News Feature

Rampant contract marriages in community worrisome trend

Rampant contract marriages in community worrisome trend

Lisa Thalia Natalia, 39, from an underprivileged family and an elementary school graduate, was not nervous when her boss made a marriage proposal.

The seven arrested Chinese citizens, prospective marriage brides in West Kalimantan, remind Natalia of her experiences in1990-1998 when she was 20, away from her hometown and a shopkeeper in one of West Jakarta's shopping centers.

The shop owner was Hong Kong man married to a Chinese from Tangerang, Indonesia. Natalia's honest and tenacious work ethics made her trustworthy.

"Honesty is necessary while working with Chinese. Once we lie, they will not trust and hire us again," Natalia stated in Bogor, West Java, Saturday.

Natalia's boss was enamored by her work ethics. Moreover, Natalia prepared Hong Kong cuisine perfectly that she learnt from Popo, the boss' mother.

While working, Natalia and friends lived in the boss house.  

When free, Natalia helped Popo cook, thereby learning Hong Kong-style dishes.

Once when a housemaid arrived late, Natalia decided to cook Hong Kong-style food for her boss's family which her boss praised.

Natalia realized her boss liked her, showering attention, and trusting her over 20-year-old employees.

Natalia recalled her boss luring her to be his mistress, promising to open a restaurant, though seeking secrecy.

"My boss said I like you and whether I want to own a restaurant, though none, including his wife, must know," Natalia, currently an owner of a food stall in Bogor, remarked.

The invitation was tempting, but Natalia refused, likening it to someone shopping at her stall, or small restaurant.

A person not liking tuna will not purchase it if the stall owner offers it.

"Wealth is not a measure of happiness. If we have huge wealth now, but are unhappy, just lying, especially happy over people's sufferings," Natalia noted.

No wanting to hurt her boss's wife, who was kind and trusted her, she accepted her friend Mili's invitation to live in an apartment in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta.

Natalia stayed with a village friend, who entered a contract marriage with a Korean man.

She knew the secret after Mili showed a wedding photo and contract.

Natalia said during the three-year marriage contract Mili was wife to the Korean.

Natalia and her friend knew the Korean man as she often met him at work. The man had a shop nearby their workplace and had a wife and family in Korea.

"His job is like his usual wife, but when her husband returned to Korea, she (his friend) could not contact her husband. Only was a wife when he was in Indonesia," Natalia stated.

Natalia and work friends knew of Mili being in a contract marriage.

Mili officially married the Korean man and her parents then knew him. Natalia was invited to the official Islamic wedding. Mili thus had two men in her life from her official marriage.

contract marriage phenomenon

Family resilience expert from the Bogor Institute of Agriculture,  Prof. Euis Sunarti, said contract marriages have long existed in the community due to agreed results.

"Contract marriages abound in the community due to the deal struck and not from coercion," Sunarti remarked.

Sunarti said in contract marriages, women were initially seduced or slightly coerced until they agreed.

She said contract marriages differed from religious or betel marriage.

She noted that contract marriages were based on contracts and temporary interests and not according to the marriage law that underscores matrimony based on religion and thereafter civil registration.

Marriage in religion and law aims to have families, children, offspring, love, relationships, and unite families.

"I seek unregistered marriage for life, not for few years and thereafter divorce," Sunarti noted.

Contract marriages abound due to economic factors, with work and income promised.


Community members, particularly mothers, are worried over rampant contract marriages, likening them to moral degradation.

"A mother views this phenomenon as worrisome and moral degradation," Siti Natawati, Bogor, West Java, advocate, stated.

Legally, she said, contract marriage is unfavorable for women and children due to no legal binding constitutionally, unclear citizenship status, and no assured inheritance rights, for which the government and community must synergize efforts to prevent this. The government should clarify the difference between contract marriage and unregistered marriage.