07/15/2011, 00.00
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Accepted by most Indonesians, polygamy is rejected by young people

by Mathias Hariyadi
Public figures and politicians are increasingly willing to admit they practice polygamy. A survey indicates however that most young Indonesian Muslims reject it as well as premarital sex.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Young Indonesian Muslims are against polygamy and premarital sex, this according to a recent study by the Indonesian Survey Institute (ISI). Ninety-eight per cent of the nearly 1,500 respondents rejected premarital sex; 99 per cent reject homosexuality and 89 per cent anti alcohol beverages. “Most young Muslims have shown their conservative opinions on these three matters,” the ISIS concluded. However, other surveys indicate that polygamy is spreading among politicians and public figures. At the same time, despite public opposition, premarital sex is more widespread than thought, albeit in secret.

As evidence of young Indonesians’ conservatism, the ISI survey found that 28.7 per cent of them prayed five times a day (as prescribed by their religion); 11.7 per cent understand many verses of the Qur‘an and just under 60 per cent fast during Ramadan.

A poll conducted by the Indonesian Birth Control Bureau (BKKBN) in 2000 indicated that 50 per cent of Indonesian youngsters had had premarital sex.

Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country and polygamy is part of its culture. However, President Suharto, who ruled the country between 1967 and 1998, was strictly monogamous and would brook no compromise with polygamy, especially among government officials. In fact, he would not hesitate from firing officials involved in extramarital affairs. A monogamous marriage law (UU Perkawinan No. 1/Year 1974) was adopted during his presidency.

At present, polygamy appears to be making a comeback, this at least is one of the conclusions of a survey that was conducted for the Semarak Cerlang Nusa Consultancy and other groups that was released in January of this year.

Similarly, when Sharia is discussed, a growing number of public figures and politicians are less reluctant to hide their polygamous behaviour.

Recently, a well-known Muslim religious leader officially announced his intention to take a second wife. In Bogor, a local official also said that he would take a third wife. The announcement did not make any major waves except in relation to the would-be third consort’s young age.

Women’s groups have not been silent however. A number of them have criticised polygamy, saying that it is “a violent action against women”.

Finally, a survey conducted by two German-based cultural organisations found that 86.5 per cent of 1,496 Indonesians interviewed said they were against polygamy.

The contradictory trends indicated by the polls are a sign of an important cleavage in Indonesian society between conservatives and traditionalists, who are centred in rural areas, and more progressive Indonesians who live in the big cities.

More conservative-minded Indonesians view premarital sex as something unlawful despite the fact that more and more young people do it in the cities. By contrast, the latter increasingly accept ‘kumpul kebo’, or ‘living together’ outside of their families, free to determine their own behaviour.
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