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Jakarta Post

#LayanganPutus: How viral story stirs debate about polygamy, life after divorce in Indonesia

  • Gisela Swaragita
    Gisela Swaragita

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, November 6, 2019   /   08:04 am
#LayanganPutus: How viral story stirs debate about polygamy, life after divorce in Indonesia  Illustration of a polygamous relationship. (Shutterstock/File)

A Facebook status update posted by a woman who had to struggle financially while taking care of her four children after a divorce went viral and has stirred debate on social media about women’s rights and the Islamic hijrah (born again) movement.

The story was posted by a woman identified only as Mommi ASF, who decided to delete her post after it went viral. The story has been trending on Twitter since some users posted screen captures of the status updates on the social media platform with the hashtag #layanganputus.

Layangan putus is the Indonesian phrase for a kite with a broken thread. The author uses the phrase to describe her post-divorce life.

The story describes Mommi ASF’s personal record of how her eight-year marriage broke up after her husband, said to be a well-known preacher who has a YouTube channel dedicated to Islamic preaching, married a younger woman. 

According to the story, one day the husband left home without a word for days, making Mommi worried that he had left for the Middle East to join a militant organization.

She later found out that her husband had gone on a honeymoon with another woman to Turkey, a woman he married without blessings from nor acknowledgement of the first wife. Islamic law indeed permits men to marry up to four women, but only with blessings from the previous wives. 

Mommi then filed for divorce and took custody of her four children, diving head-first into a life with a significantly lower financial quality without support from her husband.

It remained unclear if the story was factual, but internet users have expressed their support for  Mommi, highlighting the perils of polygamy and life after divorce for Indonesian women.

Many are upset that the woman had to struggle alone to feed her children.

Adella Fitriyani, a Twitter user with the handle @adellaidellaide, said: "It's scary if a husband can be so heartless to lie to his wife and neglect his children for another woman, even more ironic given his image as a religious person. It's also sad that that woman can be so cruel to a fellow women. Doesn't she know that [he has] a family?"

Many Indonesian women struggle after splitting from their husbands, having to find a new source of income by losing their male breadwinners after years of being off the job market. The 1974 Marriage Law stipulates that men who divorce their wives are responsible for providing financial support to their former spouses and their children. However, as of today, there is no legal mechanism to ensure they fulfill their obligations.

One Twitter user highlighted the need for Indonesian women to be financially independent to face the possibility of being left by their husbands.

"I have seen a lot of women who face difficulty meeting their needs after their husband could no longer support them because they became ill, died or had an affair," Twitter user @rhmdhina said. 

Some were upset that Mommi's husband used religion to justify his infidelity.

Twitter user @urhugesecret angrily shared the story while making a thread on the harm polygamy posed to wives and children.

“Polygamy is allowed and even a part of sunnah (the Prophet’s recommendations).

"When it’s time for polygamy you are so excited, but you neglect other sunnah. You can’t fulfill your obligations. Making your wife and children happy and fulfilling their needs is an OBLIGATION, not SUNNAH. Do what is obligatory first!” she said.

The practice of polygamy, while still frowned upon by some Indonesian Muslims, has been gaining traction in recent years with the rise of religious conservatism and the so-called hijrah movement. The movement refers to Muslims who claim to have rediscovered their faith and decided to live life according to a more literal interpretation of Islam. (ahw)