She was often blamed for my father’s decisions. And because so many people minimised what happened, because so many people around me discouraged my right to be human, to feel pain, nothing felt normal to me anymore. I became desperate for a sort of blueprint. I spent so many hours googling, searching for my people, for kids like me, brown kids, first-generation kids, Muslim kids, who lost their mother to domestic violence. How were they handling it? Did they cry, too? Did they also lie in bed and whisper to their mothers in the quiet of the night? Did they also look for someone like themselves? Someone like me? I was desperate to know, simply, that I was not alone.

I found no one.

I was thrown into a depression that presented me with severe mood swings. I lost myself in my own body. The days of me swallowing my rage and heartache turned into years. I spent the six months following her death in shock, mostly. I was in so much shock, in fact, that I could hardly feel anything at all. But once my numbness subsided, I was thrown into a violent awakening. I spent most of my days not eating, or drinking. My hair fell out in clumps. I ended up getting fired from a job that I had somehow managed to hold down for one year, then dropped out of college and left the country in hopes of distracting myself enough to forget my own trauma.

It took me almost a year to come back to Vallejo in San Francisco’s Bay area. It was my home city and I had grown to detest it because it was where I had lost so much. It was the city that uprooted me. But when I returned last spring, the city felt better, softer. I came back to make it in time for a domestic violence training in Oakland, which was a life-changing experience. I am currently taking separate domestic violence training with the San Francisco Asian Women’s Shelter.

The days of me swallowing my rage and heartache turned into years. I spent the six months following her death in shock, mostly. I was in so much shock, in fact, that I could hardly feel anything at all

The same year my mother died at least 1,615 other women in the United States did as well. Now, almost five years since my mother was killed, I am realising how the work I do around eradicating patriarchal violence has become like a sort of shield for me. It is a way to divert from the reality of my mother’s homicide. It is the only space, truthfully, that I have so far been able to talk about her death and the grief I inherited in a way that I deem as empowering to others, and myself.

The perfect victim has not, does not, and will never exist. Women are asked to be silent. We are expected to be obedient. We are scolded for being defiant, or for not being defiant at all.

Women, particularly those who speak out about their abuse, are oftentimes subjected to scrutiny and skepticism. They will inevitably be asked at some point or another, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Friends will, more often than not, proclaim how they would have left the second a hand was laid on them. The authenticity of a victim’s claims will be inspected – and routinely rejected – based on a litany of criteria such as her attire, how late she was out, or what kind of a wife or mother she was.

During the khutbah, the Imam stated to the entire congregation that, had my mother listened to my father, this would not have happened.

This standardisation of victimhood does a couple of things. For one, it pressures victims of patriarchal violence to remain silent about their suffering because it has been proven, time and again, that they will not be believed. Secondly, it continues to strengthen a society in which violence against women is condoned and encouraged because victims of violence will never be deemed as such to begin with; rather, the violence against them will be justified in both overt and insidious ways.

This cultural phenomenon, known as victim-blaming, is a tool that is used to perpetuate patriarchy and patriarchal violence against women. And women, especially those at the margins of society, will be held accountable for the actions of their abusers. So while the victim is subjected to unrelenting criticisms and demanded to examine her own part in the abuse, the perpetrator is granted reprieve from accountability.

Women who resist patriarchal violence – even if their resistance is in accordance with the law – are penalised simply for surviving. And for women who, like my mother, lose their lives to violence, they continue to be liable for the actions of their perpetrators even when they are the victims.

I am still enraged by the things that were said to me five years ago. I am still enraged because it is not just about me, but about the millions of other women in communities everywhere who will have to face the same things that I did, who will have to go through the hell that my mother went through.

I am enraged on behalf of women everywhere who will be bold enough to demand space for themselves and their experiences, but who will not be believed. The women who will never be good enough or perfect enough for anyone’s sympathy.

I am enraged on behalf of women everywhere who will be bold enough to demand space for themselves and their experiences, but who will not be believed. The women who will never be good enough or perfect enough for anyone’s sympathy. The women who will look to their family and friends for support, but who will only be met with blame. I am enraged on behalf of my mother and of every single woman out there who, like here, did not make it out, and to those who will not; to those who continue, even in death, to be held accountable for their own murders.

Let us honour those who had no other choice. Let us honour those at the margins of society who are deemed as unworthy victims. Let us honour those who will have blame associated with them to their graves. Let us honour, and let us remember.

It is time to address the root of patriarchal and gender-based violence, sanctioned by our communities, law enforcement, and government. Unanimous denial of patriarchal indoctrination and the devastating impact it leaves on the lives of women will save no one. There are women who will suffer in the future because we choose to collude with and support violence in direct and indirect ways.

Nour Naas is a American-Libyan writer and domestic violence advocate. You can follow her on her website at nournaas.com

Family violence and mental health services:

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2018/05/08/my-mother-died-because-my-father-killed-her-full-stop?fbclid=IwAR01u8njU7ng617fK-fpkVIGCVdf-fVP_ZGnBHapT2F4cNQJBELTTgjO8ZM