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Jakarta Post

It’s not ‘imprudent’ when the rich wed the poor: Minister defends idea to reduce poverty

  • Budi Sutrisno and Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, February 21, 2020   /   07:21 am
It’s not ‘imprudent’ when the rich wed the poor: Minister defends idea to reduce poverty Illustration of a bride and groom walking together. (Shutterstock/Halfpoint)

Amid questions surrounding his suggestion that the country’s rich people should marry the poor to break the chain of poverty, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy stood up for his idea, saying such a practice could be a “moral movement”.

He said that his decision to propose that Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi issue a fatwa on cross-class marriage was derived from his concern about a common belief that it was impossible for the rich to marry the poor or vice versa.

“A fatwa means advice or a moral movement [to suggest to people] not to be rigid in believing that marriages [between people] of different economic classes in society is something imprudent. That’s it,” Muhadjir told journalists on Thursday.

Read also: Minister suggests ‘the rich’ should marry ‘the poor’ to reduce Indonesia’s poverty rate

He went on to say that there was a paradigm in society that low-income people married those from their class and rich people “must be picky” when looking for partners, meaning that their spouses were usually fellow rich people. 

“What I observe is that society is influenced by the belief that a person should seek somebody who is equal to them. [...] However, those who are poor then make poor families. And that’s why we need a moral movement to eliminate such perspectives,” he said.

Muhadjir said he proposed that Fachrul issue a fatwa because he believed marriage matters were within the remit of the Religious Affairs Ministry. 

As a fatwa is only advisory, Muhadjir claimed, the rule would not be binding or mandatory among the members of society.

In Indonesia, however, a fatwa is usually issued by Muslim organizations, such as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Citing government data, the minister said the number of poor households in the country was roughly 5 million, around 9.4 percent of the total 57.1 million households recorded.

Read also: Indonesian children who grow up in poverty earn less as adults, study shows

In addition to the fatwa, Muhadjir said he also proposed a premarital certification program, under which couples who sought to get married but were not yet economically stable must receive three months’ training beforehand. 

“What I need to emphasize is that there will be no such thing as passing or not passing the [premarital certification] program because there will be no exams, only continuous courses that can be done online,” he said.

Muhadjir added that the premarital program was an affirmation program at the earliest point of forming a family, that is, before a couple, especially those who are not ready economically, become a bride and groom.

He estimated that out of a total of 2.5 million marriages per year in the country, about 10 percent, 250,000 marriages, potentially made poor households.

Therefore, he said, there should be education for prospective new families especially on important issues such as reproductive health and maternity.

“A family must be well-planned indeed and the state must be present to find ways to help plan new families,” he added.