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Endeavoring to prevent child marriages

Endeavoring to prevent child marriages

A campaign against child marriage in Kediri, East Java. ANTARA PHOTO/Prasetia Fauzani/pd.

Cases of child marriage are still common after nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This can be seen from the number of applications for marriage dispensation that is relatively high.

Most of these requests were granted by the local religious court.

The Religious Courts Body (Badilag) at the Supreme Court (MA) even noted that of the 52,089 applications that were submitted, 50,673 applications had been granted.

Dispensation is the granting of the right to a person to marry, even though that individual has not reached the minimum age of marriage.

According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), this condition occurs since several families are experiencing economic problems, so they choose to marry off their children at an early age.

This dispensation is also often given, as the girl is already pregnant or is worried about having sex.

In addition, there are parents, who think that getting married early is necessary to avoid adultery.

As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, the practice of child marriage began to diminish.

However, the numbers still cannot match the normal conditions in 2019. Meanwhile, the dispensation of marriage is stated in Article 7 of Law (UU) Number 16 of 2019 concerning Amendments to Law Number 1 of 1974 on Marriage.

According to this law, the parents of the man and/or the parents of the woman can ask the court for dispensation with very urgent reasons accompanied by sufficient supporting evidence.

Related news: Govt making serious efforts to handle early marriage: Minister

Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (PPPA) Bintang Puspayoga affirmed that the government will tighten the dispensation for marriage applications to reduce the number of child marriages.

"Child marriage should not occur again, as it not only violates children's rights but also human rights. Currently, the government is also setting up a mechanism to tighten dispensation for marriage applications. It will not be easy to obtain," she noted.

The minister also pointed to the several negative impacts of child marriages. It destroys the future of the child itself and will erode the nation's aspirations to create superior and competitive human resources.

"Marriage triggers high school dropout rates and from a health perspective, it is prone to maternal mortality, anemia, mental unpreparedness, and also malnutrition", she remarked.

From an economic standpoint, children, who get married at a young age, are oftentimes left with no choice but to work and get menial jobs with low wages. She cautioned that this condition would trigger extreme poverty in future.

The other aspect of concern is the physical and mental unpreparedness that can increase the likelihood of domestic violence.

Puspayoga also highlighted the child marriage dispensation case in Ponorogo District, East Java, which occurred due to pregnancy before marriage.

Until now, Ponorogo District still has a high number of child marriages. In 2020, there were 241 cases of child marriage dispensation, and the figure increased to 266 cases in 2021, though in 2022, such cases had decreased to 191.

"We appreciate the decline in cases of child marriage dispensation that shows all parties' efforts to prevent the increasing number of child marriages in Ponorogo," she stated.

In addition, the ministry has coordinated with the East Java PPPA Service and the Ponorogo PPPA Service to monitor child marriage dispensation cases in Ponorogo. The plan is to immediately coordinate with the Ponorogo Religious Court.

The minister emphasized that the government is making serious efforts to handle the early marriage issue in Indonesia.

"We are being very serious about it. This is really dangerous," she said.

The PPPA Ministry will conduct a coordination meeting regarding early child marriage.

"Later, we will have a coordination meeting. Right now, there are many issues related to children, including kidnapping. We will discuss this with existing stakeholders. Prevention is the important key," Puspayoga emphasized.

The role of related ministries and non-ministerial government agencies (K/L) as well as regional heads is important to oversee the prevention of early child marriage, she added.

"In order to suppress it, we have also coordinated with our friends from non-governmental organizations (NGO) and the Religious Judiciary Agency. We discussed issues related to children, including child marriage," she stated.

However, the minister did not specify strict measures that the government will take to prevent early marriage.

"We coordinate first, then we will find the solution. We will give the detail in the near future," she said.

Role of parents
Deputy for Coordination of Quality Improvement for Children, Women, and Youth of the ministry Femmy Eka Kartika Putri stated that parents have a significant role to play in preventing child marriage.

"Parental assistance to children can prevent child marriage," Putri stated.

Related news: Parents play a significant role in preventing child marriage: Ministry

Putri explained that parents could educate their children about various negative impacts caused by child marriage.

Parents can also provide understanding to their children about the dangers of today's promiscuity and accompany their children to avoid it, she said.

In addition, she said, the active role of educational institutions can contribute positively to efforts to prevent child marriage.

According to Putri, concern from school teachers is urgently needed through education about the dangers of child marriage.

"Schools and parents must have a similar understanding, so that children understand the risks of early marriage," she emphasized.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Minister for Human Development and Culture Muhadjir Effendy also invited all parties, especially parents, to prevent child marriage to avoid its various negative impacts.

"Child marriage is feared to have negative impacts, such as domestic violence, divorce, and stunting in children, who will be born to the emergence of new poor families," Effendy said.

He added that marriage requires both physical and mental readiness to create a harmonious household.

"There is a lack of necessary preparation in the case of child marriage. It is feared that a woman, who is married under 18, is not physically ready to give birth and become a mother," he pointed out.

Giving birth at a young age is also feared to threaten the lives of the mother and baby, he stated.

Related news: West Java task force to handle child marriage dispensations
Related news: Tighten dispensation for marriage applications: Minister