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Jakarta Post

Minimum age for marriage debated at Constitutional Court

  • Ina Parlina

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, December 3, 2014   /  10:15 am

Another judicial review challenging the Marriage Law at the Constitutional Court (MK) has created a debate on the minimum age for women to marry.

The judicial review request, filed by several women and child rights groups campaigners, centers on a provision in Law No. 1/1974 on marriage that sees 16 years as the minimum age for marriage for females.

The request is aimed at reducing the number of underage marriages, which is one of the highest in the world and is the second-highest in ASEAN after Cambodia.

The plaintiffs are demanding the court to raise the legal minimum age for marriage as stipulated by the Marriage Law from 16 to 18 years for females.

During Tuesday'€™s hearing, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and the country'€™s two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, balked at the proposal and told the court to reject the judicial review request.

The Indonesian Hindu Religious Council (PHDI), meanwhile, presented an argument supporting the petitioners.

'€œThe provision on the minimum age of 16 is consistent with Islamic teachings,'€ MUI leader Amidhan Shaberah said during the hearing.

NU'€™s Ahmad Isomuddin said the current provision in the Marriage Law gave protection to children.

'€œMarriage before adulthood is allowed by some [Muslim] scholars, but [they] prohibit sexual intercourse [outside wedlock] for minors,'€ Isomuddin said. '€œRaising the minimum age is similar to delaying marriage, while marriage is in fact a solution to preventing free sex.'€

In their argument, Muhammadiyah said that a passage in the Koran that said those who were considered mature enough to get married were those who already had the urge to raise a family.

The PHDI argued that Hinduism considered adults as those who were mentally and physically mature.

'€œHaving said that, the most appropriate age for a woman to get married is 18,'€ the PHDI'€™s I Nengah Dana told the hearing.

The High Council of Confucianism in Indonesia (Matakin) clergymen council deputy head Djaengrana Ongawijaya said his institution would leave the decision on the disputed provision to the court.

'€œWe are not in a position to support or reject it since we consider that the most important issue here is that we should obey the law and adapt religious teachings based on the regulation,'€ he said.

The plaintiffs have argued the disputed provision in the Marriage Law has created legal uncertainty and contravenes the Child Protection Law, which defines those below 18-years-old as minors.

They have also said that child marriage denies children their right to grow and develop, as well as their right to education.

A number of expert witnesses presented to the court by the petitioners, including a gynecologist, a pediatric, a psychologist and noted Muslim cleric Quraish Shihab, backed the proposal that 18 was the ideal minimum age for a female to get married.

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