On the eve of the Kartini Day, three women who were victims of child marriage have filed a Judicial Review on Marriage Law, the latest attempt to raise the marrying age and make underage marriage illegal in Indonesia.
The three child bride survivors, Endang Wasrinah, Maryanti and Rasminah, are represented by the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage, Koalisi 18+. Endang and Maryanti married at the age of 14, while Rasmidah's first marriage was at the age of 13. They were forced by their parents to marry at such young age due to financial struggles.
“They felt they had suffered as child brides. They did not want to see their children or future generations forced into the same experience,” said Dian Kartika, SH, one of the Koalisi 18+ attorney team.
The petitioners specifically challenged Article 7 (1) of the law, which sets the minimum age of marriage for women at 16. They are demanding the court to raise the age requirement to 19, which is the minimum age of marriage for men. Indonesia’s Law actually determines children as those under 18 years of age.
The petition was made because the existing law still fails to provide protection for women from the practice of child marriage. Even with the minimum marrying age set at 16, many young girls younger than that have been forced to marry, often in religious ceremony only, for financial reasons with officials turning a blind’s eye to the practice.
“President Joko Widodo and Parliament responded so quickly to cases of sexual violence against underage girls. But, on the contrary, in the context of child marriage the government has not shown any real support by adopting a strategic policy that can end child marriage,” said Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono, SH, one of the Koalisi 18+ attorney team.
He also said that child marriage deprived the opportunity of the children to complete 12 years of education, and potentially bear the burden of child and family care. In addition, child marriage contributes to the high maternal and child mortality rate in Indonesia.
According to the Indonesian Children Profile compiled by BPS in 2015, the percentage of child marriage aged 10-17 in urban areas is 0.9 percent, while in rural areas 2.24 percent. The data shows that 35.83 percent of the population were married before the age of 15 years, 39.45 percent at the age of 16 years, and 24.72 percent at the age of 17 years.
Furthermore, women who give birth at the age of 10 to 14 are five times more likely to die during pregnancy or labor than women aged 20-24, and children who give birth at 15-19 years old are twice more likely to die, according to the World Health Organization. The Ministry of Health confirmed that underage pregnancy is one of the causes of maternal death.
With the current situation, the Indonesian government can no longer turn a blind eye.
“These facts show that child marriage violates children’s rights, such as their rights to education, health, growth and freedom from sexual violence,” said Freynia, the Campaign Coordinator of Koalisi 18+.
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