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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

Azhar launches awareness campaigns against child marriage

CAIRO – 4 October 2017: In response to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s bid to crackdown on child marriage, Al-Azhar announced the launch of awareness-raising campaigns against the practice.

Sheikh Abbas Shoman, the deputy sheikh of Egypt’s al-Azhar institute, said Friday’s sermons will primarily address child marriages and its impacts, particularly in rural areas where it is prominent.

Ahmad al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar said that there are no sacred texts in Islam allowing child marriages, adding that Islam doesn’t set a specific age at which people can get married.

He added that Islam explicitly prohibits any practices that could lead to health complications or unavoidable physiological harm, which can apply to child marriages.

Recently, in one of the villages of Al-Mahallah al-Kubra, in the middle of the Nile Delta, an imam approved 27 cases of customary marriages for girls below 18 years of age.

Because of a law drafted in 2008 as part of Egypt’s Child Law to raise the age of marriage to 18 prohibiting child marriages, this imam convinced the families in the village that couples could have customary marriages until girls reach the eligible age, after which the bond would be made legal.

Source: http://www.egypttoday.com/Article/2/26019/Azhar-launches-awareness-campaigns-against-child-marriage?fbclid=IwAR2er1_HWDl4q35hNObF-YWzSICsbxOT8S9CpHYe5WitDUNbZm_JZBLPmE4

BREAKING: Court orders revision of minimum age for women to marry

In a decision that may pave the way for the elimination of rampant child marriage in Indonesia, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the 16 years old minimum age requirement for women to marry, as stipulated in the 1974 Marriage Law, was unconstitutional.

The court granted a judicial review petition filed by three child bride survivors and their lawyer from the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+), challenging Article 7 of the law, which sets the minimum age requirement for women to marry at 16.

In a hearing presided over by Chief Justice Anwar Usman, the court argued that the rule was a form of gender-based discrimination since the minimum age for requirement for men to marry was 19, and therefore contradicted the 1945 Constitution.

The court, however, refused to grant the plaintiffs’ demand to raise the minimum age for women to marry to that of the age for men, arguing that it was the authority of lawmakers and the court did not want to make a decision that could prevent any future law revisions.

“[The court] orders lawmakers to revise the 1974 Marriage Law, particularly in regard to the minimum age for women to marry, within a maximum three years,” Anwar read out the ruling on Thursday.

Justice Saldi Isra said the provision in article would remain valid until the deadline of three years. Should there be no revision prior to the deadline, the minimum age requirement would be harmonized with the 2002 Child Protection Law, which defines a child as someone below 18 years old.

Justice I Dewa Gede Palguna said that those at the age of 16 were still categorized children under the Child Protection Law, meaning that those who married at 16 were considered as being involved in child marriage, which had negative impact and threatening children’s welfare.

“Not only in terms of negative impact on health, there are possibilities of child exploitation and the increase of threats of violence against children in underage marriage,” Palguna said, adding that child marriage also threatened children’s rights to education.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/12/13/breaking-court-orders-revision-of-minimum-age-for-women-to-marry.html