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THE WORTH OF A GIRL

What does a child bride bring to a marriage — a dowry, social status, domestic labor, business connections? What is her value to two families, the one she leaves and the one she joins? And what is the cost to the girl?

 

Somaya was 13 years old and finishing seventh grade in Herat, Afghanistan, when her father sold her for 250,000 afghani ($3,300) to marry his relative’s son.

She moved into her new husband’s family home, she says, and her father then spent much of the money on her bedding, clothes and jewelry. When Somaya asked if she could go back to classes, she says both her mother-in-law and husband beat her.

“I kept telling them that I wanted to go to school,” Somaya says. Like many Afghans, she uses only one name. “But my in-laws told me, ‘If you go to school, who will do the house chores? We bought you.’”

About 650 million children and women alive today were married before age 18, roughly 17% of the global female population, according to UNICEF. In a yearlong project, Voice of America set out to meet child brides from Albania to Pakistan to Tanzania, putting faces and voices to a practice that the United Nations is trying to eliminate by 2030.

Ending child marriage is pivotal to improving global health, eliminating poverty and expanding human rights, UNICEF says. Married teen girls are often physically abused, and their lives of chores and childbearing perpetuate centuries-old cycles of gender inequality in their communities.

The leading causes of death for girls ages 15 to 19 are complications from pregnancy and giving birth, according to the World Health Organization. Babies born to girls younger than 18 also have higher risks of death and stunting.

Global perspective

Percentage of women married before 18

Early marriage doesn’t happen in only one region or in one religion. The U.S. state of Missouri raised its minimum legal age for marriage to 16 just last year. Couples from neighboring states have long crossed into the Midwestern state to wed, often because the girl was pregnant and the baby’s father feared prison for statutory rape.

In northern Nigeria, where more than 65% of girls are married before they turn 18, according to Girls Not Brides, a London-based partnership of more than 1,000 organizations working to end child marriage, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram reportedly rewards its young militants with wives.

On Lombok, a lush island east of Bali in Indonesia, a girl who’s still single at 16 shames her whole family.

“People tend to think that this is an issue that affects a couple of hundred girls in small villages around the world,” says Lakshmi Sundaram, who was executive director of Girls Not Brides from 2012 until earlier this year. “It’s happening everywhere. It may look a bit different in different places, but it is a universal issue.”

The term child marriage refers to formal marriages and informal unions in which a girl or boy lives with a partner as if married before the age of 18. An informal union is one in which a couple live together over time without a formal civil or religious ceremony.

Despite the crushing consequences, more than 12 million girls a year still marry by age 18, according to UNICEF. They are often forced into a union because they may be valued by parents and others in ways that impede the basic right to grow up, get an education and make their own choices.

The practice overwhelmingly affects girls from poor and rural areas, where child marriage is an ingrained cultural practice that some people see as protecting women with limited options.

Global worth

VOA journalists around the globe focused on the worth of a girl, looking to reveal how a young bride is valued by two families — the one she leaves behind, and the one she joins — and the cost to the girl herself of marriage before adulthood.

To solicit global views during the reporting process, VOA news teams and affiliates reporting in 12 languages posted short videos on Facebook and Instagram of girls and women talking about their experience as brides and young mothers.

These clips received millions of views and thousands of comments, from tearful emojis to arguments for and against child marriage that are steeped in faith, money, culture, power, sexism and love.

In the first of her two videos, Somaya, now 15, sits on cream-colored pillows as she calmly tells her story. Her voice breaks only when she talks about school.

“I loved to go to school every day,” she says, her green eyes tearing up. “I lost my chance to get an education.”

Among the girls and women whom VOA interviewed, this theme dominated: They regret being pulled out of school and vow to help other girls, especially their daughters, avoid the same life.

In Kayapinar, Turkey, Sultan Mustafa Tumerdem, now 58, says she has had a happy life with a husband and two adult sons. Her parents forced her to marry a boy she didn’t know when she was a child, she says, and she wouldn’t wish the same for others.

“Don’t get married early, because people feel crushed when they get married early,” she says. “I didn’t go to school, and so I was crushed.”

In Honduras, Olga Emelina Vasquez Pena moved in with her boyfriend when she was 17 and pregnant. They share a home in El Granadillo and have a 15-month-old daughter. Olga says that in her village near rural La Paz, where lucrative jobs are hard to find, “few people get married.

“When you have a partner, he can help you get things,” she says.

Olga’s mother, who sits with her in the video, left school after the second grade, she says, and regrets her daughter not getting more education. Still, Olga, now 19, says she didn’t consult with anyone before her union.

“Here, kids get together with partners around 17 to 21 years old,” she says. “When you are part of a couple, you have more responsibility. You have to do things, even if you don’t want to.”

International effort

The United Nations’ efforts to end marriage before age 18 are part of a global agreement that outlines 17 so-called Sustainable Development Goals.

The SDGs include gender equality and a written target: “Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.” It asks that governments, civil society organizations, religious and community leaders, and families work together to essentially re-evaluate the worth of their girls.

The economic case for change is powerful. By limiting girls’ education and lifetime earning potential, child marriage may be costing trillions of dollars, according to a report by the World Bank and the International Center on Research for Women, which was released in 2017. The report looked at child marriage in 25 developing countries where at least a third of women marry before age 18.

The enormous economic drain also comes from high fertility rates and poorer health outcomes for mothers and children, and from the strain on government budgets, according to the report.

“If you have high population growth, it’s very difficult to provide quality services for everybody, whether it’s for school … or whether it’s for health services or even basic infrastructure,” says Quentin Wodon, a World Bank lead economist and the report’s co-author.

Wodon emphasizes the importance of keeping a girl in school and delaying marriage.

“Investments in adolescent girls tend to have very high economic returns,” he says. That’s “not the most important reason to end child marriage — the moral argument is — but these economic returns are very useful to convince various policymakers to invest in ending the practice.”

For now, the pressure on millions of girls to give in to a family transaction that includes their marriage can be overwhelming. The deal may be monetary — a payment received or a payment given — or part of a complex set of relationships that involves household labor and grandchildren. To many parents, a daughter’s value may be wrapped up in her virginity and security, or their own honor and status.

Orkida Driza, 40, lives in Albania’s capital city, Tirana. She married at 14 and saw no other choice: Her sister needed surgery, and the woman who wanted her as a wife for her son was friendly with doctors at the hospital.

“I did it to save my sister’s life,” Orkida says.

While Orkida didn’t want her own daughter to marry before finishing her education, economic circumstances dictated otherwise. She allowed her daughter to marry at 12.

In Kalar, a city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Shaima Mahmood Muhammed married at 15 because she couldn’t get a job, she says, and felt she had to relieve the financial burden on her father, a Kurdish national soldier with three other children.

Photo of Somaya unfurling a wedding dress she had sewn.

(Photos by Khalil Noorzai for VOA News)

Living life

In Afghanistan, Somaya has had a different outcome. VOA returned to her in Herat five months after the first interview and found her sewing dresses alongside her mother in a sunny living room. Her father was gone, jailed for two years for abusing her and having forced her marriage.

Helped by Medica Afghanistan, a nongovernmental organization that works on women’s legal rights and offers counseling, Somaya was able to divorce her husband in February. She is learning to read the Quran with a tutor’s help and is considering becoming a tutor herself someday.

For now, “I sew clothing with my mother, and my brother works in a factory. We are the breadwinners,” she says. “My life is better.”

Reporting by Eva Mazrieva, Lina Correa, Jaffar Mjasiri, Carolyn Presutti, Muhammad Saqib, Carol Guensburg and Lisa Kassenaar.

Source: https://projects.voanews.com/child-marriage/?fbclid=IwAR2xhSUm9P9ViEVRUwpsZJuJ6YxzwAa9_ArqGubmpatUVOXj_wIyATVwp2o

10 ways the world got closer to ending child marriage in the last 10 years

Every year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That’s nearly one girl every three seconds, forced to grow up too soon.

But we’ve seen some encouraging progress over the last ten years. Although we still have a long way to go to end the practice for good, UNICEF reported in 2018 that global rates of child marriage are declining, with 25 million child marriages averted over the last decade.

And the good news doesn’t end there.

Here are ten ways the world got closer to ending child marriage over the last ten years:

1. Over 1,000 organisations have united to end child marriage 

Since 2011, the Girls Not Brides partnership has grown from zero members to a global movement of over 1,300 organisations across the globe.

Our global partnership reached a milestone 1000 members. Members celebrate at the Girls Not Brides Global Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Credit: Graham Crouch / Girls Not Brides.

That’s thousands of organisations and activists who are working around the clock for a world free of child marriage, where girls can exercise their rights and achieve their full potential.

Together we’re stronger. And together we’ll reduce the number of child brides.

2. Child marriage went from a taboo topic to a prominent world issue

At the beginning of the last decade, child marriage was a taboo subject that governments, world leaders and communities across the world didn’t talk about. Fast forward ten years and it’s a prominent issue on the global agenda and in the communities where child marriage is most prevalent.

In 2016, child marriage was embedded within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They’re a set of ambitious and urgent goals and targets aimed at changing our world for the better.

Under Goal 5 – to achieve gender equality, Target 5.3 aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations” by 2030. As a result, 193 countries have committed to end child marriage by 2030, changing the lives of vulnerable girls and women for the better.

3. Governments moved to raise the age of marriage

The past decade saw a number of governments raise the minimum age of marriage.

Norway approved a law banning child marriage, and set a global example. Tanzania’s Supreme Court declared child marriage unconstitutional, Malawi officially banned child marriage and Indonesia raised the minimum age that girls can marry from 16 to 19.

In Latin America, a number of governments raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 without exceptions: the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In Mexico, 24 out of 33 states have now updated their legislation in line with federal laws.

And in the UK, a new bill has been proposed which will raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 without exceptions.

4. The first US states outlawed child marriage

In 2018, Delaware became the first US state to outlaw child marriage, followed shortly by New Jersey. And in 2019, the U.S. Virgin Islands legislature voted unanimously to end child marriage.

Fraidy Reiss, activist and founder of Unchained At Last, the only organisation dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the US, even got a tattoo to celebrate the victory.

Photo: Susan Landman

 

5. Millions of dollars were made available for grassroots efforts to stop child marriage

In 2018, leading donors and philanthropists came together to launch the Girls First Fund.

The Fund champions local efforts to ensure all girls can live free from child marriage and reach their full potential. They support local organisations, particularly girl-, women- and youth-led groups that work with the most vulnerable girls, working tirelessly to prevent child marriage and advance girls’ rights.

These organisations focus on girls, families and communities because they are in the best position to create lasting, local change and address the causes of child marriage at their roots.

6. Women and girls fought the law, and won

In 2016, 31-year-old Rebeca Gyumi took on her country’s legal system, winning a landmark ruling to raise the age of child marriage for girls in Tanzania from 14 to 18.

She was awarded the 2018 Human Rights Prize by the United Nations in recognition of her contribution to girls’ rights. The announcement came shortly after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a third resolution on child, early, and forced marriage, which sets out the responsibilities of UN member states in ending child marriage.

Rebecca is just one of thousands of incredible girls rights activists who have made a difference for their peers, communities and countries.

7. Senior Islamic clerics issued a fatwa against child marriage 

A fatwa against child marriage and Female Genital Mutiliation was announced in Dakar in 2019. The Deputy Grand Imam of Al Azhar issued the fatwa. It specifically sets out that marriage under 18 for boys or girls is haram (forbidden).

 

Other religious leaders have also led the way in their communities. For example, in Ethiopia, leaders of the Orthodox Church declared that they will not preside over marriages where either spouse is under 18. And in Malawi and Zambia, chiefs, such as Chief Chamuka, have developed chiefdom by-laws outlawing child marriage.

8. 49 villages in India went ‘child marriage free’

In Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, many families are forced to marry their daughters off early. Poverty, social pressure and the lack of quality education all make it hard for girls to stay in school or seek a life beyond early marriage.

But norms are changing. Urmul Trust takes travelling music and puppet shows to villages across the Bikaner district, educating parents and children about child marriage. The puppet show highlights harmful effects of child marriage in a way that people of all ages can understand.

Villagers sign an oath against child marriage. Photo: Allison Sarah Joyce/Girls Not Brides

After the show, everyone takes an oath that they will keep their village child marriage free, before signing a banner which is then put up in the village to hold everyone accountable.

The campaign to make villages child marriage free has reached almost 200 villages in the Thar desert. Over 49 villages are currently free of child marriage.

9. 1,000 couples pledged their weddings to support girls 

Couples in the USA said ‘I DO’ to help girls to say ‘I DON’T’.

 

These couples registered their wedding registries with VOW, an initiative which gives couples and companies the power to help end child marriage — by donating a portion of profits from wedding registries and products to girls’ rights organisations.

10. Goats, chickens and bicycles stopped girls from becoming child brides

In Ethiopia and Tanzania, Population Council rewarded families who kept their daughters in school and out of marriage with goats or chickens.

Families who couldn’t afford their daughters’ education were pulling them out of school and often into marriage instead. As part of their Berhane Hewan programme, the organisation also gave girls school supplies and matched them with older female mentors.

And it worked! Girls in one village in Ethiopia were 90% less likely to be married than their peers whose families received goats and chickens.

40% of girls in Nepal become child brides and thousands don’t finish their high school education. But in the last few years, hundreds of girls have been given bicycles so they can travel quickly and safely to school.

Janaki Women’s Awareness Society runs the project to make girls’ journeys to school quicker and safer so they’re less likely to drop out of education and be left vulnerable to marriage. When the girls receive their bikes, their parents pledge to keep their daughters in school and to not marry them as children.

Shristi and Santamay ride their new bikes home. Photo: Girls Not Brides/Thom Pierce

 

Source: https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/10-ways-the-world-got-closer-to-ending-child-marriage-in-the-last-10-years/?fbclid=IwAR0mA-3KduKPTlJVFnttQaLANr2lOu3kuAbsAR0ZDkOlfHgUcXxxZqw8StQ

DISCUSSION OF BOOK ON FIKIH ON GUARDIANSHIP: RE-READING THE RIGHTS OF GUARDIANSHIP FOR PROTECTION OF WOMEN

Qiwamah and Wilayah Column:

[Over the next several months, this Qiwamah and Wilayah Column will appear in the Rumah Kita Bersama website. As well as reporting on the Roadshow for outreach on the book conducted in several cities, this column will try to reach a broader range of readers. Therefore, this column is presented in both Indonesian and English. This column is published four times, in cooperation with the Oslo Coalition]

 

Jakarta, 25 June 2019

Unchaining Fiqh from the Manacle of Asymmetric Relations in Gender’s Construction

JAKARTA. On Tuesday, 25 June 2019, Rumah Kita Bersama launched the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-Reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. This book is the outcome of a study on classical and modern texts on the concepts of wilayah and qiwamah together with various religious figures, sociologists, anthropologists, legal experts, and activists conducted over several months.

This event took place in the hall of Griya Gus Dur at the Wahid Foundation, Menteng, Central Jakarta. The event was attended by sixty participants from various institutions: NGO activists, representatives of the government such as from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Supreme Court, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Ministry for Women’s Empowerment, Commission for Prevention of Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), Commission for Protection of Children (Komnas Perlindungan Anak), university lecturers and students, and the media. Also in attendance were three representatives of the Oslo Coalition, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Dr. Lena Larsen (the Director of the Oslo Coalition, one out of six thematic areas at the Norwegian Center Department), Prof. Dr. Nelly Van Doorn, and Kathrine Raadim (the Director of International Department at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo).

To discuss the book, Rumah Kita Bersama invited four resource persons: Dr (CH) KH. Husein Muhammad (head of Pesantren Dar at-Tauhid, Cirebon and former commissioner of Komnas Perempuan), Nursyahbani Katjasungkana SH (women’s activist from LBH Apik Jakarta), Drs. Mohammad Noor SH, MH, (Judicial Judge of the Legal Bureau and concurrently Public Relations officer of the Indonesian Supreme Court), and Ulil Abshar Abdalla MA (young intellectual from Nahdlatul Ulama). The event was led by Lies Marcoes-Natsir MA from Rumah Kita Bersama.

In her introduction, Lies Marcoes noted that normatively, Islam places the values of equality of men and women as a principal value, but in terms of fikih law – where the law regarding social relationships within the family is constructed – the relations between males and females are placed asymmetrically.  In the concepts of fikih, the relations between these two genders are linked in ways that are slanted or imbalanced. Nevertheless, this asymmetrical construct is (often) considered to be certain, fixed, and immutable, or qath’i. In reality, these asymmetrical relations are not always accepted, even by the fuqaha themselves. This can be seen from their interpretations, which very obviously seek to achieve a fairer balance in the relationship. In the book, many figures are presented, including some from the Middle East such as Rif’at Thohtowi, Qasim Amin and Muhammad Abduh. From within Indonesia, the book presents the ideas of Kiai Salah Mahfud with his social fikih, as well as breakthroughs by religious court judges in the Supreme court as exemplified by figures such as Prof. Hasybi Asydidiqie, Prof. Hazairin, and Andi Syamsu Alam SH. They offer new ideas, in terms of both methodology and interpretation, on family law and on how these methods can be applied in court hearings.

Many people assume that Islamic law is whatever is set out in the fikih. In fact, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Islamic law is not just what is stated in the (books of) fikih, though fikih is one part of the big picture.

Meanwhile, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana stated that the concept of guardianship in Islamic law differs from the concept of guardianship in both the Civil Code and the Marriage Law. In both those laws, women are allowed to serve as guardians; something that is very different from the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah found in the book. Nursyahbani also noted that this asymmetry occurs not only in fikih, but also in the Laws on Islamic family law, such as in the Marriage Law, which states that the man is the head of the household and the woman is a housewife. This indicates that the Marriage Law does not refer to international law or conventions such as CEDAW.

Another problem, as noted by Kiai Husein Muhammad, is that to date men have been at the center of the lawmakers, and they enjoy luxury in many aspects, including in the issues of wilayah and qiwamah. This process of granting luxury to men, according to Kiai Husein Muhammad, is not solely a form of delegation of rights based on gender due to descent or to relations that arise from the occurrence of a legal event, such as marriage, but is instead related mainly to the man’s responsibility and obligation to protect the rights of the children or the wife. In other words, this is a gender construct relating to the obligations and responsibilities of men, and not simply about rights.

Unfortunately, this kind of reading that emphasizes the aspect of obligations, rather than rights, is not very popular in the community. The fikih that we currently use, Kiai Husein Muhammad explained, is a product of medieval Arabic culture, which granted greater leeway to men based on their situation and condition. Methodologically, there are certain principles that should be upheld throughout the ages: the humanitarian ideals of Islam, the ideals that place males and females on an equal standing as humans. Since the death of the Prophet Muhammad, nearly all religious teachings are interpretations. And interpretations are closely linked to time and space, so the interpretations of religious texts, even (interpretations) of the hadith of the Prophet, are products of culture, while in fact they (should) constantly refer to the ideals of Islam.

To achieve a reading of religious texts that is fair to both women and men, a new methodology is needed – a method that is willing to read the changing reality in society. Women nowadays are better educated and more self-reliant. Consequently, a method for reading texts is needed that is friendlier and more sensitive toward women. In this way, the texts will be able to read the special needs of women, which have to date been covered up by the misogynistic power of the texts.

Such efforts are often accused of being a Western agenda that promotes immorality. Lena Larsen said that this egalitarian approach that is undertaken in rereading the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah does not promote immorality. Rather, these efforts are simply to protect the family, especially children and wives, who are vulnerable to unjust treatment.

The efforts to perform reconstruction or deconstruction of texts are not easy. Over many centuries, the existing theological ideas and interpretations have become sacralized. Thus, a significant investment of time and thinking is needed in this regard. But this does not mean it is impossible.

One of the initiatives that has been undertaken by Rumah Kita Bersama is the publication of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. Muhammad Noor says that this book produced by Rumah Kita Bersama is important. In his opinion, this book can be used as a reference by judges and those who provide direct support to the community in handling cases of family law, especially child marriage and forced marriage. (Aida, Lies)

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.

ChildMarriage-1s.jpg

ChildMarriage-2s.jpg

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.

Forced to marry a stranger: a child bride shares her story

Sharina* and Nazir met for the first time on their wedding day.

Sharina was just 14 and Nazir was 17. Their decision to marry was not theirs to make. Instead, both of them were forced into marriage by their families.

Every year, 13.5 million children under 18 are married, with many having little to no say in the matter – and of that number, 12 million are girls. Child marriage is a serious human rights violation that often cuts short a girls’ education and increases her risk of experiencing physical and sexual abuse, as well as health problems.

It won’t be easy – but ending child marriage is possible. Plan International has been working tirelessly across many countries and for many years to help end child marriage through powerful partnerships with parents, lawmakers, community leaders and especially youth.

Through our work, we encounter many former child brides – Sharina is one of them. Now she shares her story of being forced into marriage at age 14.

Portrait of Sharina

The story begins with my father. It was my father who suddenly one day took me to an old man who was visiting our village. At the time, I did not know this old man was the grandfather of the man who would soon become my husband. I also didn’t know that this “meeting” was to showcase me as a potential bride.

It was my brother’s wife who told me what was really going on. I was scared. Me – married? I was desperately sad and began to cry. I had no desire to get married.

After I was chosen as the bride for the old man’s grandson, no one talked to me about what was going to happen. At the same time, I dropped out of school.

The reasons I dropped out were partly economic, since my parents did not have much money for education, and because my best friends had also dropped out.  I was very fond of my friends and happy in our village. The thought that I had to marry and move to a place far away without anyone I knew was awfully painful to me. I did nothing but sit inside and cry.

My family travelled to meet the man who would become my husband, but I never met him – not until we were married.

The night before the wedding

The “gaye holud” is an important part of wedding traditions in Bangladesh.

It’s the night before the wedding where guests congregate while the bride is adorned for the wedding. An important part of this tradition is smearing the bride in yellow turmeric which brightens and softens the skin.  Another tradition is for the groom’s family to bring gifts for the bride – they gave me a yellow sari to wear for the ceremony.

For a bride, the holud should be a feast and celebration but I just cried. I sat on a straw mat in front of all the others, in my yellow sari, while I was decorated with yellow flowers in my hair and around my neck. Henna tattoos were also drawn on my hands and up my arm. Thoughts flew through my head – “Was it really happening now? How could it be?”

A wedding should be a happy moment but this was tragic. I knew I was too young.

Hands painted in henna

Here comes the groom

The wedding party started at 10am with the whole village present. While the party was going on outside, I sat alone in my room. The neighbours teased me, crying outside the door, “Here comes the groom!”. Each time it happened, my heart jumped and I felt like I could not breathe.

I looked down at all times during the formal session of the ceremony, it would be over when I said “kobul” – a confirmation that I consent to the marriage. But I refused to say it. This made my family angry and everyone shouted that I had to say it. They said I was being disrespectful. I had no choice. I said the words and not once did I look at the man I was forced to go away with.

The beginning of a new life

Nazir, my husband, had also been forced to marry when his mother could no longer manage to care for him. She had shown him my picture and told him that it was now or never.

As we drove away from my childhood home, we did not say a word. When I finally glanced at him, I thought he was not handsome. I did not like the look of him. The tears came back and finally I fainted.

In the first days, we hardly spoke. The tone between us was formal and brief. He eventually asked me to be less formal but I told him that I wanted to go home. He said we were married now. He was kind and understanding but said I had to realize this was my life now.

Man and woman outside home

Today, the relationship between us is much better. A few months after the wedding, I was seriously ill and bedridden with a fever. Nazir sat with me every night, put wet cloths on my forehead and took care of me. He said he loved me. He was very afraid and said he would rather die than lose me. After that, my feelings towards Nazir began to change.

Tonni

When I fell pregnant, it was Nazir who took care of me. When Tonni, our daughter, was born, Nazir was so happy. He had wanted a daughter and was so proud. I was surprised the first time I saw her. She was so pretty.

woman and man holding baby

My daughter and her future means everything to Nazir and I. Our greatest wish for her is that she will study and get an education – something we never had. Nazir’s wish is that she will become a doctor.

Together, we’ve agreed that we are never going to make the same mistakes our parents made – we will NEVER marry off our daughter.

Ending child marriage

Around the world, ‘normal’ for too many girls is facing roadblocks that challenge their power, freedom and equality just as they enter womanhood. Child marriage is an extreme example of such a roadblock, and one that often forces girls just like Sharina to drop out of school and become mothers before their young minds and bodies are ready.

Plan International Canada is calling on Canadians like you to stand with girls like Sharina to Defy Normal and help end child marriage. Together, we can support girls in becoming empowered, confident women who decide their own futures.

*Name has been changed to protect identity.

Source: https://stories.plancanada.ca/forced-to-marry-a-stranger-a-child-bride-shares-her-story/?fbclid=IwAR34Y-hd8u3kxwoPxd2RA3FQBbC8FTcT79jz5kHoHHyUROq93p0jnBlaEJ8

Hundreds protest against child marriage in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Hundreds protested on Saturday in Lebanon against child marriage, demanding lawmakers forbid unions below the age of 18, in a country where some faiths allow girls to be wed at 14.

Organized by civil society groups, the rally attracted women of all ages — and some lawmakers — who marched on parliament in the capital Beirut, an AFP photographer said.

Some carried placards with slogans reading “Not before 18” and “Stop early marriage.”

Abir Abdel Razeq, a 22-year-old who carried her young daughter in her arms, said that she married at 14.
“I hope that my daughter does not get married early, and that she finishes school — I hope that she will not marry before she is 22,” Razeq said.

The protest came as a bill designating 18 as the minimum age for marriage awaits parliament’s consideration.
Lebanon does not have nationwide laws on marriage and divorce, since these areas are governed by the country’s 18 religious communities.

Elements of both the Muslim and Christian communities allow girls to be married at 14.

Rumah KitaB and the Campaign Against Child Marriage

Kathryn Robinson
Emeritus professor in Anthropology, Australian National Univerisity

Rights in marriage have been a key issue for women’s rights activists all over the world. Age at marriage is perhaps the most significant issue, even more than the free choice of a spouse. Child marriage has been a focus for Indonesian women for nearly a century. In the colonial era, family law was left to the Islamic courts, but the women’s congresses that were held regularly from 1928 argued for secular laws that would protect women’s rights in marriage, including a ban on child marriage and the necessity of a woman’s consent. This emphasis on secular regulation as the way to protect women’s rights bore fruit in the independence period with the passage of the 1974 marriage law which, amongst other things, set a minimum age of marriage, of 16 for females (19 for males) and required that the marriage officiant ensure the woman’s consent.

As education becomes more readily available and more young women are going on to finish high school, and even tertiary education there has been a movement upwards in average age at marriage but as the work of Rumah Kitab shows us, child marriage persists. What are the strategies to address this? The session organized by Rumah KitaB at the Kongres Ulama Perempuan in April 2017 focused on the religious basis of arguments about age at marriage. The kiyai focused on textual analysis of the Qur’an and hadith to show the complexity of the definition of baliq, and the difference between a purely biological concept and a notion of aqil baligh, an idea of adult personhood. This interesting return to religious argumentation was a response to the intervention of MUI in a 2015 constitutional court court judicial review of the marriage law, in particular the regulation of age at marriage. The review had been requested by activists (including Rumah Kitab) on the basis of an argument that Indonesian law should be  harmonized with 2002 Law on Child Protection , which set 18 as the age of adulthood.. The weight given to the MUI submission by the secular court is an interesting cross over between religious and secular courts, which were unified into a single system in Indonesia during the Suharto regime. Rumah KitaB were developing a textually based  argument that could challenge the interpretation offered by MUI, which relied on a single text. Law reform is always an important part of social change. Legal reforms provide venues where people can argue for rights, but also are an important part of raising awareness and changing attitudes. For example, in a case of forced marriage that occurred in the community where I was doing research in the late 1970s, not long after the passage of the marriage law, a local official said to me that if the girl had come to him, he would have stopped the marriage. Talk is cheap’ and he was not put to the test but his comment shows the way in which changes on law begin to circulate and be spoken about, and so potentially impact on people’s behavior. What other ways can child marriage be challenged, and social practices changed? Marriage (and the subsequent state of parenthood) is in most communities the path out of a state of childhood to adulthood. Marriage resulted in the formation of a new conjugal unit and household. For those fortunate enough to pursue schooling, educational success and employment are also ‘building blocks’ of adulthood, and delayed age at marriage has no doubt contributed to the decline of marriages arranged by parents, as young people meet prospective spouses during education and in their work place.

Kathryn Robinson at KUPI

But these opportunities are unevenly spread throughout the archipelago. Especially in eastern Indonesia, schools beyond SD level can be a long way from home. And employment can be even harder to find. In such situations, marriage is the only avenue available young women to achieve adulthood, independence from their families of origin, and they often willingly enter into marriage at a young age . In such contexts, educational and employment opportunities are a critical part of solutions to early marriage. The globalized world we now live in is highly sexualized. Mass media exposes us all to narratives and images that challenge customary forms of morality. I have been shocked at the ready availability, indeed the difficulty of avoiding pornographic content in Indonesia, on social and other forms of media. There is a ‘moral panic’ in Indonesia about ‘pergaulan bebas’. In some research I  conducted few years ago, young people who themselves led innocent lives almost universally identified ‘pergaulan bebas’ as the biggest threat confronting Indonesia’s youth. In addition, prolonged education means many young people live away from home and outside the every day ‘control’ of parents, which can be of concern to parents and children alike. In this context, I understand that recent research by Rumah KitaB has shown that some parents see early marriage as the way to address this perceived risk. But it could also be argued that good sex education on schools and religious institutions, including empowering young people to make informed choices and evaluate risks associated with sexual activity—including health, emotional, social and economic risks— could counter this perceived threat in a more effective way than early marriage. But all of these strands are important legal reform and the empowerment of young women, in terms of their knowledge base but also the practical issues around alternative paths put of childhood. [Kathryn]

 

NU Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage

BY : SHEANY

JANUARY 23, 2019

Jakarta. Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, has called on Muslims to play an active role in helping to prevent child marriage in Indonesia.

“Preventing child marriage is a mighty important thing to do, to avoid the negative impacts on women and children,” Siradj said, as quoted in a statement by the Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

In a meeting with members of the foundation at Nahdlatul Ulama’s headquarters in Central Jakarta on Monday, Siradj also offered to hold a focus group discussion with NU’s education body to build a common understanding on the importance of preventing child marriage and increasing the organization’s role in ongoing efforts.

The Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institute for policy advocacy established in 2010. Its work focuses on fighting for the rights of marginalized communities.

Involving both religious and nonreligious organizations is considered a viable way to help end child marriage, especially in rural communities where it is still practiced and considered part of tradition.

Indonesia ranks 7th among countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage, with around one in nine girls married before they turn 18.

The prevalence of this practice in the archipelago affects approximately 375 girls every day, according to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Despite the legal age of marriage being 21 in the country, there have been exemptions allowing girls as young as 16 to wed with parental consent.

In December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government must change this minimum age requirement.

The court declared that the 1974 Marriage Law discriminated against girls and diverged with rules on child protection, and subsequently gave lawmakers three years to decide what the new minimum age should be.

However, many cases show that girls enter into religious marriages through nikah siri, which literally means “secret wedding,” that are not registered with the government. The underreported nature of child marriages means that grassroots-level efforts are key, and influential organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama could therefore play a crucial role.

“Preventing child marriage is an urgent matter for us to reduce divorce rates and for families to thrive,” Siradj said.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/context/nu-chairman-calls-on-indonesian-muslims-to-help-prevent-child-marriage

Why women ulema reject patriarchy

by Yulianti Muthmainnah

The challenge of pluralism that Indonesia faces today is the strengthening of identity politics, where women are among the targets of patriarchal ideals hiding behind the robes of religion. Religion is used to justify polygyny and child marriage, among other things.

Increasing efforts to revive polygyny as an acceptable practice often refer to Prophet Muhammad’s household, though some of his wives were older. Likewise, child marriage is seen as a way to preserve a girl’s morality and purity by avoiding sinful premarital sex. The strategy of appealing to religious purity juxtaposes “us” with “them” — “infidels”, “the West” and “Westerners”.

This leads to ahistorical and meaningless interpretations of religious texts. The policing of women and their bodies is considered necessary to uphold religion.

We see, for instance, advertisements on chat groups promoting seminars or training on “fast polygyny” with fees of Rp 3.5 million (US$241.30) to ensure “responsible” polygyny supposedly in line with the practice of the Prophet, or a cheap marriage package guaranteed to be syar’i (in line with sharia) for those under 18.

Meanwhile, child marriage has reached emergency proportions. According to a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, “State of the World’s Children 2016”, one in seven girls in Indonesia is married as a child.

Thus, Indonesia ranks second among the 10-member ASEAN and seventh internationally in the prevalence of child marriage.

Among many factors, including poverty, studies by the Rumah KitaB research center show that religiosity, especially the wish to preserve morality, plays a very significant role in child marriage.

The impacts on women who get married as children include dropping out of school, exposure to domestic violence, poor reproductive health and even death related to pregnancy and complications in labor, apart from poverty.

Women in a polygynous marriage also often lack access to social protection, many have neither birth nor marriage certificates and lack legal documents for inheritance, among other negative consequences.

The 1974 Marriage Law essentially upholds monogamous marriage and limits child marriage. However, polygyny and child marriage appear to be on the rise; justifications found in the same law include conditions for taking another wife and legal permission even for children under 16 to marry based on parental request.

Yet, women and girls in polygyny and child marriage are legally unprotected, because most of the unions are unregistered and undocumented.

A historic breakthrough occurred on Dec. 13: The Constitutional Court ruled to end child marriage, though the demanded increase in the marriage age requires a change of the 1974 law to become effective. The ruling followed the third attempt at changing the law, with the main plaintiffs including women that had been married as children.

Women ulema have long felt the need to respond to religious views that are detrimental to women, by offering a new perspective inspired by the Islamic spirit of justice and protection.

As a member of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization and the Indonesian Women Ulema Congress (KUPI), I have witnessed the progress of women in Indonesia in addressing continued abuse against women and girls.

Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah, and the Muhammadiyah councils of fatwa and Islamic reform in Makassar this year issued a fatwa on children (fikih anak) that states the minimum marrying age should be 18 for males and females, who are generally physically and psychologically mature at this age.

In its book Keluarga Sakinah (Family with Tranquillity) published in 1982, Muhammadiyah promoted the understanding of the ideal family based on the principle of monogamy.

Such teachings and legal opinions had progressed far beyond the state policy under the 1974 Marriage Law.

Meanwhile, KUPI’s initial congress in 2017 produced three fatwas, one being that preventing child marriage is mandatory, because child marriage brings about damage and harm rather than bringing families closer to a household of tranquillity, love (mawaddah) and compassion (wa rahmah).

Such fatwas from Muhammadiyah and the KUPI should always guide efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of child marriage and polygyny.

At a recent expert conference on pluralism in Paris in November, speakers shared how teachings of faith and custom continued to corner women, even justifying violence against them.

At least in Indonesia, I told participants, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has begun to record instances of violence against women, following efforts of women groups and the National Commission on Violence against Women.

We heard how in Nigeria, according to Benedicta Daber, director of Justice

Development and Peace Caritas, many women face poverty if they separate from their husbands, or continued domestic abuse if they don’t, as the religion did not allow divorce.

When a husband dies, the woman either must marry a man from the husband’s family if she wants to survive and obtain her husband’s inheritance, or leave everything behind, including property and children.

A leading imam of Nigeria, Muhammad Ashafa, said the practice of polygyny reflected more on the perspective of the imam or cleric and was not an Islamic tradition.

The Quran drastically limited the number of wives to four from the unlimited number of wives permitted to men in past Arabian societies.

As even leading imams have acknowledged that polygyny is not Islamic, upholding monogamy and abolishing child marriage requires further support. Muhammadiyah and the KUPI have started with the above fatwa and legal opinions, which have been incorporated in the draft on the revision of the Marriage Law.

The law’s revision requires a huge commitment from various sides, including politicians, amid resistance from those seeking to uphold patriarchy in the guise of religion. Legislative candidate Grace Natalie of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) has spoken up clearly on monogamy.

Indeed, monogamy is not only in line with the Islamic principles of ‘adilah(justice) and mubadalah (reciprocity) but also the principle of democracy that requires justice to be assured by the state, even in the most personal sphere of the household.

The fatwa from the KUPI and Muhammadiyah councils should be constantly promoted at the local, national and international level. Though nonbinding, they provide breakthroughs to obsolete laws and narrow interpretations of Islam with vested interests of perpetuating patriarchy.

Religious figures and organizations must speak up against challenges to our pluralism, which also victimize women and girls with various justifications.

When religious figures lack formula to protect women, they should at least recognize the above breakthroughs and pass on such fatwas to their grassroots communities.

***

The writer is a lecturer at the Ahmad Dahlan Institute of Technology and Business Jakarta (STIE-AD) a member of the Law and Human Rights Council’s National Board of Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah, and program manager of Alimat, Indonesian Women Ulema Congress (KUPI). She was a speaker at a discussion on pluralism held in November by Pharos Observatoire in Paris.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2018/12/28/why-women-ulema-reject-patriarchy.html