An underage couple in Central Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) was made to pay a fine of IDR2.5 million (around US$170) by the girl’s school for getting married, reports say, in yet another case of child marriage in the province that appeared to have only surfaced after details about the union was shared on social media.
Fifteen-year-old EB was married to 17-year-old UD on Oct. 10, following idle months of not being able to attend online classes due to her financial situation.
“I don’t know what else to do, I have not gone to school in four months. I don’t have a mobile phone, I can’t follow online learning. When UD came with his family to ask for my hand to my grandmother, I said yes to getting married,” EB said.
According to reports, EB was living with her grandmother while her parents, who are divorced, live elsewhere. She has known UD for about a year, and told local media outlets that the young man is a hard worker and the breadwinner of his own family, encouraging her to agree to his proposal.
Their marriage, which spurred discussions online after it was uploaded to Facebook, has been confirmed by Abdul Hanan, the village chief of Kumbak Dalem –– where the couple reside –– who said he was reluctant to report the child marriage to higher officials for fear that the couple will be separated.
“To report this to government officials, we don’t dare as the couple is underage. So we just married them off family-style, as long as it’s still official according to religion,” Abdul was quoted as saying.
Children in the province are often married in traditional ceremonies, locally known as nikah siri — a practice that recognizes unions according to religious customs.
Abdul also said that UD had to pay a IDR2.5 million fine to EB’s school, which has reportedly implemented the policy for a while in order to deter child marriages among its students. School officials did not disclose the frequency of child marriages since the policy was implemented.
In addition, the village chief also said the decision to agree to their marriage was out of concern over teenagers’ social life these days.
“We don’t know what they are going to do, so we must marry them, it’s not like I agree with child marriage, but [this decision] is like choosing between a rock and a hard place,” Abdul said.
EB also told local media outlets that she got married in order “to have a better life.”
EB and UD’s marriage highlighted yet again the pervasive problem of child marriage in NTB, where more than 31 percent of girls aged 19-24 were married before the age of 18, according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
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