The Jakarta Post
The minimum age of 16 years to marry under the prevailing 1974 marriage law is not a sharia-binding regulation for Muslims, according to Nahdlatul Ulama ( NU ) jurists.
The panel of sharia experts announced there was no age limitation for marriage under Islamic law.
They did not cite gender; but the law states that women must be at least 16 to marry, while the minimum age for men to marry is 18.
The experts said Muslim parents can marry off their underage children, but strongly appealed for marriages to only be carried out after the child has reached puberty.
The jurists underlined that couples in which both are underage must abstain from sexual intercourse until they are deemed physically and mentally capable of doing so.
The edict was reached at a meeting of jurists at the national leadership conference of NU, the country’s largest Muslim organization, in Makassar, South Sulawesi.
“The majority of clerics are of the opinion that there is no minimum age limit in marriage under sharia law,” NU jurist Cholil Nafis told a press conference on the sidelines of the congress on Friday.
The edict to allow for underage marriages quickly sparked protests from human rights activists Friday.
“It’s a setback and contravenes the 2002 Child Protection Law,” National Commission for Child’s Protection ( Komnas Anak ) secretary general Arist Merdeka Sirait said.
Article 48 of the law requires parents to prevent their children from underage marriages, he argued.
“Underage marriages eliminate the rights of children, particularly to determine their future, and encourages sexual exploitation,” Arist said.
He said children had to obey their parents but the latter cannot determine the future of their sons or daughters.
“Although underage couples will not live together until after they reach puberty, their rights to pursue education and their future will be eliminated because they have been tied under the marriage institution.”
Arist urged the NU jurists to review the decision and comply to the marriage and child protection laws.
In many cases in Indonesia, parents decide who their daughter is to marry.
Often the groom is much older and richer.
The latest such case to make headlines was that of Medan businessman M. Indra Biari, 60, who took a 12-year-old girl as his sixth wife.
Also late Thursday, the jurists from NU branches landed theological support for law enforcers to use the phone bugging mechanisms for criminal investigations.
“Spying in Islam is basically haram but if it is considered the only way to uncover a case for
public interest, it becomes halal,” senior cleric Syaifuddin Amir said Friday, adding that wiretapp-ing is deemed haram since it interferes with somebody’s private matters.
He said phone bugging must also be supported with strong supporting evidence. The conference also discussed several issues including on burying the dead.
The NU, however, forbade Muslims from burying the bodies of family members in the same grave as a non-Muslim.