Indonesian court says no to raising minimum marrying age for girls

JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesia’s Constitutional Court does not find anything wrong with allowing 16-year-old girls to get married, nor does it find any justifiable reason to increase the mininum age to 18 years old. 

On the contrary, the court said allowing teenage girls to get married can help prevent pre-marital sex and unwanted teenage pregnancies. 

“There is no guarantee raising the age limit from 16 to 18 years would reduce the number of divorces, health problems or resolve social problems," Constitutional Justice Patrialis Akbar said on Thursday, June 18, as he read the decision rejecting a judicial review request to amend the 1974 Marriage Law and increase the minimum marrying age to 18.

The judicial review request was filed by a group of individuals and organizations focused on children’s rights, including Yayasan Kesehatan Perempuan (Women’s Health Foundation or YKP), who believe the 41-year-old law is now outdated. 

"Equality between women and men will never happen if women are stuck in legal rules that allow them to be victims of child marriage,” said YKP’s Dian Kartikasari.

Official Indonesian data in 2012 showed that 6.9 million girls aged between 15-19 years old were married.  

“Studies by the National Commission on Violence Against Women show that among young wives, aged 13-18 years, many suffered from domestic violence. They are not yet mentally ready,” Masruchah from the commission, known as Komnas Perempuan, also said.

Reasons for rejection  

While saying the proposed change did not guarantee any positive impacts, the court also said “marriage is the right of every person” and should not be restricted.  

Ironically, though, the decision came out the same day the court rejected another judicial review request to allow people from different religions to get married. 

For the court, marriage should be allowed as long as it conforms to state laws and one of the country’s 6 recognized religions. 

It pointed out that in Islam, no minimum age is required for a girl to get married, only that she has reached aqil baligh, or puberty, which means they are able to distinguish the good from the bad and are able to give consent.  

In fact, according to the court, an early marriage can prevent pre-marital sex among young people and children born out of wedlock. 

“Sexual desires should be channeled within the confines of legal marriage in accordance with religious teachings so that there won't be children born out of wedlock or illegitimate children," the court said.

The court also rejected the argument that allowing 16-year-olds to get married contradicted the law on child protection, which defined children as being 18 years old and below.

The peitioners, though, are not giving up and will try to get the law changed by the House of Representatives. – Rappler.com