A controversial recent union of a man in West Lombok to two teenage girls has now gotten the attention of the local government following widespread public outrage, but officials say they can’t annul the marriages at this point as both the girls are reportedly with child.
Last week, the story of an 18-year-old man identified as AR (previously reported as 20-year-old R) marrying two underage girls circulated widely online, highlighting yet again the pervasive problem of child marriage in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) province.
According to initial reports from local media outlets, AR married his first wife, identified as F, in September, and then married another girl, identified as M, last Monday. As both F and M are reportedly 16 years old, they were married in a traditional ceremony, locally known as nikah siri — a practice that recognizes unions according to religious customs.
The marriages became such a hotly discussed topic among netizens that it evidently caught the attention of officials from the West Lombok government, who met with all the parties involved, including their parents and the village chief, earlier today.
“Because the two [girls] are pregnant, the effort to separate them is now impossible,” Erni Suryana, secretary of the Family Planning, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection agency in West Lombok, told Detik.
“At the minimum, this is a warning for all officials, such as the village chief, so they would no longer facilitate child marriage because there is a punishment involved,” Erni said.
She did not elaborate on what those punishments may be, but said that her office will coordinate with local authorities and possibly await for a formal report to process the case, should there be any. Instead, she emphasized on the importance of working out an arrangement that would best benefit the young family.
In addition, Erni said her office will be holding a public meeting with all village officials across West Lombok regency in the near future, where they would discuss the issue of child marriage in their region.
NTB has had a long struggle with child marriage, while estimates from Unicef showed that there are more than 1.2 million girls who were married before they turned 18 across Indonesia.
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