Child Marriage Causes Many Disadvantages (Madharat)
Zudi Rahmanto, S.Ag., M.Ag., was born in Gunung Kidul, on June 17, 1973. After having completed his bachelor degree from Faculty of Sharia and master degree in Islamic Law majoring in Family Law from Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic Institute (IAIN) of Yogyakarta, he now serves as the Head of KUA (the Office of Religious Affairs) of Wonosari Sub-district, Gunung Kidul Regency. Married to Hj. Siti Mu’tamiroh, SPd.T, the couple is bestowed with three children, Zidni Hannan Hamida, Ataaka Syafi’i Muhammad and Zaaira Nailush Shava. Here is the interview of Swara Rahima with the speaker of various Islamic Great Day Celebration (PHBI) in Gunung Kidul and its surrounding area, who is also a lecturer at STAI (Islamic College) of Yogyakarta, Wonosari, and also a Secretary of PCNU—Branch Administrator of Nahdlatul Ulama—of Gunung Kidul Regency about child marriage.
Is there any practice of child marriage that you find in the society?
If the child marriage you are asking about is the marriage in which the age of the bride and the groom refers to the Article 7 paragraph (1) of the Marriage Law which prescribes the minimum age of marriage is 16 for women and 19 for men, it is still found. Usually, the girl is still under 16 and the boy is under 19 with a dispensation of marriage from the Religious Courts (PA). But during 2016, of all married couples, it was the groom who was still under-age and came from outside Wonosari Sub-district, Gunungkidul.
Previously, I served in the Sub-district of Tepus. Of the diverse cases of child marriages we received, the women were mostly pregnant. Meanwhile, the boy who was still 19 years old impregnated his mate i.e. a girl who was still a child also.
Why is the practice of child marriage still going on?
There are several causes, among others, pre-marital pregnancy case, and it is more dominant. Second, because of further relationship though pregnancy has not occurred yet, for fear of social sanction/caught red-handed. For instance, there is a boy who is used to visiting a girl’s house, ta’aruf, in a place where its social norms are really strict. So, their parents and the people forced them to marry rather than they would be caught and taken to the guard post that makes them ashamed. So, it is actually to hide family’s disgrace. The third is due to economic reason. The parents usually want their daughter to be independent immediately. In this case, the parents want their daughter to be immediately ‘released’ from the responsibility of the parents because, after marriage, parents’ responsibility would shift from the parents to the shoulders of the husband of their daughter. That is what makes the parents want to be exempted from the responsibility of taking care of their daughter. The parents never consider who will be the husband of their daughter. The important thing is their daughter feel right to her husband. That’s why we could find many families that are child couple and also still immature. The important thing is they are no longer the responsibility of the parents.
What efforts have been made by KUA to prevent the practice of child marriage?
There are several things we do. First is pre-marriage education for students in schools and madrasah (Islamic school). We were actively offering a program to the school or madrasah at the sub-district level. The point is we asked the school to provide us a time for Teaching and Learning Activities (KBM) that would be guided by KUA. They were really welcome. Usually, we take the time after the exam, before the students receive their study report, during class-meeting activity. That is the exact time rather than they just play games. Second is pre-marriage education for the mosque’s youth. This is mostly conducted by Islamic religious counselor through coaching mosque’s youth. But this is less effective because it is usually conducted at night. The third is the involvement of religious counselor in the maturation of marriage age. Any time we have socialization activity in the society, we work together and involves various parties, such as Puskesmas (Community health center) or PLKB (Family planning fieldworkers). The fourth is incorporating the Simulation of Child Marriage Impacts in Various Events of the Village. It is conducted by role play, as one model of child marriage prevention campaigns. So, playing a role like fragment of the family, for instance, the children get married, then during parenting in the phase of breastfeeding of the child. Tell them the various impacts of being young parents such as social, economic, and activity impact. They will get surprised how the child should take care of the child, for instance.
The agenda was conducted in several events of the village based on fixed procedure, or before the August 17th Commemoration. So, delivering a message through theatrical with the topic of Child Marriage. And the fifth is through Socialization or Cooperation with Puskesmas and PLKB. It is more focused on the socialization of policies that is how we convey messages in the region and the respective scope of work related to reproductive health, especially regarding the prevention of child marriage. This is a cross-sectoral coordination.
What do you think of the idea of increasing the minimum age to marry for women from 16 to 18 years old? What is the impact of the rejection of Constitutional Court (MK) on your performance in the field?
Actually, increasing marriage age is reasonable, while still giving a solution for citizens who must be excluded due to several reasons.
I think there is an impact related to the verdict that actually needs to study again. That is what makes us uncomfortable as we only implement the Laws. On the other hand, let us first agree what child marriage is and how its age limit is. KUA has become a place to ask by many parties why child marriage is still increasing. In fact, we only implement the law that accidentally did not win when it was being sued. Since the beginning, there are no similar provisions of the Marriage Law (16 years old) and the Child Protection Law (18 years old).
With regard to the question on how to prevent child marriage, when we had a meeting with the local government and the sub-district discussing why child marriage or early marriage is still increasing, what becomes the reference is the age limit as mentioned in the Marriage Law that is 16 years old. Is it considered young marriage? That is also a question.
The case of child marriage is relatively high in Gunung Kidul Regency. How is the description of child marriage which is still going on here?
It cannot be separated from the bridge and the groom who mostly file a marriage dispensation to the Religious Court (PA) for the reasons of the bride’s pregnancy. Filing on the ground of pre-marital pregnancy would certainly be granted by the Panel of Judges, with consideration not only for the interests of the bride but also for the interests of the infant who will be born.
Some couples usually use a ploy that the girl is already pregnant to get a permit or dispensation. They use that modus because the judge will grant it. The typology of rural people, especially middle-low society, when they stumble with the problem or difficult thing, they learn from the experience of others how to get away from that problem or in order to be granted. Accidentally, I found such case when I was in Tepus. He told me that he looked for information from people in other villages. They said it is easy just confess being pregnant. Then, to take care of anything, they look for references, ways and slots to get away from the problem.
What are the factors that cause child marriage?
A). Social/culture, relation shift/ commingling. Nowadays, there has been a shift in values related to morality which is supposed to bind friendship or to obey moral norms. In this regard, it changes a lot. A relation which is initially positive becomes negative because of a shift in values. Where, these values are also obtained from either the community or education in the schools. This may also need to be supported by the data whether IT (Information Technology) has an impact in changing the values of the society. B). Economics. This is with regard to the desire of the parents to escape from their responsibility, and there is also a desire of the child to be able to meet her/his lifestyle. The lifestyle is now incredible. The phone’s balance seems to have become a necessity. As a result, lots of girls and boys are out of control in relationship. It’s a challenge. C). Low religiosity. Well, the religious spirit of the children or the spirit to study and deepen the religious knowledge or others really decreases now. They lose to the appeal of Smartphone. Television is now no longer interesting entertainment for them, teens, some parents, and children.
How does the Islamic religious discourse influence the practices of child marriage which are very rampant?
As far as I know, it is rarely found how Islamic law speaks about marriage age. What happens is the people know that there is a way out to get married under the minimum age (stipulated in the Law) by proposing to a local Religious Court (PA). At the grassroots level, there is also no discussion regarding the age. That Islam has confined, it does not happen. There is no discussion related to religious doctrine or fiqh as a justification for child marriage. The question that usually appears is whether my child is able to get married or not even though he/she is still underage. Formerly, there is a practice of ‘buying age’. For instance, born in 1999 said in 1989. So there is 10 years difference. Now, increasing the age in such a way is difficult due to the improvement of the population system. The only way is to file for a dispensation to the court. And it becomes Jurisprudence so that the cases can be finished. When someone comes to KUA to consult about it, we have no power and we say that your child could not get married because of age problem. But there is an article for a solution, and then we suggest them to propose dispensation in the court.
What are the reference texts often used to encouraging the emergence of child marriage practices?
It is rare, even, never did the society base the practice of child marriage by bringing religious texts to KUA.
So, structurally, the marriage law is actually intended to avoid the occurrence of child marriage or early marriage. But, the discussion now leads to the politics of ‘accident’ that is to say the discussion on the issue of marriage is always associated with the issue of pregnancy. Village officials such as Headman, RT/RW (neighborhood/community unit) often get difficulty when serving the citizens who have not really self-sufficient yet, unlike in the city. They always need to be accompanied if they want to go to the KUA. Likewise, if they want to go to the court. It’s a really troublesome and actually falls under exception category. But they have to be served. Those whom we met for consultation of marriage problems usually come first to the village head and then to KUA. In my sub-district, that is a common way that they usually undertake.
Does the issue of marriage dispensation also affect the rise of the cases of child marriage?
That’s true. This is what exactly happened. Moreover, the people already understand if the reason for proposal to the court is pregnancy of the bride, they believe that it would be certainly approved. I become really suspicious; perhaps those who are not really pregnant also claim to be pregnant in order to be allowed to marry by the Religious Court (PA).
How does the development of Islamic studies literatures from various countries in the Middle East also influence the perspective of child marriage among Indonesian Muslims?
In the region of Yogyakarta, Gunung Kidul in particular, the discourse has not appeared on the surface. Possibly, there is a relation with the issue of fundamentalism. The campaign of child marriage also coincided with the emergence of Fiqh Polygamy. This is what I think should be concerned about the issue of religious fundamentalism. They are inclined to bring anything from the Islamic countries of the Middle East. Indonesia becomes troublesome. It is not impossible that they will import the understanding of Fiqh from the Middle East, and then start implementing Islamic law comprehensively or partially when they rule.
How to see the issue of child marriage when associated with Maqashid Sharia?
When talking about the bride and the groom, from the perspective of maqashid sharia (objectives of sharia), it will be more advantageous if the child marriage is avoided as it is related to hifdzul aql (preserving reason), nafs (soul) and nasl (offspring) quality. But if we concern about the infant of the bride, the principle of maqashid can also be applied. It is a kind of dilemma. On the one hand, we have to keep the benefit of the mother, because she is still a child. On the other hand, she is also pregnant. And the infant must also be saved. Therefore, we hope both will not happen. That is maqashid sharia. La dharaara wa laa dhiraar. Madharat (disadvantage) that happened is actually not only experienced by the mother but also endangers the infant she has to bear. Why did I say dilemma? For example, if it has happened, we are faced with the fact that there is a couple that is still a child. Irtikab akhaffu dhararain.
We are faced with two choices. If we avoid a victim of child marriage, there is another victim that is the infant in the womb. That is what usually becomes judge’s consideration. The judge has to choose the smallest madharat before him. That’s the principle of Islamic jurisprudence that should be applied. That is what I call a dilemma. We must save the child by preventing her from the practice of early marriage, but on the other hand, there is an infant that must be born.
How to relate the discourse of Baligh with the issues of Health and Reproductive Rights and with Child Protection?
The discourse of physical and psychical maturity as the limitation of baligh is certainly good to be developed continuously. It could be a common thread between the text of fiqh about baligh and what is desired by the Right to Reproductive Health and Child Protection.
Is there a policy regarding child marriage prevention by Ministry of Religious Affairs? What is it like?
So far, what we have conducted is persuasion through various services of Pre-Marriage education. In addition, as long as the article related to the minimum age for marriage in Law No. 1/1974 is not changed, there is still an ambiguity in providing services to the society.
With regard to the Regent Regulation (Perbup) on the Prevention of child marriage in Gunung Kidul, when was the Perbup issued? What is its purpose? How was the process of its formation? How is the implementation?
The formation of Regent Regulation of Gunung Kidul No. 36/2015 concerning the Prevention of Child Marriage was enacted on July 24, 2015. The purpose of this Perbup is to anticipate the drastic increase in the number of child marriages in the region of Gunung Kidul which tend to increase from year to year. The formation process began with a long discussion involving all stakeholders including Ministry of Religious Affairs, and KUA in the sub-district. Various inputs finally led to the initiative of the Regent to convey the related Raperbup (regent regulation draft) to DPRD—Regional Representative Council—of Gunungkidul. And the implementation of this Regulation aims to determine the efforts and policies for preventing child marriage at several levels, that is at the level of family, community, children, Local Government, and other stakeholders. The regulation also mandates the necessity for assistance and empowerment of victims including assigning duties to several institutions in the region to monitor the cases of child marriage. Therefore, a number of forums were established until the village level.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has a program called Desa Bina Keluarga Sakinah or Tranquil Family Nurtured Village (DBKS). What program is it? How its relation to the prevention of the practices of child marriage?
This is an initiative of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of DIY (Special Region of Yogyakarta) in 1991, supported by the Governor through the Governor’s Instruction No. 10/1993 related to the socialization of DBKS in the DIY region. Then it was socialized at the regency level, and then the regent due to the encouragement of Ministry of Religious Affairs launched DBKS and annually chose two till three villages. So, DBKS is contributing to the prevention of child marriage because this program must run in coordination with the relevant parties. At the national level, the program is called the National Tranquil Family Movement. DBKS program leads to the achievement of a condition of the qualified family, characterized by 5 achievements of Quality: (1) Spirituality (2) Education (3) Health (4) Economy (5) Healthy relationships. The prevention of child marriage in the DBKS Program, of course, very related and intertwined with the aforesaid 5 Keys of tranquil family.
What efforts could we make to prevent the rampant practice of child marriage in the community, especially among the Muslim community?
The effort can be done through various ways. For instance, a) Reinforcement of religiosity in the family, b) Inculcation of ethical values seriously, to compensate for the unstoppable development of the virtual world. c) Reinforcing the family institution as the basis of character education, and d) Inculcating a healthy relationship pattern between men and women.