The Jakarta Post, page 1
The World Health Organization (WHO) has demanded Indonesia renew its commitment to reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates by campaigning for young married couples to delay childbirth, as the country experiences a surge in the number of early marriages.
During the WHO Southeast Asia Regional Meeting, participated in by 11 countries in the region, the WHO recommended that health authorities in Indonesia reach out to parents and young couples and provide information about the risks that early pregnancy entails, both to the mother and baby.
The 1974 Marriage Law sets 16 years as the minimum age of marriage for women, but from a health standpoint a woman is physically and mentally ready for marriage at 21, for men it is 25.
Although Indonesia has seen a significant decline in maternal mortality rates, from 446 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 126 per 100,000 live births in 2015, a 72 percent reduction, according to WHO data, the country is still among the 11 countries in the region prone to high maternal and neonatal mortality rates because of the prevalence of underage marriages.
The country’s progress still lags behind other countries in the regions, including Timor Leste, which has achieved an 80 percent reduction in maternal mortality from 1990-2015, from 1,800 per 100,000 live births to 215. Maldives has shown a 90 percent reduction in the same period, while Bhutan achieved 84 percent.
WHO statistics reveal that about 43 percent of girls in Indonesia get married by the age of 18 and begin childbearing by the age of 19.
Neena Raina, WHO Souteasth Asia’s coordinator for maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health, encouraged young married couples to spend several years together before they try for a baby. She said, It is better for them to delay childbirth until 20, so they can have some fun for the first several years.
In recent years, Indonesia has recorded a surge in the number of early marriages thanks to intensive campaigning by conservative Muslim groups, raising concerns about increased health risks.
Separately, Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) head Surya Chandra Surapaty acknowledged that it was getting more difficult to encourage families to join family-planning programs (KB) since the fall of the New Order regime and national moves toward decentralization.
The agency recently launched a campaign, called Generasi Berencana (GenRe, or Generation with Plans), to discourage marriage among teenagers in an attempt to disseminate information on the risks of child marriage among young people aged between 10 and 24 years.
Surya said, in the end, it all depends on the commitment of local governments to promoting family-planning programs. Now the programs are neglected and many people are getting married too young and they don’t space out the births of each child.