Victims seek to end child marriage

The Jakarta Post, page 3

No benefit could come from becoming a child bride and it could rather send young girls into poverty and poor health. Such was the position of three child-marriage victims seeking to challenge the 1974 Marriage Law in a bid to end the rampant practice.

The Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+) had previously filed a request to raise the minimum age for girls to marry from 16 to 18 in 2015. But it was rejected by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that there was no guarantee that if the age requirement was increased to 18 it would reduce divorce rates or solve health and social problems.

Now the coalition is representing the plaintiffs; Endang Warsinah, 35, Maryanti, 30, and Rasminah, 32, former child brides who were forced to marry at a young age as a result of poverty. Endang and Maryanti married at the age of 14, while Rasminah’s first marriage was at the age of 13.

The judicial review request was filed with the Court on Thursday, to mark Kartini Day, which is observed every April 21 to honor women’s emancipation.

The petitioners specifically challenge Article 7 paragraph 1 of the law, which sets the minimum age of marriage for women at 16, they have demanded the court raise the age requirement to 19, which is the minimum age of marriage for men.

They argue that the phrase “16 years old” in the article violates Article 27 paragraph 1 of the 1945 Constitution, which stipulates all citizens have equal status before the law. The phrase discriminated against girls’ rights to health and education and increased the risk of child exploitation, Dian Kartika, a lawyer for Koalisi 18+, said.

The survivors are challenging the article because they claim they suffered from being child brides and do not want their children and the nation’s future generations to experience underage marriage. The three women would share their experiences with the Court in hearings that have not been scheduled yet.

They are among 700 million women in the world who have experienced child marriage, a global phenomenon that remains a serious problem in Indonesia, which sees 50,000 girls marry before the age of 15 every year, UNICEF data in 2015 revealed. One in six Indonesian girls, about 340,000, are married before their 18th birthday every year, according to UNICEF.

Koalisi 18+ campaign coordinator Freynia condemned the government for not providing significant support in eradicating child marriage despite its fast response to address cases of sexual violence against children.

Meanwhile, Institute for Criminal Justice Reform executive director Supriyadi Widodo Eddyono expressed his expectation that the court would rule in favor of the plaintiffs and raise the minimum age of marriage given that in the current petition as it was the survivors who were filing the request. He said, the Constitutional Court should hear the voice of these women who did not want to marry at a young age but they did anyway because they were forced to by their parents.

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