The Jakarta Post
The recent marriage of a 17-year-old boy and 15-year-old girl in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) has put a spotlight on the high prevalence of child marriages in the province.
Fifteen-year-old EB, a junior high school girl in Kumbak Dalem hamlet, Setiling village, Batukliang district accepted the proposal of 17-year-old UD, a boy she had known for only a year.
“I was willing to get married when UD and his family came to ask my grandmother. I know I am still in school, but this is what I want,” EB said on Sunday, as quoted by kompas.com.
EB said a friend had introduced UD to her a year ago. From the meeting, EB learned that UD worked as a laborer in Bali. Nevertheless, she believed that UD could become the backbone of the family.
EB is listed as a ninth grade student. Since the pandemic, she admitted that the situation had become difficult for her because she did not have a cellphone to follow online studies.
“I don’t know what else to do. I haven’t been to school for four months,” she said.
However, she said she still wanted to go back to school eventually.
“I am a lazy person and often skip class. It is difficult to study because I only live with my grandmother, but I want to go back to school,” she said.
Read also: Understand, love and respect your bodies
Kumbak Dalem hamlet head Abdul Hanan said that EB’s marriage had not been reported to the village administration and the Religious Affairs Office, but said he was concerned that separating the couple would create other issues.
“They married based on family agreement. The important thing is that it is legal according to religion,” Abdul said.
The recently revised Marriage Law stipulates a minimum marriage age requirement of 19 for both women and men. But even children below the minimum age can marry if their parents obtain a dispensation from a religious court, which have granted dispensations for minors as young as 15 years old.
NTB, in particular, has had a high occurrence of child marriage. Data from the NTB Child Protection Agency show that NTB religious courts gave 522 marriage dispensations to adolescents from January to early September this year.
NTB National Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN) head Rusnawi Faisol said the average age of marriage in NTB was below 21, while the national figure was 27.
NTB Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, Population Control and Family Planning (P3AP2KB) Agency head Husnanidiaty Nurdin said issues within the family, including poorly established communication between children and parents, had caused child marriages.
“They think that by getting married the problems are over. Instead, they may face complicated problems such as family finance, domestic disputes, reproductive health and so on,” Husnanidiaty said in a webinar on Sept. 10.(syk)