09/19/2019, 17.54
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Jakarta raises the marriage age for women to 19 years

The old limit was 16 years. Every year, one in six Indonesian girls (340,000) gets married before they turn 18. Religious courts have already granted a15-year-old a dispensation to be legally married.

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia’s parliament voted unanimously in plenary session on 16 September to revise the country’s marriage law, raising the minimum marriage age for women from 16 to 19.

Supporters of the measure welcome the decision, describing it as a step forward in the fight against child marriages (perkawinan dini), a major issue in the world’s most populous Islamic country.

Each year, one in six Indonesian girls, some 340,000 in all, is married off before the age of 18. A report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) drafted in cooperation with Indonesia’s National Statistics Agency (Badan Pusat Statistik, BPS) ranks the country 37th in the world for child marriages, second in South East Asia to Cambodia. However, the Girls Not Brides advocacy group puts Indonesia in the top ten countries in the world for child brides.

In a statement, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise said that child marriage in Indonesia is the cause of maternal and infant deaths. In addition, the problem of child brides contributes also to that of child labour.

Under the 1974 Marriage Law, the minimum age for women to marry was 16 and 19 for men. However, the 2002 Child Protection Law defines children as anyone under the age of 18.

Religious courts have already granted a 15-year-old a dispensation to be legally marred, especially in regions where child marriage is traditionally practised.

On 13 December 2018, the Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi, MK) ruled that that the lower minimum age for women was discriminatory, and ordered the government to review the law within three years.

Parliament’s decision was broadly welcomed in the country. Ari Anggorowati, a researcher with the BPS, told AsiaNews that "The issue of the age of marriage is a very important topic, but mostly for Indonesian women” because it “can determine the quality of life in the family and therefore of the Indonesian population. Women who marry must be mentally and physically ready."

For Sister Nathalia, a Dominican nun and a member of the Gender and Women Empowerment Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), this “was an excellent step. It will have positive impacts on many aspects of life. At 19, a woman is mature enough to cope with married life: she is ready for pregnancy, childbirth and child's growth."

(Mathias Hariyadi contributed to the article).

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