Focus, Edition 43
The Rising of Teens Pregnancy: Who’s Wrong?
By: AD. Kusumaningtyas
Lara (not her real name), just turned 16 years old. But, the teenage girl from Wonogiri city has already had two children from two different men. The father from the first child was unknown, as well as from the second child, still vague about his biological identity. People said the person who impregnanted would marry Lara. But until now it was unknown. Lara has had a dispensation letter from religious court. Lara become a rape victim by her friends as a result of promiscuity. She gave birth her first child when she was 13. Two years later, following her second child. Now, Lara does not go to school anymore. Her future will be bleak. Her children have no birth certificates, they are prone to social problem. Lara has many friends, particularly from her facebook account.
The story of Lara above was told by Siti Muslimah, from Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Wonogiri Community Caring Women and Children (MWPPA) who accompanied Lara. Similar with Lara, in other place as told in the writing of Tabrani Yunis from Aceh. Same situation occured in Mr. Burhan’s family (pseudonym). They felt like strucked by thunder when Mr. Burhan received news that his daughter Rina (pseudonym) who was still in her third grade of Senior High School, had already pregnant for three months. Great anger, embarrassment and disappointment were wrapping Mr. Burhan’s heart. The only child, his big hope, always looks very polite and kind in daily life, now already pregnant. She was still a student. Mr. Burhan and his family’s wish to send her to higher education shattered, because she was expelled from school. The way they saw to solve the problem is marrying her with her boyfriend who has same age, or do abortion.
The story above is only a reflection of teen pregnancy cases occur in Indonesia. It seems only few cases, but look at data shown by the Indonesian Demography and Health Survey (abbreviated as SDKI in Indonesia) 2012 mentioned Age Specific Fertility Rate (ASRF) in group of 15 – 19 years old, reaches 48 from 1.000 pregnancy. The numbers are much higher compared to the finding of DSIH 2007 that is 35 from 1.000 pregnancy. The research conducted by Australian National University (ANU) in Jakarta, Tangerang, and Bekasi in 2010 to 3.006 respondents in the age of 17 – 24 years old. It is indicated around 20,9 % among them had pregnant and gave a birth before married.
Portraying the Phenomenon of Teenage Pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy can be defined as pregnancy occurs in adolescents as result of sexual behavior, intentional (in marriage relationship) or accidental (before marriage). The issue of teenage pregnancy is very complicated. On one side, this case can happen to girls who were married by their parents. However, not rare this also afflicts teenage girls in school age who were already pregnant with their boyfriends because of lack knowledge about reproductive health and rights, caused by trials factor, become victim of gentle persuasion by their boyfriends (dating rape). In the end, the girl is often “ forced to marry “ with the boyfriend by their parents, even they had not reached minimum age of marriage as regulated in the Law No.1 year 1974 on Marriage.
The case of teenage pregnancy becomes attention of UNFPA, as one of the UN agencies which active in the field of population. UNFPA sees teenage pregnancy as a health issue because young mothers must face complication in their pregnancy such as maternal and fetal mortality, pain, and risk of disability. Besides health problem, this issue also belongs to human rights where young mothers, have to end their chilhood and adolescence. They are also losing education access, and other occasions that should be obtained in their age.
Executive Director of UNFPA Babatunde Osotimehin through UN website stated the teenage pregnancy becomes problem, UNFPA’s data showed currently the world has 600 million teenage girls, and 500 million live in developing countries. From this number, every year 16 million teenage girls under 18 years old have given birth, and 3,2 million teenage girls died due to unsafe abortion every year. Osotimehin adds that teenage pregnancy problem is not only an issue of health but also becomes the complex development issue which is firmly rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, forced marriage of teenagers/ children, imbalanced power relation among teenage girls and their spouses, lack of education, and failure of system and institutions to protect the rights of teenage girls.
The UNFPA data is accordance with the increasing trend of Application for Dispensation to marry in the religious court. Based on the regulation year 1974 No.1 on marriage, Marriage Dispensation is the application of dispensation for the bride who has not complied minimum age of marriage, specifically less than 19 years old for male and 16 years old for female. If one of the brides or both do not comply the minimum age of marriage, they are required to have letter of Marriage Dispensation from the local religious court.
Just to observe the trend above, there are few examples. For instance, the Religious Court of Tanjung Pinang in 2013 has given a marriage dispensation to 43 children under minimum age. The biggest reason to marry in early age is pregnancy before marriage. Meanwhile the data in the Religious Court of Mojokerto mentioned that during last three years (2011 – 2013) there were 471 couples proposed for Marriage Dispensation caused by pregnancy. The number of letter of Marriage Dispensation issued by Religious Court of Wonogiri in 2010 there are 52 cases, in 2011 there are 76 cases, in 2012 there are 72 cases, and in 2013 there are 25 cases. In 2013 the Religious Court of Kediri accepted 37 applications of Marriage Dispensation.
Actually, the Marriage Dispensation applications are reflecting agreed children marriage, even facilitated by government. Considering minimum age of marriage is 16 years old for the bride is not an ideal concept. According to the regulation of child protection, the age is still children age. The minimum age limit of marriage should be set 18 years old for the bride and groom. If the situation currently determined, we will get a harsh reality, the number of teenage pregnancy will raise much higher than data above.
Digging the Causes of Teenage Pregnancy
Teenage pregnancy, occurs due to several factors, among others a) Life style and risky sexual behavior. It caused by rapid growth, development of teens and menarche (first menstrual period) stimulated by media which showing irresponsible free sex life style; b) Lack of information of reproductive health and family planning makes teenagers unable to seek alternative protection for themshelves in preventing pregnancy; c) Socio-cultural conditions also influence teenage pregnancy. In rural area marriage occurs in early age followed by pregnancy. It is caused by the attached culture which still assuming to relieve parental responsibility, so they give responsibilities to husband by marrying their daughters.; d) Insufficient economic condition encourages someone to seek protector who is fully responsible to her. It can be achieved in marriage, to lessen burden of parental responsibility; e) The increasing understanding of religious fundamentalism, encouraging marriage in early age, for example: marriage trend by college students in the second semester, with reason of ghadul bashar (lowering the gaze) or after reading religious popular books like Indahnya Pernikahan Dini (the beauty of early marriage).
The Executive Chair of BKKBN (Indonesian abbreviation of National Family Planning Coordinating Board) in 2012 Sudibyo Alimoeso stated the increasing of ASFR (Age Specific Fertility Rate) indicates early marriage and sexual intercourse before marriage among teens increased. The phenomenon of sexual intercourse before marriage among teens is not only a figment. Meanwhile, lack of the right knowledge and information about reproductive health also contributes many cases of teenage pregnancy. The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon had shouted out the importance of Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE) because it empowers women in determining for themselves the exact time to become mothers with adequate knowledge. Meantime in windmill country, Netherlands, since 1980s the government created sex education named Lang Leve de Liefda (Long Live Love) which appreciated by UNESCO and considered as the reference for sex education in many countries. The model of sex education can significantly reduce number of unplanned pregnancy: the teens are aware that early sexual intercourse has high risk. But Indonesian government presumably does not learn or even does not want to listen to exclamation from the United Nations’ Secretary General. From the beginning of sex education issue, there has been refusal from the government, in central and district. In central government, Indonesian Minister of Education and Culture through his statement in ANTARA news, expressly stated the rejection of sex education in school, in fear of pornography rising. Whereas the survey conducted by PKBI (Indonesian family planning association) in Kulon Progo obtained different findings. The number of unplanned pregnancy among students decreasing after getting the right information through sexual and reproductive health education.
The permissive society also becomes one of the factors that encourage the rise of teenage pregnancy. For example, in Sumba, East Nusa Tenggara, boys and girls in village of West Kadahang, district Haharu, regency of East Sumba are rarely educated at senior high school, even in junior high school. Graduated from primary school, the teenage girls work in field, and few years later they “get married” with local men. The words “get married “ in Sumba’s custom is living in a house together with the man in his family. Regardless they were married under customary law and church or not, it depends on the men’s ability to pay belis (dowry) or not to the teen girl. So the sentence, “I am not married but I have a husband and children“ is commonly spoken by the teenage girls in village. Similar to tradition in central Java, there is a ngenger which requires a male groom to be, staying in family house of female bride and helping works or daily needs of the family. This situation builds physical proximity with female bride, enables them to have sexual intercourse before marriage. In urban area, sloppy relationship and lack of parental supervision support higher rates of teenage pregnancy.
Economic factors also caused children marriage and the rise of teenage pregnancy. The child marriage of Lutviana Ulfa (12 years old, 2009) with an entrepreneur named Pujiono or known as Syekh Puji, triggered teenage pregnancy; this man once caught in legal case because he broke the law Number 23 year 2002 on Child Protection. The economic factors made many parents transfer their responsibilities to other persons by marrying their daughters who are still in school ages as mistress of some officials. The rampant news about government officials who are suspected marrying female students also become BKKBN’s special concern. It is feared this behavior will give bad examples for teens. For examples: FO, a girl from Garut who had unregistered married as a mistress of Regent AF who was finally impeached by parliament of Garut regency and fired by the Minister of Internal Affairs because he had broke the official oath, regulation number 1 year 1974 about marriage, and regulation number 23 year 2002 about child protection, and DM who was married by LHI, a political party leader who was caught in the case of beef import.
Effects of Teenage Pregnancy
Surely, teenage pregnancy (especially in unwanted situation) has a quite complex impact for teenage life. The impacts disrupt life and teenage health, physically, mentally and socially. Physically, health disorders in pregnancy to young women are twice more susceptible compare to the pregnancy in adults. The women who are pregnant in young age have high risk of bleeding when they are delivering babies, and susceptible of having babies in low birth weight. Besides, immature reproductive organs made the young women have more risks to be attacked by terrible diseases; cervix cancer, breast cancer, myoma, and uterus cancer. Psychologically, teenagers mentallity also are not ready to face various problems in marriage. Consequently, there are many early divorces and domestic violences. According to the research, 44 % actors in early marriage experience high frequency, and 56% experience low frequency of domestic violences..
Mentally, pregnant teenagers may die from higher complications, as well as get stigma and harassment from the community, unable to continue school. It is not regulated in the Law of Population, and not provided access to facilities of reproductive health services for adolescents. The social impact is more dire. The study of Iwu Utomo, a researcher from the Australian Demographic & Social Research Institute, Australian National University, found surprising data. The data states during the year 2013 alone, there are 8 (eight) teenage girls killed by her own boyfriend because of unwanted pregnancy, and question her boyfriend to be responsible. The reluctance of male teenagers to be responsible in many cases, also triggered crimes by killing the girlfriends.
Those who are pregnant before they are ready to start families are often becoming double victims. Besides getting stigma and rejection from family and society, they also find it difficult to get the support they and their children need to get up or even survive.
The Islamic Perspective in Addressing Issue of Teenage Pregnancy
Pregnancy is one of the issues related to reproductive rights that are particular concern of Islamic teachings. A woman or pregnant mother, by nature tends to experience fatigue and physical weakness during pregnancy. Some translations of Al Qur’an mention. “And We have enjoined on man the doing of good to his parents. His mother bears him with trouble and she brings him forth in pain. And the bearing of him and the weaning of him is thirty months. Till, when he attains his maturity and reaches forty years, he says: My Lord, grant me that I may give thanks for Thy favour, which Thou hast bestowed on me and on my parents, and that I may do good which pleases Thee; and be good to me in respect of my offspring. Truly I turn to Thee, and truly I am of those who submit.” (Surat al-Ahqaf: 15). Similar statements in the Surah Luqman, “And We have enjoined on man concerning his parents — his mother bears him with faintings upon faintings and his weaning takes two years — saying: Give thanks to Me and to thy parents. To Me is the eventual coming.” (Surah Luqman: 14). Therefore, physical and mental readiness is needed for a woman who will be a mother. Physical readiness does not only mean the male reproductive organs are capable of fertilizing and the female reproductive organs can be fertilized, but the maturity of reproductive organs, ability to maintain the organs and reproductive functions is absolutely necessary. Mental readiness means being able to accept consequences of being an adult, aware of the choices and being able to play role of a responsible parent.
What about pregnancy outside of marriage? Of course this is a very complex situation, which in long run can harm status and process of the child growth. Discussion in the Science of fiqh always mentions that a child born outside of marriage will only has nasab (line of descendant) of his/ her mother. The situation in which a woman experiences a pregnancy outside marriage, it is often thought as adultery; regardless circumstances, whether the act was committed on equal like basis or by a force. A man or woman who commits adultery and is witnessed by 4 witnesses, will get sanction for their actions. Indeed the case of adultery is almost very difficult to prove so that adulterer man can often continue to walk after performing the evil deeds. However, different situations occur in women, remembering the anatomy of a woman’s body causes her to experience a pregnancy, which could be evidence seen as adultery. Although in reality, many women are not pregnant because of adultery, but because of the rape committed by their closest and trusted people; father, uncle, brother, boyfriend, whom they expected to protect them.
How does history of Islam record the events of pregnancy because of promiscuity? One of the most popular Hadith tells the story of a pregnant woman who comes to the Messenger of Allah and asks herself to be stoned because of for her deeds. “From Imran ibn Husayn Ram, that a woman from Juhainiyah came to see the Prophet of Allah. while she was pregnant because of adultery, the woman said, ‘O Prophet of Allah, I have violated the Hadd, please punish me.’ Then the Rasulullah Saw called his guardian, then said, ‘Do good to her. If she has given birth come back to me with her.’ Everything is done by his guardian. After giving birth, she packed clothes and the Prophet of Allah ordered her to be stoned, then he prayed. Umar ra.said, ‘Thou pray, O Prophet of Allah when she had committed adultery?’ Prophet said, ‘Indeed, she has repented which, if divided for 70 residents of Medina, would be enough for them. Do you find the ultimate repentance of the women who volunteer for God? “ (Narrated by Muslim).
The very popular story does not emphasize the stoning law as final conclusion to punish the woman who has committed such adultery. However, Rasullullah more emphasises on the sincerity of repentance she did, and gave the opportunity for her to concentrate on carrying out her reproductive duties. That is until she gave birth, and in another narration until she finished breastfeeding her child until she was 2 years old and wean her.
Various fiqh views also color conclusions about the issue of marriage in a state of pregnancy, which is regulated in the Compilation of Islamic Law (abbreviated as KHI in Indonesia). In KHI stipulated by Presidential Instruction (Inpres RI) no. 1 year 1991 dated June 10, 1991, and its implementation is regulated in accordance with the Ministerial Decree of Religious Affairs no. 154 of 1991 have mentioned: (1) An unmarried pregnant woman, may be married with the man who impregnated her. (2) The marriage with the pregnant woman mentioned in paragraph (1) may be carried out without waiting for the birth of her child, and (3) With the marriage being held at time of the pregnant woman, no repetition is required after the child is born.
The conclusion of various fiqh views appear based on the Qur’anic text states that a female adulterer will marry only a male adulterer (her spouse) and the deed takes place on the basis of likes. However, what if it turns out the woman was pregnant due to rape or incest performed by adults such as grandfather, biological father, or their own siblings who should have protect them? Should they be married? Will the action become benefit or mudharat?
Is there any possible solution other than marrying her off with a rapist when the man is her own boyfriend or relative who has forcibly taken her honor. Surely a rape pregnancy causes a deeper psychological trauma for the rape victims.
Seeking Solutions for the Problems of Teenage Pregnancy
Overcoming the problems of increasingly widespread teenage pregnancy, of course must be done simultaneously in both preventive and curative measures. Preventive actions include: a) Conduct education on sexual and reproductive health. By getting the right and good information about sexuality and reproductive health, it is expected that teenagers know their reproductive organs, functions, and impacts and risks of unhealthy sexual behavior, later on they will have healthy and responsible sexual behaviors. b) Raising the minimum age of marriage from 16 years for women and 18 years for men, to 18 years for both in accordance with Law no. 23 of 2002 on Child Protection. c) Culturally redefining the meaning of baligh (having arrived at maturity, or to full size and strength; matured; as, an adult person), which is not merely oriented to physical maturity which is often interpreted in signs of physical changes in puberty such as first menstrual period in girls, and wet dreams in boys. So in interpreting one of the Prophet’s traditions, Yaa ma’syara asy-syabaab, man istathaa’a minkum al-baa’ata falyatazawwaj (for the youth, who among you who can afford to marry) is not just understood as mature physically, but also have a good mental, economic, and social readiness. Thus, marriage should be prepared mentally and physically, not because it is forced by circumstances such as pregnancy.
While the curative is: a) Providing support to girls who have already been pregnant, to be responsible on the best option for herself. Whether she will choose to get married young, or gain access to safe abortion services when she has a life-threatening pregnancy or if the pregnancy occurs due to incest and rape. b) Providing reinforcement to married couples after getting Marriage Dispensation due to pregnancy cases, to become responsible parents. c) Giving psycho-social reinforcement to the victim to get out of trauma, as well as encouraging the victims and perpetrators who really want to do nasuha repentance, so it is not always oriented to the past but how to become a better person in the future. d) Ensuring the status of the child born under situation is not discriminated. In accordance with the decision of the Constitutional Court, the child should receive recognition from both biological parents, the mother and the father.
These solutions may not be ideal. But of course, to be considered to establish such solution by prioritizing the benefit and manifesting the values of Islam as mercy to all creation. Wallahu a’lam bish-shawab! Allah knows best!  AD Kusumaningtyas