NU Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage


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.


Vanessa Angel Alleged Prostitution and Gender Inequality

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Recent news about the arrest of local celebrity Vanessa Angel for her alleged involvement in underground online prostitution came under the national spotlight.

However, public judgment mostly corners Vanessa and totally exposes her for being the user of the underground prostitution service, such commentary is also found in a large number of major news reports but many have failed to shed light on the male individual that acts as the consumer of her so-called service.

Ermelina Singereta from the Women’s Rights Defender Alliance (WRDA) argued about the public treatment of the online prostitution case. “Why not [also expose] the men that have used her physical body? What is it with a woman’s body?” wrote Ermelina on her Facebook page.

According to the commission 8 House of Representatives (DPR) public advocacy expert staff, every case involving women will always have an element of gender inequality positioning them in a vulnerable position.

“Especially in the case implicating Vanessa Angel where a woman’s body was used and exploited, even though it was consensual this case seems to draw a picture of the victim that has yet understood her rights to her body,” Ermelina explained.

She explained that prostitution will always place women as victims and that it is not exclusively an issue of class. Ermelina said that lower class prostitutions happen because it is driven by poverty experienced by the victim, or woman. She claims the victim’s inability and helplessness to find a proper and better job forces them to accept working in the prostitution industry.

Meanwhile, women in upper-class prostitution can also be considered as victims of the capitalistic industry that so often uses female body to look impeccably beautiful, glamorous, and many more.

However, it is understandable for the public’s inability to see upper-class female prostitutes as victims because Ermelina argues that women in this social status are considered by most to have the proper awareness of their own body.


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.


Komnas Perempuan Launches New and Improved Call Center for Violence Victims

Reporting on violence against women in Indonesia has been made much easier and accurate with the help the newly launched Cloud Call Center at the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan). A partnership between Komnas Perempuan and ICT solution company Telkomtestra, the new system makes it possible for the Commission to take a lot more reports by phones using a new call-center number and to track down calls so that they can respond to the reports with the right measures.

The system is particularly aimed at facilitating those reporting sexual violence that occur within the cyberspace.

Komnas Perempuan Chair Azriana R Manalu said during the launch of the system on Nov. 4: “With cybercrimes, victims do not have to report directly. They can report their cases online. With Cloud Call Center reporting sexual cybercrimes has become much easier.”

Previously, Komnas Perempuan’s call center, which is based in Jakarta, is manned by people, opening up to possibilities of human errors and making data collecting too time consuming. The Cloud Call Center makes phone conversations much easier to track, so that violence victims everywhere can be assisted rapidly.

“These women all over Indonesia have one thing is common: they are all under the cloud, so we hope that a cloud contact center would be able to reach every single one who needs help,” said Erik Meijer, President Director of Telkomtelstra.

Azriana said that taking perpetrators of cyber sexual violence to court is a tough task:   “There is no law that regulates cyber sexual violence, so what we usually do is help the victims recover first. We contact their friends and families and try to make them understand that this is not the victim’s fault.”

“If there is enough strong evidence, we counterattack the abusers using the Law on Electronic Information and Transaction on spreading pornography. All that is made possible by our call center that has helped many women in the past. With the new features, we can help more,” said Azriana.

The Caller ID technology features helps collect data of the victims the moment they access the call center. It makes it easier to use the data when the case is being taken to court. Another important feature of the new call center is the voice mail function, which makes it possible for callers to report when all the phones are busy, which is often the case. Now they can just leave a message and the call center staff would be able to go back to them with the help they need. This is also useful for further investigations and research on all cases of violence against women, explained Azriana.

Cyber sexual violence has been a difficult case to solve in many countries too. Even when the visuals or writings have been taken down, they could easily be shared again by other parties that have saved or screencapped it. Cases like cyber sexual violence also have additional complexities that make it more challenging to bring to justice using existing laws. In cases of revenge porn, instead of getting help to recover, victims are primarily blamed by people, including their families, friends, and their work environment. In some cases, they are further punished by being expelled from their schools or fired from their job.

“Anyone could be a victim of cyber sexual violence,” said Nadya Karima Melati, co-founder of Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC). “It’s not about why the victims would put themselves in the position that may jeopardize them, but why were the materials leaked in the first place? If the victim did not give consent, then there is nothing to justify the act of spreading the materials.”

Nadya, whose organization has done some researches into cyber sexual crimes, blamed the secondary role women still holds in society that places them in the domestic setting and may result in their lack of knowledge in technology. Also, many people are still not aware of the effects of the media and how it can ruin their lives, she added.

Llia Halimatussadiah, co-manager of Girls in Tech, encourages women and youth to be more media and internet-savvy.

“There are many workshops that could help women to know what they should do when they are hacked or experiencing cyber sexual violence. I think a lot of people, both male and female, would benefit from them. If you focus on positive things, not only will you not be tempted to do unnecessary things but also be able to fight and protect yourself,” she said.

If you want to report a case of violence against women, dial Komnas Perempuan’s new call center ‎+62 21 80605399.

Find out why sexual violence survivors in schools and campuses choose to stay silent over their assault.

Angesti Citra Asih is an intern reporter at Magdalene and final assignment warrior at Universitas Multimedia Nusantara. Her favorite conversation topics are humanity and pop culture. She loves music, especially contemporary R&B like Teza Semendra and Honne, and enjoys playing ukulele and guitar.