NTB Struggles to Fight Early Marriage Trend

The Jakarta Post, page 5

The West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province has every reason to curb the trend of early marriage, which it believes has led to a rise not only in divorce rates but also in poverty rates.

That is why the province decided to issue a regulation in 2014 placing the marriage age at 21 both men and women, which is higher than 16, the age limit set by the 1974 Marriage Law.

However, the regulation has yet to yield positive results. Lalu Makripuddin, head of the provincial Family Planning Agency (BKKBN), said recently that based on the agency’s data collected from 10 regencies in the province last year, 58 percent out of 1.4 million sexually active married couples were younger than 19 when they tied the knot.

Makripuddin said there are a total of 500,000 to 700,000 couples that got married before age 19. The percentage is higher than the national average, which is 34 percent. He adding that out of the 58 percent of the young married couples, 20 percent were married before 15 years of age.

The high percentage has made NTB the province with the third highest rate of early marriage after South Kalimantan and West Java.

Makripudin said the trend of early marriage has become a problem in NTB. The trend, he said, had contribute to the high number of divorce case and also increased the poverty rate, which has pushed many young women to go overseas and live as migrant workers. He said early marriage has a lot of negative impact on health, family resilience, education and the economy because the couples are not ready to be adults, physically and mentally.

Couples who married young reportedly had divorce risk six times higher than those who married at more mature ages. Economic hardship is often cited as a factor that cause early marriage to crumble in the province as it usually forces husbands or wives to work overseas, thus leaving their spouses alone. Women, he said, suffered the most as they usually took custody of the children, which made it more difficult for them to work.

The high rate of early marriage in the province was caused by factors including culture, education level and economic status.

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