Posts

Summary of Books on Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage

Exposers of the Dark Current:

Exploring the Works of Muslim Intellectuals in Realizing Justice for Women

by Nur Hayati Aida

 

The world we live in now is one in which society still considers one sex as superior to the other. Nearly all arrangements in society are constructed from a male perspective, so it is not surprising that what is produced is a set of rules that tend to be detrimental to women and put them in second place. One factor that reinforces the imbalance in the relations between males and females is (the interpretation of) religion. Whether we realize it or not, interpretation of religion (and its texts) contributes to the perpetuation of practices of injustice toward females.

Yet in the midst of this patriarchal mainstream, certain persons have emerged who chose to fight the tide by building a methodology that reinterprets the misogynistic religious texts that have long been deliberately used to legitimize gender-based discrimination.

In the early 19th century, an intellectual who was also a scholar at al-Azhar named Rifa’at al-Thahthawi published a book that analyzed the gender relations between males and females in Islam. This book, entitled al-Mursyid al-Amin li al-Banât wa al-Banîn, addressed the unequal relations between men and women in Egypt at that time. With his deep understanding of religion, Rifa’at al-Thahthawi traced the elements in the classical treasury of Islam that were more friendly toward women. He also actively campaigned for the importance of education. Education and social interaction are the doors for the advancement of women. Without education, the ideal of progress for women would be a dream that is never realized.

With his intellectual capability, Rifa’at al-Thahthawi also built a methodology for interpreting religious texts using a feminist perspective through three basic principles: al-hurriyah (freedom), al-musâwah (equality), and al-hub (love). If these three foundations are used properly in the reading of every text, the interpretation can never lead to oppression of one sex by the other.

A few years later, Muhammad Abduh became prominent. One of Abduh’s intellectual works that can still be enjoyed today is Tafsir al-Manâr. Although ultimately this commentary was completed by his student, Rasyid Ridha, the basis and direction of al-Manar were constructed by Abduh. al-Manâr is a work that addressed the social problems existing at the time the book was written. According to Abduh, the interpretations prevailing at that time were unable to accommodate the problems experienced in the context of modern society. What Abduh did was an effort to engage the Qur’an in continuous dialogue with the current age.

Abduh fervently opposed polygamy because of its great potential to destroy the family, and also because it violates the sharia which function as the protector of positive benefits. This argument was based on the Qur’an, specifically al-Rum:21.

In the middle of the 19th century, there emerged in Egypt a thinker and activist named Qasim Amin. Qasim Amin wrote a book entitled Tahrîr al-Mar’ah. This book created a great controversy, leading to various responses, both positive and negative. In the book, Qasim Amin wrote about women and their private rights in connection with the family in Egypt. The topics that received the most public attention were polygamy and divorce.

At the same time, Qasim Amin also harshly criticized the fikih scholars who took the position that talak could be imposed without witnesses and even if done as a joke. Qasim Amin placed divorce on the same level as marriage. Like marriage, divorce is an action of sharia that leads to the loss of certain rights and the emergence of other rights, such as sustenance and inheritance. Therefore, divorce also requires witnesses.

As well as in Egypt, an intellectual also emerged in Tunisia who was greatly concerned with humanitarian issues, and especially women, at the end of the 19th century. This was Thahir al-Haddad, who constructed a concept of Islamic ethics using three instruments: al hurriyah (freedom), al-‘adâlah (justice), and al-musâwah (equality). These three instruments were used as the spirit in reading texts in the creation of sharia. Sharia grants freedom to individuals and the public based on a basic human right – the right to live free from domination by any type of person. According to Thahir al-Haddad, Islamic sharia must be a pioneer for change in society to emerge from backwardness toward progress. The greatest challenge faced by the community in the world of Islam is the excessive power of religious institutions in controlling family life.

Through his book Imra’atunâ fî al-Syarî’ah wa al-Mujtama’, Thahir al-Haddad voiced his social critique because Tunisian society placed women behind religious symbols created by the ulama based on religious knowledge as the center of truth.

Although his life ended in exile, Thahir al-Haddad’s concepts and ideas live on. Many years later, his name is used for schools in Tunisia and his photograph is displayed in government offices.

 

Indonesian Scholar/Thinkers who Spoke out for Justice for Women

 

Islam arose in a feudal social structure centered on the power of clans (bani), relying on patriarchy and physical force to conquer a harsh physical environment. Islam actively combined with the local culture through the Prophet Muhammad, and responded to the characteristic events and social traditions of the Middle East. The products of law, particularly the fikih, were constructed by the ulama of the early mazhabs based on the context of the region where they lived and studied, mainly in the Middle East. One context worthy of mention relates to the position of those who are weak or are made weak, such as women, children, widows and the poor.

Indonesia is obviously not the same as the Middle East. The two regions are different in terms of culture, geography, land, and social structure. If a nomadic society relies on trade, communities in Indonesia tend to settle in one place and be based on the traditions of an agrarian society. These differences have implications for changes in various religious practices. In the classical works of fikih, for example, istinja’ or cleansing one’s body after defecating is done using a stone. This practice of using stones for personal cleansing may make sense in a sandy desert region, but certainly does not apply to the context of Indonesia with its water-based culture.

These differences, as well as certain social issues specific to Indonesia, have forced Indonesian scholars and thinkers to reconstruct and reanalyze the interpretations of religion and the law of fikih. They have tried to provide a context to the rules of fikih which were taken from the locale where Islam first emerged, and particularly the more sensitive issues that are rarely addressed such as women, children, and minorities.

We can now mention the name of Husein Muhammad, a male ulama who has been most vocal in speaking out for the rights of women. His works and writings record how the (interpretations of) religion that have long been used as justifications to perpetuate discrimination can in fact be used as a means of resistance and a counter narrative to the negative views of women. Kiai Husein, with his mastery of the literature and the academic realm, has traced the classical texts of Islam, and proclaimed the news of ideas about the equality of humans, whatever their sex. Islam, according to Kiai Husein, is a religion that upholds the principle of equality. This is clearly illustrated in the confession of tauhid, belief in the oneness of God, as a confirmation that there is nothing and no one that deserves to be worshipped and elevated in rank by humans other than Allah. And humans, both males and females, have the same position and opportunity to engage in pious works. Men and women also have the same worth in the eyes of God. Those who are more favored before God are those who are pious and devoted, whoever they are, male or female.

As well as Kiai Husein, there are several other figures from the world of the pesantren who, while not specifically known as feminist, speak out on issues of benefit in society which are based on development of the law of fikih. No doubt fresh in our minds are the ideas of social fikih as conveyed by KH. Dr. (HC) Sahal Mahfudz. Social fikih is a form of religious accountability to respond to the needs and problems of society. More than that, social fikih is also a form of concern from Kiai Sahal, as he is known, regarding the assumption that fikih is a kind of transcendent truth. The general public has a mistaken perception that all truth is contained in (the books of) fikih. To produce social fikih, Kiai Sahal uses two methods: qawlîy, using an approach of qawâid fiqhiyah, and manhajîy, the approach of maqâshid al syari’ah, whereby the text and the context are brought together.

Kiai Sahal places great attention on the many cases of child marriage. He is of the opinion that by marrying off a daughter who is still a child, the parents have violated their obligation as parents to provide a decent livelihood and education for their child.

In the realm of the Religious Courts, Dr. Andi Syamsu Alam can be considered a pioneer in institutional management. He is very active in building effective working methods and a modern judicial system, and also encourages judges to pursue further judicial education.

Dr. Andi’s concepts in verdicts on family law, which should serve as a reference for religious court judges, include rejecting dispensations for a lower age of marriage, and granting inheritance rights to adopted children. Unfortunately, the first of these concepts is often not used as material in the consideration of verdicts. According to Dr. Andi, this is because judges’ thinking is stagnated, in that judges still interpret the Marriage Law as accommodating child marriage. In fact, the Marriage Law, despite its many loopholes that need to be criticized, was in fact an initiative by certain progressive figures and ulama to raise the age of marriage and to protect women and children from discriminatory practices. The minimum age for marriage for females, which was set at 16 years when the Marriage Law was enacted in 1974, was the result of fierce negotiation with conservative groups.

Two figures who were involved in the preparation and formulation of the Marriage Law are Prof. Dr. Hazairin Harahap and Teungku HM. Hasbi Ash-Shiddiqiy. Teungku Hasbi is one of several persons who have offered the idea of Indonesian fikih. According to Teungku Hasbi, the ‘urf (local wisdom) of Indonesia should be used as the basis for creating a special fikih characteristic of Indonesia, considering the differences in culture, habits and social structure between Indonesia and Middle East, the region where Islam was first sent down and which was used as the basis for creating the laws of fikih. This idea has received many responses from various groups and individuals, some of whom say there is no need for an Indonesia fikih.

Teungku Hasbi’s interpretations include a prohibition on polygamy, because the requirements for allowing polygamy cannot possibly be fulfilled. Furthermore, the narrative constructed by verse 3 of al-Nisa’ is a prohibition, not a recommendation. Polygamy, according to Teungku Hasbi, is only allowed in emergency circumstances, and emergency doors must normally be kept shut.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Hazairin Harahap was Indonesia’s first doctor in traditional law following independence. He served as Minister of the Interior in the cabinets of Ali Sastroamidjojo and Wongsonegoro. After retiring from the world of politics, he entered the world of education as a professor at the University of Indonesia.

Like Teungku Hasbi, Hazairin also strove for the concept of an Indonesian fikih by reconstructing ‘urf and istihsân in ushul fikih. He severely criticized the practice of marriage in childhood which bases its permissibility on the concept of biological maturity (baligh). Biological maturity cannot be used as a justification for marriage in childhood. A person must have achieved the level of baligh rusyd (maturity in thought and action) as a requirement for permissibility of marriage. In addition, his ideas relating to receptio a contrario also contributed to the creation of the Marriage Law.

The figures mentioned above are just a few of those who have chosen the lonely path toward realizing justice. They have chosen the path less taken: intellectual work, a kind of work that requires great discipline in exploring both text and context, as these two aspects are interrelated and constantly pulling on one another. A text does not appear in a vacuum; context cannot stand firm without the support of text. And it is these lonely works that can expose the dark current of patriarchalism that has for so long prevented thinking and acting to achieve justice for women. []

Finland expresses its gratitude for contributions to equality with special recognition – Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation from Indonesia among the recipients

Jakarta, 11 July 2019

 Finland places great significance on promoting equality in the world, and wishes to thank those who are working towards this common goal. To express its gratitude, Finland is presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the globe. The names of the first recipients from 17 countries are released, with one of the honours going to Indonesian Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

 

Equality is a core value for Finland and its people. To highlight the importance of equality and to show gratitude for the valuable work that is being done to advance equality in society, Finland is presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the world. Finland aims to encourage conversation about equality and promote initiatives for a more inclusive society.

 

Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institution aiming to empower women, children and marginalized groups in Indonesia. It pursues an equal society by shedding light on discriminating social and religious structures through advocacy, education and awareness building. It is led by Ms. Lies Marcoes-Natsir, an expert in the fields of women’s rights, reproductive health and gender in Islam.

 

“We are thankful for this Hän Honour that recognises our humanitarian work, the importance of equality among people and the acceptance of diversity of ethnicities, races, religions and genders. For Rumah Kita Bersama, the recognition serves as a motivation to work even more actively in the community”, said Lies Marcoes-Natsir, on receiving the Hän Honour at the Embassy of Finland in Jakarta on 11 July 2019.

 

“Rumah Kita Bersama’s work encapsulates very well the meaning of this equality campaign”, said Ambassador Jari Sinkari at the recognition ceremony. “Hän” is the neutral 3rd-person singular pronoun in Finnish language and the symbol of the campaign as it stands for equal opportunity.

 

Among other recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from for example Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway and Japan. They represent a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality.

 

The recognition forms part of a broader campaign about equality, launched in June 2019 and continuing until the end of the year. Finland aims to bring questions of equality to the fore of the international conversation.

 

In 2017, the year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence, it promoted action around the world in the name of gender equality and launched the first International Gender Equality Prize. The prize will be awarded for the second time in 2019.

 

List of recognition recipients: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours
Finland’s equality campaign website: www.finland.fi/han

Rumah Kita Bersama website: https://rumahkitab.com/en/

IGEP: https://genderequalityprize.fi/en

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)

Finland expresses its gratitude for contributions to equality with special recognition – Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation from Indonesia among the recipients

Finland places great significance on promoting equality in the world, and wishes to thank those who are working towards this common goal. To express its gratitude, Finland will be presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the globe who are committed to advancing inclusivity in society. The names of the first recipients from 16 countries were released today, with one of the honours going to Indonesian Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

Equality is a core value for Finland and its people. To highlight the importance of equality and to show gratitude for the valuable work that is being done to advance equality in society, Finland will be presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the world. Finland aims to encourage conversation about equality and promote initiatives for a more inclusive society.

Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation (Rumah KitaB) is a research institution aiming to empower women, children and marginalized groups in Indonesia. It pursues an equal society by shedding light on discriminating social and religious structures through advocacy, education and awareness building. It is led by Ms. Lies Marcoes Natsir, an independent consultant and expert in the fields of women’s rights, reproductive health, and gender in Islam.

Among other recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway and Japan. They represent a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality. The full list of the first recipients and more info about why they were selected are available at: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours.

The recognition forms part of a broader campaign about equality, launched in June 2019 and continuing until the end of the year. Finland aims to bring questions of equality to the fore of the international conversation.

In 2017, the year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence, it promoted action around the world in the name of gender equality and launched the first International Gender Equality Prize. The prize will be awarded for the second time later this year.

 

List of recognition recipients: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours
Finland’s equality campaign website: www.finland.fi/han
​​​​Rumah Kita Bersama website: https://rumahkitab.com/en/
IGEP: https://genderequalityprize.fi/en

 

Source: https://finlandabroad.fi/web/idn/current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/finland-expresses-its-gratitude-for-contributions-to-equality-with-special-recognition-rumah-kita-bersama-foundation-from-indonesia-among-the-recipi-1/384951

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.

Indonesian children marry despite outcry

Two Indonesian children got married in Sulawesi this week, after a long battle to do so which drew nationwide attention and criticism.

The 15-year-old boy and 14-year-old girl had sought permission from a religious court for their wedding.

The case triggered strong criticism at home and abroad. The government is now planning changes to the law.

Indonesia is a majority Muslim country and has among the highest number of child brides in the world.

The current minimum marriage age is 16 for girls and 19 for boys, but religious courts can issue exceptions and often do so.

The young bride told reporters their marriage was “destiny” and that the two initially dated for five months.

When their families found out, they immediately urged the two to get married.

The bride’s mother had also been married at the age of 14.

Too young?

Their request to get married was rejected though by the office of religious affairs (KUA), which is responsible for weddings, on the grounds that they were too young.

The couple’s parents then took their case to a religious court which overruled KUA. On Monday, the pair finally wed.

According to the bride, she plans to pursue her education before thinking about having children.

Her 15 year-old husband, who has already dropped out of school, said he would continue working to feed his family.

Political action

While not the norm, early marriages take place throughout Indonesia.

According to the UN’s children office Unicef, 14% of women in Indonesia are married before they turn 18 and 1% are married before they are 15.

The young couple’s case sparked opposition from citizens, religious scholars and garnered a lot attention on social media.

President Joko Widodo has now said he plans to introduce new regulations to stop the practice of child marriage by raising the minimum age.

Lies Marcoes, an expert on gender and Islamic studies, told BBC Indonesia: “The state must recognise this very serious crisis – early marriage is a silent death alarm because it contributes to the high maternal mortality.”

In 2017, a group of female Islamic clerics in Indonesia issued an unprecedented edict against child marriage.

The clerics urged the government to raise the minimum legal age for women to marry to 18 from the current 16.

The female clerics cited studies which highlight that many Indonesian child brides are not allowed to continue their education and half the marriages end in divorce.

According to Human Rights Watch, “there is overwhelming evidence child marriage has devastating consequences,” often leading to poverty and health risks linked to early pregnancies.

Child brides are also more likely to experience domestic violence, the NGO says.

Additional reporting by BBC Indonesia’s Famega Syavira.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43876307

Community Forum Discussion of Child Marriage at Panakkukang – Learning from Indonesian and Australian Experience

AIPJ2, MAKASSAR – Child marriage is beyond a statistical issue. The high number of child marriages in Indonesia, which reached 23 percent of all marriages in 2015 (according to the Indonesian Central Bureau of Statistics and UNICEF) also reflects the loss of opportunities for young women in maximising their potential. Poverty and cultural practices are several factors that contribute to the high number of child marriages, including in Tamamaung and Sinrijala, Panakkukang District, Makassar.

The focus of the dialogue held on 1 November 2017 between community members, government representatives and non-formal institutions with Dr. Sharman Stone, Australian Ambassador for Women and Girls , was child marriage prevention. Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice 2 (AIPJ2) partners, Lies Marcoes and a team from Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB), facilitated the discussion including findings from on-the-ground research.

While most child marriage cases in village areas result from poverty (including low levels of education) and cultural practices, Rumah KitaB’s study also finds other factors involved for urban areas, such as limited space in which to interact and the rising conservative value associated with shame. “…This leads parents to put more pressure on girls to get married. Pregnant or not, girls are forced to marry,” said Nurhady Sirimorok, a researcher with Rumah KitaB.

According to Dr. Stone, the Government of Australia supports the lives of children born from early marriages. Nevertheless, Dr. Stone agrees that unwanted pregnancies are challenging for society, especially for girls who have to drop out of school and face the challenge of getting a decent job.

The Government of Indonesia has adopted a minimum age for marriage based on Law no. 1/1974, article 6, which is 16 and 19 years old for women and men respectively. But this does not stop the act of falsifying ages to marry children. A former judge at the religious court in Makassar, Ibu Harijah, said that religious courts are often pressured by parents to provide dispensation to enable the family to avoid public shaming. This situation gives the impression of legal “justification” of child-age marriage.

The issue of birth certificates is also a driving force for the marriage of pregnant teenage girls. One lesson that can be drawn from Australia’s experience is how teenage girls are less stigmatised as single parents now than they were in the past, and receive child support from the government. But as much as this is the case, the family also plays an important role in maximising the potential of teenage girls. “We want all women to have an equal opportunity,” said Dr. Stone.

With various advocacy agencies, efforts to prevent child marriage begin with parenting skills, enrolling dropout children in non-formal education programs, and conducting regular meetings with community members. These agencies also provide skill-enriching activities to improve standard of living. Marketing programs to boost the sale of merchandise created by the girls are also important since they find it difficult to find buyers themselves.

At the end of the discussion, Dr. Stone concluded that differences and similarities related to the situation in Indonesia and Australia make cooperation in prevention very critical. Dr. Stone also appreciated the efforts of religious, cultural, non-formal and local government leaders in Makassar to address the issue.

Source: http://www.aipj.or.id/en/disability_inclusion/detail/community-forum-discussion-of-child-marriage-at-panakkukang-learning-from-indonesian-and-australian-experience

A Journey Against Defeat: Narratives of Women’s Rejection of Poverty

Going beyond the usual studies on poverty and gender, this research study records the powerful resilience of women in resisting impoverishmnet, in all its forms. Women’s resistance is long term and traverses sectors and venues, but without the necessary support and organisation, it can be sporadic and unsystematic.

The law offers hope to women. The law needs to be encouraged to serve as a support, since it is relatively neutral and universal. For gender equality the law needs to be constantly monitored and checked. Positive law needs to be aligned with the framework and norms of human rights particularly so for issues of violations of women’s rights. These cannot remain hidden away in domestic space or concealed by layers of culture.

‘It’s tradition’: The child brides of Indonesia’s Sumenep Regency

SUMENEP REGENCY, Indonesia: Bold makeup in hues of red and black lined their eyes, hair adorned with buds of jasmine, a bejewelled golden plate rested upon their foreheads, while more gold complemented vibrant clothing cinched at their waists.

Their small hands were intricately lined with a type of dye resembling henna; and while they looked like miniature human dolls, their faces were glum.

Shifty-eyed, fidgety and trying to keep their nervousness in check, these are the child brides and grooms of Sumenep Regency at their wedding.

Both the brides and grooms have bold makeup on their faces. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

Getting to Sumenep is no easy feat. The regency is 170km away from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, on the island of Madura.

You’ll have to fly from Jakarta to Surabaya, which could take anywhere between 75 and 90 minutes and then embark on a four-hour drive; this is how we found ourselves driving into the regency one morning, passing dozens of salt farms along the way.

A RECEPTION TO REMEMBER

The children, six of them, were at their wedding reception being held at a field with a large tent in the district of Dungkek.

According to guests, the children had just married that morning – the oldest was a fourteen-year-old boy who married a 13-year-old; the youngest, a four-year-old child, was wed to a five-year-old boy, and the last couple were a pair of six-year-olds.

Parents of the brides and grooms took turns between standing at the entrance of the tent to welcome guests and accompany their children, who sat quietly on the sidelines of a feast held in their honour.

The youngest child at the wedding reception was a 4 year-old girl. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

Alimatus Sadya, a mother of one of the brides explained that child marriage is commonplace in Madura.

“If anyone asks for the hand of your first child in marriage, you have to agree,” she said.

Her daughter, the oldest bride at thirteen years old, lurched forward and retched as she struggled to keep her emotions at bay. She was quickly pacified by Ms Alimatus and others around her.

The space under the tent was divided into two sections, one for men and the other for women.

Plush velvet sofas with golden frames sat atop a stage on one end. This is where guests were taking photos with the newlyweds prior to the feast.

A 13-year old child bride attempts to hide her emotions at by the side of her stage at her wedding reception. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

A band positioned at the centre of the tent played traditional music and female dancers were putting on a show for the men, dancing closely with them while being showered with rupiah bills.

A group of men and women in each section were also huddled together as they made a note of every gift that the families of the children received, both of monetary and non-monetary value.

Another parent, Fitri, who goes by one name as many Indonesians do, explained that the children had been matched by their parents – her son and daughter had both been married off.

“Well, over here it’s like that, they’re married off at a young age; it’s tradition,” she said with a laugh. “I am so happy.”

EMBEDDED IN TRADITION

In 2016, the National Statistics Agency supported by UNICEF launched two reports on child marriage.

The report showed that the rate of child marriage in Indonesia remains high, with over one in four girls marrying before reaching adulthood.

Based on data from 2008 to 2015, the percentage of “ever-married” women aged 20 to 24 who married before the age of 18 across 33 provinces in Indonesia ranked by average prevalence, placed West Sulawesi in the top spot, while East Java ranked 14th.

Research done in June this year by an NGO, the Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation, showed that close to 70 per cent of the people in Madura’s Sumenep regency married before the age of 18.

The district of Dungkek had the highest number of child marriages in the regency, with about 80 per cent of its nearly 4,000 people – as per national population records in 2015 – having married as children.

Executive director for the foundation, Lies Marcoes Natsir, said that in Sumenep, it is usually because parents want a debt repaid.

“The people have a tradition, usually if they throw a party, they receive a lot of support from their neighbours – and this is a reciprocal occurrence, actually,” she explained.

Guests lay money on the floor for dancers at the wedding reception of the six children. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

“So, they can throw a party because other people owe them a debt. Now, this has been in practice for a very long time, their ancestors did this and they always make a note,” said Lies.

“So if one family has a child, and they feel they want to collect what is owed to them from their neighbours – to whom they have already provided some sort of support – ‘tumpangan’ is what they call it – they will organise the marriage of their child, even if the child is still little.”

According to Lies, one of Indonesia’s foremost experts in Islam and gender as well as a women’s rights activist, the goal is to collect a debt.

So, in the event of a drought for example, or in times of financial difficulty, families tend to get their children betrothed and organise a party.

A guest at the wedding reception showers a dancer with rupiah bills. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

In the case of younger children, the marriage is known as a “hanging betrothal”.

This arrangement means that while their marriage has been solemnised, they are “promised” to each other.

The children will only live together as husband and wife when they are deemed to be old enough by their parents to do so, which could be when they are as young as 14 years old.

Until then, the children live separately and continue their education, only for the “husband” to visit his “wife” during holidays and religious celebrations.

A SECRET AFFAIR

Fifteen-year-old Uus (not her real name) married her boyfriend last year when she was just 14. He was 19 at the time and he had asked her parents for her hand in marriage. The two had known each other for a year.

“We were only married by a religious teacher … compared to just being boyfriend and girlfriend, such an unclear status, it’s better to have something that is certain,” she said, a reason which resonated with several of the child brides Channel NewsAsia spoke to.

Traditional music accompanies the newlyweds as they ride out of the party compound on horses. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

Muslim marriages in Indonesia must be registered at the government’s Religious Affairs Office (KUA), something Uus and her husband have not done. This means that the two do not have a marriage certificate.

“We haven’t gone to the religious office; I’m not legal yet,” said Uus.

What the young couple have done is known as “nikah siri”, which translates to mean unregistered or secret marriages – this is highly prevalent in Sumenep.

Indonesia’s 2002 Law on Child Protection prohibits marriage under the age of 18 under any circumstances, and such a marriage cannot be registered at the Religious Affairs Office.

But the country’s marriage laws are murky. Under the 1974 Marriage Law, which sets the legal parameters for marriage in the country, parental consent is required for all marriages under the age of 21.

With parental consent, girls can legally marry at the minimum age of 16 and boys at 19, providing they obtain approval from the religious court.

Parents can also file a petition at the religious court or district court to apply for an exemption and get their daughter to marry even earlier, with no minimum age limit, pending an approval.

“Well, if possible, we approve their request if the bride is 16 years old, because they are already mentally mature, so I think it’s okay,” Risana Yulinda, head of the religious court in Sumenep Regency told Channel NewsAsia.

“But sometimes in the event that the child is two months, three months shy of turning 16, we’ll also approve the request because it’s just a little bit of time,”

With parental consent, girls can legally marry at the minimum age of 16 in Indonesia. (Photo: AFP/ STR) 

Applications to marry off children below the age of 16 years were assessed on a case-by-case basis, she said.

“Are they Muslims? Are there any obstacles to the relationship such as them being siblings? Is there a proposal from someone else? If they marry, is their husband ready to provide for them? Are they pregnant? These are all factors that we consider,” said Risana.

But anecdotal evidence suggests that many parents skip getting an approval from the court.

Instead, couples apply for a retroactive confirmation of the marriage when they reach an age deemed legal by Indonesian law.

According to Risana, couples generally apply for a retroactive confirmation when they need to get their paperwork in order.

For example, if they need to make a passport, or if they need to make a birth certificate for their child, these situations require a marriage certificate.

There were more than 200 couples in 2016 who applied for confirmation, she said. With no way for authorities to prove that they were children when the marriage took place, such loopholes only make underage marriages all the more difficult to tackle.

While tradition is a main factor for the practice, according to observers, religion plays a key role in its support.

“Religion has made it legitimate for members of the community to say that getting a child married is the right of the guardian, and when they get a child married, they base that right on the fact that the Prophet married Siti Aisyah when she was nine years old,” said Tatik Hidayati, a lecturer at the Anuqqayah Institute of Islamic Sciences.

“So they use that as a justification that Islam doesn’t forbid it.”

These factors only add to the age debate.

AN UPHILL BATTLE

Records from the National Statistics Agency shows that there were 554 couples who divorced in 2016. There were also 55 cases of underage marriage sentenced by the Religious Court of Sumenep in the same year.

Sumenep is about 170km from Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

While there is no official data on whether the two overlap, or how many of the divorced couples married as children, authorities say the high divorce rate can be attributed to child marriage, and that they are working to tackle the issue through community engagement, by implementing various programmes.

“In fact in our planning programme, the most ideal age for women (to marry and bear children) is 21 years old, for men it is 25, which is the most ideal. According to their mental state, they are ready,” said Herman Poernomo, Head of Sumenep’s Empowerment of Women, Child Protection & Family Planning Office.

“If you marry your child off and he or she isn’t happy or prosperous, then what’s the point?” asked Herman, with the question he said he generally posed to parents wanting to marry off their children.

But many parents in Sumenep feel bound to the practice out of fear of their girls becoming so-called “spinsters”, a status attached to societal stigma.

Sumarni was married at the age of 13. While she has a daughter of her own now, she said her parents were worried that she would always remain single, which is why they arranged for her marriage.

“The first night (together) I didn’t know anything, I only knew how to cry.”

According to Sumarni, once a child is married, they become their husband’s responsibility, and this also motivates many parents to marry their children off.

There is also a general sense of concern among parents in the regency of their children spending time in close physical proximity with members of the opposite sex, sparking fears among parents who worry that it “could lead to something.”

Authorities have said that they cannot force parents who are accustomed to these traditions forego the practice, but what they have been trying to do is familiarise them with the consequences in an effort to approach the issue with sensitivity.

Marrying as children is detrimental from a health perspective as well, parents are told.

A mother sits with her newly-wed daughter on her lap. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

“A child who marries below the age of 15 and then gives birth, from a physical point of view it is not her time to give birth yet, so a woman’s reproductive organs are not ready for pregnancy,” said Hajah Kusmawati, head of health promotion at the regency’s health office.

She also cited the list of possible health conditions a pregnant child might go through in the course of giving birth, the extremity of which, is death.

“Abortion or the aborting of a baby because the child isn’t ready (to become a parent), internal bleeding, having a baby born underweight, then there’s also asphyxia, and a long labour.

“On the psychological front, the child is still a teenager, she will still wants to ‘have fun playing’; automatically, she won’t be optimal in taking care of a child she gave birth to,” Hajah said, adding that the parents or grandparents will take care of the child in such cases.

Data cited by the regency’s health office said that of about 69,200 teenagers in Sumenep, nine were pregnant in 2016, lower than the office’s 15-person estimate for the year.

According to Hajah, while children in the regency still got married, nowadays, they were likely to wait to before having children, at least until they turned 18 years old.

The health office, just like Sumenep’s Empowerment of Women, Child Protection & Family Planning Office, also engages the community with their programmes, which propagate healthy marriages at the age of 21 for girls, and 25 for boys.

In addition to their familiarisation programmes, the department provides counselling for children and parents as well, including having a dialogue with those who attempt to legitimise the practice by bringing religion into the matter.

Despite these programmes, the regency’s authorities emphasised that the country’s conflicting marital laws are an obstacle in their efforts. According to them, the onus is on the central government to revise the rules.

MOUNTING PRESSURE

Religious teachers have always played a key role in advising members of the community on traditional practices.

“Some traditions need to be upheld while others, child marriage among them, don’t,” stressed K Safraji, head of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) in Sumenep regency, or the Indonesian Ulema Council, Indonesia’s highest clerical body.

K Safraji, head of the Indonesian Ulema Council in Sumenep regency walks by a group of boys sitting at a mosque after school. (Photo: Chandni Vatvani) 

In 2015, Indonesia’s Constitutional Court rejected an application to raise the marriageable age for girls from 16 to 18 years, on the grounds that raising the marriageable age would not guarantee a reduction in divorce rates nor would it solve health and social problems.

But, in a landmark moment, female clerics this year urged the government to do just that. They issued an unprecedented fatwa or edict against child marriage after a three-day congress held in Cirebon, West Java province.

While an edict is non-binding, it is influential – and serves as a guideline for Muslims to practice their faith according to the local context.

Earlier this year, the government also said that it would seek the help of male clerics, who deliver Friday prayer sermons in mosques to campaign against the practice of child marriage.

In Sumenep, these movements have begun but haven’t made much progress yet, with majority of the clerics in there unaware of the efforts.

“So far, no one from the government has come to familiarise us with these efforts yet to prevent child marriage,” said Lestariyadi, a cleric and head of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organisation, for Sumenep’s Batang-Batang district.

He added that he was optimistic about a positive change, at least for Sumenep’s children, if authorities spread word about the programme and got everyone on board to carry it out.

Indonesian Ulema Council Head, K Safraji said they had already begun engaging the community to spread awareness on the problem.

The Indonesian government said that it would seek the help of male clerics, who deliver Friday prayer sermons in mosques to campaign against the practice of child marriage. (Photo: AFP/ Juni Kriswanto) 

The Council also implemented a strict vetting process when families approached them to get their children married he said, being sure to ask questions about age, and whether the couple had gone to the Religious Affairs Office to register their marriage.

One problem he said which still occurs and which they are trying to tackle is the manipulation of data.

“Just sometimes, there is some manipulation done by the parents, where they will tell the Office that a child is say already 16 years old, when in reality, he or she is just 11,” he said.

COMMITTING TO A SUSTAINABLE GOAL

Indonesia has committed to achieving its Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, its aims include eliminating all harmful practices against girls and women including child marriage.

But the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (18+ Coalition) in November issued a statement saying there had been no significant decrease in the number of child marriage rates in the past eight years.

The group cited data from the National Statistics Agency which showed child marriage rates were 27.4 per cent in 2008, and while they declined to 22.8 per cent in 2015, the rates went up to 25.7 per cent in 2017.

The group has accused the government of failing to commit to its goal.

“This indicates that the alleviation of child in marriage Indonesia has suffered a setback,” the group said in its press release.

Indonesia is ranked 37 on the global child marriage index and is the second highest in Southeast Asia after Cambodia.

With statistics like these, Lies Marcoes Natsir of the Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation said the situation concerning child marriage had reached a “critical” phase – at “emergency” level.

But while the problem is multi-layered, Lies is optimistic that the issue can make headway on certain conditions which should be addressed ahead of others.

“There are two conditions that I believe should be addressed immediately. The first one, is the state’s willingness to explore the possibility of reproduction and sexual education,” she said.

Pregnancy is also one of the reasons children are forced to marry she explained.

“We conducted research in 2014-2015 in nine regencies across five provinces, and we found that out of 52 children who were married, 36 among them got married because they were pregnant, pregnant and underage.”

In this context, the Religious Affairs Office (KUA) and the Religious Court fall under pressure from parents.

According to Lies, if the Religious Affairs Office declines to approve their marriage, parents would then go to the village branch and marry off their children without officially registering them, or, they would manipulate data such as the date of births and make the marriage happen.

The second issue according to Lies has to do with mindset.

“I believe is that if the child is already pregnant, what should be done – the child has two choices – either abortion or to bring the pregnancy to full term without having to marry.”

Lies went on to explain that the government must be brave enough to be able to tell people not to punish the baby or the mother, whether for being illegitimate or having so-called “bad morals”.

“If the government or all of us can be open and honest about these facts, then there is hope,” she said.

“But if this is not carried out, even if there is a national effort, or a coalition among the ministries, but they do not want to be open about sexuality, then it will be very difficult.”

Source: https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/it-s-tradition-the-child-brides-of-indonesia-sumenep-regency-9478014

The journey of Lies Marcoes looking for women narrating their fight against poverty

Ini adalah tulisan Prof Karel Steenbrink, mantan dosen Lies Marcoes di IAIN Jakarta sebagaimana dimuat dalam web Prof Karel, Relindonesia, 15 Januari 2015.

Lies Marcoes was one of my first students in Jakarta, 1981-1983. She was at that time a close friend of Yvonne Sutaredjo, a Chinese-Javanese student from Surinam. The two were quite exceptional. They were the only female students who went swimming in Sawangan, Not only for sport, but also as a protest against rules for the female students in the boarding house at the Islamic Academy, IAIN in Ciputat.

Lies was very keen on field research and she took for her final thesis the practices of a Libyan brotherhood in West Java. She became the first assistant to Martin van Bruinessen in the project on the ‘culture of poverty’ in the Sukapakir district of Bandung, one square km with about 100,000 citizens living or rather surviving. Lies and Martin wrote a special issue for the weekly Tempo that was no a report of poverty in statistics, but in lifestyle and personal portraits.

That was in 1984. Nearly thirty years later, and in a kind of sabbatical (although officially as ‘early retirement’ from the work at various NGO), she has given us another fight against poverty or at least how to survive in extreme poverty in a book written with the Australian Anne Lockley and beautiful pictures by Armin Hari.

Against-Defeat21

I received a copy of the book from Lies during our ‘tribute conference’ of  18-19 November 2014. In fact, it was not really a gift for me, but rather for my wife. We read it together, watched the photographs and told again stories about the many places she visited for this journey. Most places are known to us: Ende and Maumere in Flores, Makassar and Ambon, Pontianak and of course places in West Java. Lies has made many friends in Aceh and my wife Paule never joined me to a trip there.

This is not a book with statistics (although in the last of the five sections it is underlined that hard figures can be useful in the fight for justice. Its major goal is to give concrete examples that picture in a representative way how women and their children manage to survive, grow up, give help to children and older people. There are abundantly stories of women who are KK, Kepala Keluarga of ‘Head of a Family’ because they earn also the living for their husband, whether he is simply a loser, a too pious preacher earning nothing, or simply sick and disabled.

There are also quite a few pages about borrowing money (chapter 5, 112-122). It will be a good and critical appendix to the (too) positive words I wrote in Catholics in Indonesia vol 3 about credit union as the most important welfare activity of the Catholic Church, and other religious institutions, in Indonesia.

LM

This author with Lies Marcoes in our hotel during the Tribute conference of 18-19 November last year.

The book reminded me in several respects of the funny, sometimes also sad book by Elisabeth Pisani, Indonesia etc. Both women have a good connection with people really below the poverty line. They are not too easy with remedies and know that external help can be very good, but does not help quickly and often not at all. Pisani is very critical about formal religion. Lies did professional study of Islam, but is also very critical about traditional (adat) and religious institutions. She has, like Pisani, a special chapter 10 on religion. I read that of course with more than usual interest. The chapter begins with some nice words about religion: ‘Religious organisations are often among the many institutions that try to overcome poverty…’ (187). But following this beginning there is criticism because religious activities like collecting funds for Dompet Dhuafa often lacks an analysis of the roots of poverty. Religions often only want to remove female from the dangers of globalisation, but do not stimulate them to become active.

Six concrete examples are given of this negative influence of religion: 1. a young woman, Sum, who lost her job because she was dressing in a ‘fundamentalist way’.  Birth control was impossible for her. 2. Fira was a qualified pharmacist who had good jobs, but then married a pious preacher who did not earn the money himself, but still wanted her to leave her job. 3. Many criticism about the application of shari’a law in Aceh; very young children, pre-school, are not allowed to dance. 4. Prof. Alyasa Abubakar, one of the architects of the introduction of Shari’a in Aceh has consented that children of women who experienced the punishment of caning also feel stigmatised; 5. in not-recognised sects like Sunda Wiwitan and Ahmadiyah children do not have a birth certificate and they cannot inherit legally from their parents; 6. one Anne in Palu (probably a Christian) had a mixed marriage with a Muslim and the difference of religion was a disaster and caused a break in this marriage. Lies also gives some positive examples of prominent Muslims, approaching women. Page 198 is a funny recording of female Muslim leaders who visited prostitutes in Yogyakarta and were shocked to see how these women gave everything for the life and education of the children.

Thank you very much, Lies, for this honest, sincere and vivid book. I will read now in a different way the monthly sold by Utrecht homeless people, also full with their personal stories. Our son Florsi did not marry in a formal way and he had to go the the municipal administration before the birth of his two children, in order to have them formally registered also as his children and to give them a birth certificate, but for him this was an easy thing.