The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) called on the government to raise the legal minimum age for marriage from 16 to 18 years old for females.
Komnas Perempuan said that the move could help lower the country’s alarming maternal mortality rate.
Law No. 1/1974 on marriage stipulates that a woman must be at least 16 to marry.
“There is a clear correlation between our inability to lower the maternal mortality rate and child marriages. Girls at such a young age are still growing and are neither physically nor mentally prepared for childbearing,” Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, the commission’s chairman, said on Wednesday.
Indonesia has one of the highest percentages of child marriage cases in the world and the second-highest in ASEAN after Cambodia.
The number of married females aged between 10 and 14 years has reached more than 22,000 or 0.2 percent of the population, while married females aged between 15 and 19 account for 11.7 percent.
Yuniyanti said that the government was obligated to protect the basic rights of females and that as an initial step, the legal marriage for females should be changed.
Since the year 2000, the government has targeted to reduce the maternal mortality rate to 102 per 100,000 live births to meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.
The 2012 Indonesia Demographic and Health Survey (SDKI) found that the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia stood at 359 per 100,000 live births, up from 228 per 100,000 live births in 2007.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) World Factbook also showed that Indonesia had the 52nd-highest maternal mortality rate out of 184 countries.
Indonesia might have improved its position on the list because the CIA World Factbook used data from 2010, when the maternal mortality rate stood at 220 per 100,000 live births.
Sylvana Maria Apituley, chairman of the commission’s branch in Papua, said that the rising maternal mortality rate should prompt the public to question the government’s commitment to protecting women and their well-being.
“The number is rising, that is a fact, but what is being done about it? Has the government critically analyzed why the number continues to rise?” She said.
Yuniyanti said that young brides were also vulnerable to domestic abuse, which can cause pregnancy complications. A study in Finland found that women who experienced domestic abuse had weaker immune systems, and their chances of surviving labor also significantly decreased, she said. (fss)
Paper Edition | Page: 4