Home Women Ulema Mentation Father’s Role is Really Strategic for Preventing Child Marriage

Father’s Role is Really Strategic for Preventing Child Marriage


Prof. Dr. Saparinah Sadli, who is usually called “Bu Sap” is an important figure in the Indonesian women’s movement. The professor of Psychology at the University of Indonesia (UI) is one of the founders and the first that led the Study Program of Women’s Studies Center in the 90s (now the Gender Study Center) of UI, a post-graduate program that concerns on gender and women’s studies in Indonesia. She also participated in the establishment of the National Commission on Women that was initiated during the reign of President Habibie after the May 1998 turmoil. Her presence has been inspiring women’s movement activists from the past until now such her involvement in the establishment of several women’s NGOs, for instance, the Women Health Foundation (YKP) and Rahima. She always supports women’s works that inspire for change through the ‘Saparinah Sadli Award’ that has been going on for several years. There is a lot of important advice from her, especially from her involvement in accompanying Indonesia’s Women Ulama Congress (KUPI) that took place on April 24 to 26, 2017, last year where Rahima became its first initiator. Here is the interview of Swara Rahima with her at her residence at Brawijaya Street, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta 

What do you think about child-rearing or parenting in the family?

Parenting is varied. I once wrote a letter to Mrs. Maria Ulfah Anshor (who was at that time still being one of the Commissioners in the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) and also one of the committees of the Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama (KUPI), when I was present last year and listened to the results of the KUPI’s decision in Cirebon. What surprised me was the decision made by KUPI which stated that “child marriage must be stopped”. With regard to this, I think that it is the man who usually obliges something in the family. So, if we say that child marriage must be stopped, we have to think about how to involve the father in the process of making a decision. Considering that in Islamic teaching the child cannot get married without the presence of the father. So, we have to think about it that is how the KUPI’s decision can be followed up by firstly involving fathers to support the prevention of child marriage. 

How is the parenting in the family that has been carried out so far by society?

In my opinion, parenting should be conducted by both mother and father, according to the stages of the development of the children. I once made a program ‘Building Toddler Family’, an activity that specifically manages about the nurture of the children through proper parenting based on the age group. This activity is carried out by a number of cadres at the RW (community unit) level that actually teaches more on how to stimulate children before reaching toddler age. 

How should the role of the father in parenting?

In the Marriage Law, it is stated that the father is the leader. So, he must take part in parenting. But it is not enough, the father must present in all the family’s activities. He is considered a leader and he is indeed assigned as a leader. So, as a leader, he must know how to take care of children and how to deal with a wife. Wife is not his maid. The wife is his life partner. 


What positive values can be obtained if the father involves in parenting?

I don’t consider it a positive value as it is his duty. Indeed, it is the mother who gives birth to a child, but there is a father’s responsibility in it. So it is the obligation of the father to participate in nurturing children. Parenting is not supposed to be given merely to mother.

For me, it is important to look back on the results of the KUPI that parenting includes not to marrying the children at an early age. Why does a father allow his children to marry at an early age? Actually, it is his responsibility to reduce the number of child marriages that are increasing today. 

We also have to see this issue from the Law of the Republic of Indonesia that places man as a leader in the family. It means that the man/father must take responsibility not only in the matter dealing with the children but also in overall family life, including nurturing children. So, if there is a change in value, it is the leader that must change that value in the family, in this case, a father. Child marriage is old value. The father must change it. If the child is asked to get married, it means that the father supports the violation of the right of the child. As a result, there are many girls die young because of reproductive problem. In addition, in Islamic marriages, the consent and acceptance (ijab and qabul) are generally conducted by men. Of course, that is what has been prescribed by our religion and laws. I don’t know in other religions. So, in my opinion, men are responsible for changing that tradition. 

What is the impact of involvement or non-involvement of the father in parenting?

In my opinion, the father’s non-involvement in preventing early marriage is what causes the rate of early marriage to continue to increase. So there is poverty problem, tradition, and anything that can be changed by a father. 

Because the father is the leader of the family, it is undeniable that he has to get involved. In fact, if a child would get married, it could happen only with the presence of the father. Even in the case of divorce, if the father is still alive, he would be invited to come to the court as a witness. From these two cases, it is clear that the father must always be involved. 

Regarding the issue of child marriage, why did the father let it happen? I think that he can play a role in reducing child marriage. Father can also play an important role in solving the problem of poverty, free sex, and everything. For example, when his daughter gets pregnant, in this case, it is better for him to say, “Ok, you are pregnant, keep it on. Still, you have to go to school.” The father who really cares for his children, he still wants them to progress. So, the father is not supposed to say, “Ok, you stop going to school so I don’t have to pay your expense for studying.” So, in my opinion, the role of the father is very important in parenting, in any situation related to children’s problems. 

How parents, especially father, can be involved in preventing child marriage? 

The parents are mother and father. In a patriarchal society, even if the mother strongly disagrees with the marriage of her child, but if the father says that his child will get married, it would happen. Thus, the father is very responsible for the marriage of his child. When the KUPI decided that preventing child marriage was obligatory, it was very great as it is the father’s obligation to take part in that prevention. In my opinion, it is what we must strive for. 

Does the government consider the importance of father’s involvement in parenting, especially in preventing child marriages?

No, as the government never says anything. They only concern about the problems such as poverty, free sex, but never talking about a father’s involvement. So, in my opinion, KUPI must follow up on this matter. 

The important thing is when KUPI said that child marriage must be stopped. And who can stop it is the father as he is the leader. So, without the presence of the father, marriage could not be carried out. We need to open the father’s eyes so that he could not do as his pleasure. So far, the father has never been involved in preventing child marriage even though he is the one who has the authority to marry his child. It is impossible for women to go to KUA (the Office of Religious Affairs) then say “I marry you with….. and so forth.” 

Now the increase in the number of child marriages becomes an important issue. In my opinion, we need to ask where is the role or father’s responsibility as the head and the leader of the family and then associate it with the KUPI’s decision to prevent child marriage. It is more interesting. 

In the KUPI decision, it is stated that there is a fundamental attitude regarding sexual violence and child marriage. The ruling of sexual violence as stated in Tashawur and Istidlal is haram (forbidden), both outside and inside the marriage. While the ruling of preventing child marriages in the context of the realization of sakinah, mawaddah, wa rahmah—tranquil, loving, and affectionate—family is obligatory because child marriage causes more disadvantage (madharat) than benefit/benefit. Honestly, I was very impressed with KUPI decision that the one is considered “haram/forbidden” and the other one is considered “wajib/obligatory”. Haram and wajib are two very meaningful terms in Islam. And in my opinion it must be explained, what is wajib in the context of child marriage? Likewise, what is haram in the context of child marriage? 

How should the parents play the role in the era of digital communication?

With the development of technology around children, where are the parents? That is what should be our concern when discussing the issue of parenting in general. It is possible for parents to say this and this because it is part of technological development. But do they know where the children are used to open it? Because, the cell phone actually should not be brought to sleep, to the bathroom, should not be placed under the pillow as its radioactive substance is dangerous. So, what is important is how the parents manage the use of telecommunications devices in this digital era. Could they control it? I don’t think they can. We must understand that we (parents) are no longer a source of information. Information is here (in the digital devices). My domestic worker has a cellphone, everyone has a cellphone, my father has a cellphone, and my mother also has a cellphone. In the midst of information abundance, what does it mean? How to handle it? Even, I want to know what are they talking about?

Because when I lived in America, my house was close to Americans who had 2 small children. They were very strict in giving permission to their children to watch television (TV). Watching TV all day was prohibited. If the mother was cooking, the TV must be placed in the kitchen. The children were then allowed to sit there and watched TV as long as their mother was cooking. And the mother could look after them directly. 

Here, every time the children wake up then watch TV. I see that everyone in the village has a TV. We need to learn how they try to fortify children from various information from the TV. But without a TV is also impossible as we need to watch sports matches or something else. But the father and mother need to supervise it. {} AD. Kusumaningtyas

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