Though there have been tireless efforts to end child marriage in Indonesia, it appears that the country still has a long way to go to reach that ultimate goal. The marriage of a middle schooler to a primary school student in Central Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) last weekend, has become the most recent case in point.
Fifteen-year-old S and 12-year-old NH were married off only after four days of dating, allegedly because they violated customary laws after returning home late recently, with “late” meaning after dusk. Various clips of their Ijab kabul (wedding solemnization) ceremony, which took place over the weekend, circulated widely this week.
According to various reports, S and NH were pressured by parents of the latter, who insisted that the two violated customary laws when S brought NH home at 7:30pm and therefore had to get married.
S’s parents reportedly tried to have the whole thing called off, but the marriage proceeded anyway — reportedly as a traditional ceremony and without approval from the Religious Affairs Office (KUA), which legally sanctions marriages in Indonesia — last Saturday.
“They say it’s because of customs. If you bring a girl home late you must marry her. We have tried to prevent this and separate them. However, parents [of the bride] insisted they had to get married,” Ehsan, chief of Montong Praje village where the children live, told Kumparan.
The outlet also reported the customary law as belonging to the Sasak people, who live mainly on the island of Lombok. The tribe gained spotlight in recent years for its “bride kidnapping” tradition, in which a woman is taken away by her future husband before a wedding, that social researchers deem as a contributing factor to high incidents of child marriage in the region.
NTB has long struggled with child marriage, where more than 31 percent of girls aged 19-24 in the province were married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Despite lawmakers having amended Indonesia’s marriage law and raised the minimum age for girls from 16 to 19, parents are still permitted to request for “dispensation” to grant permission for underage girls and boys to marry on the grounds of religious belief, while some Indonesians would opt for traditional ceremonies instead.