02/20/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

Jakarta taxes marriages with foreigners: 50 thousand dollars to marry Indonesian women

Mathias Hariyadi
The law aims to "protect" wives and children in cases of abandonment. The bill is supported by the Indonesian Council of Ulema and the money will be paid to Islamic banks. However, it does not apply to foreign women married to Indonesians.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Foreigners will have to pay at least 500 million Indonesian rupiah - about 50 thousand dollars - to marry a woman of the archipelago. The sum of money, payable to one of Islamic banks in the country, will serve to "protect" wives and children in divorce cases. This is spelled out in a bill currently before Parliament and strongly supported by the powerful Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI). The norm, however, does not apply to the Indonesian men who marry foreign women.

After the controversy that erupted in recent days about the proposal to punish unmarried couples and polygamy, although permitted in Islam, with prison and fines, comes another provision intended to provoke a fierce debate in Indonesia. The goal, explains the signatories of the Act, is to "ensure" a financial income to women and children, where the husband wishes to separate.  

Mixed marriages between Indonesian women and foreign men - mainly from the Middle East - have become common practice in the country. Even in the entertainment world, including among soap-opera actresses and pop singers, there are numerous examples. According to the bill the money is to be paid "to an Islamic bank" - the Syariah banks - and "will be given to the women should the husband abandon his wife and children for unspecified reasons."  

The amount, says the text, shall be withdrawn only at the time of separation and help to ensure the survival of the family and children until they reach the 21st birthday. However, the law does not apply in cases of mixed marriages between Indonesian men and foreign women. In this case, the husband is not obliged to pay money and the wife is left to defend herself.  

Amidan Kiai Hajj, head of the MUI, is among the bill’s strongest supporters, because it ensures "the welfare of wife and child in case of divorce." The Muslim leader's comment relates to the series of "ugly incidents" that have occurred recently in Borneo (Kalimantan). Many Indonesians have married foreign workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors, who - once they lost their jobs – return to their countries of origin, leaving their families "without any funds to ensure the survival of." He stressed that the money "should be paid to Islamic banks."

The bill has already met with considerable criticism, particularly among women from the world of showbiz. Julia Perez – a soap-opera actress - who previously dated a Frenchman and is now engaged to an Argentine, said she was "shocked" by the rule being considered by Parliament which she defines as "controversial". An opinion shared by actress Feby Febiola (pictured), married to a Frenchman. Different the opinion of Ruhut Sitompul, of the governing Democrat Party, who supports a law "designed to protect women and children from harmful actions of the [foreigner] father."

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