Avoiding Child Marriage 'Mandatory'

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Defending rights: Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin gives a speech on the roles of female clerics in the first In­done­sian Women’s Ulema Congress in Cirebon, West Java, on April 27. (JP/Nurul Fitri Ramadhani)

An 11-year-old girl was raped years ago by her own grand­fa­ther, who also played the role of muezzin (caller to prayer) in his com­mu­nity.

When the girl be­came preg­nant, her grand­mother ap­proached a mid­wife for an abor­tion. The mid­wife re­fused, fear­ing she would com­mit a sin. The grand­mother then sought the help of a lo­cal fe­male cleric in Bon­dowoso, East Java, Ruqoyyah, who ac­com­pa­nied them on an­other visit to the mid­wife.

An abor­tion was con­ducted af­ter Ruqoyyah con­vinced the mid­wife that an abor­tion of a preg­nancy caused by rape was not sin­ful; “be­sides the girl could not marry her grand­fa­ther, as in­cest, be­ing haram, is a sin.”

Ruqoyyah added that the girl’s fu­ture should be con­sid­ered.

Child mar­riage re­mains ram­pant in Bon­dowoso, sec­ond only to Madura in East Java, said Ruqoyyah — who was forced to marry at the age of 14, and who also sur­vived do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in her sec­ond mar­riage.

After ed­u­cat­ing the com­mu­nity through prayer groups and other func­tions, “Al­ham­dullil­lah [Thank God]”, she said, child mar­riage had de­creased and fewer par­ents were tak­ing their daugh­ters out of school to marry them off once they were con­sid­ered phys­i­cally ma­ture.

The first In­done­sian Women’s Ulema Congress ruled on Thurs­day that “avoid­ing child mar­riage is manda­tory”, to cheers and ap­plause at the Ke­bon Jambu Al Is­lamy Is­lamic board­ing school in Babakan Ci­waringin, Cire­bon.

In the first of three rul­ings, read out by scholar Habib Dju­naidi of Ban­jar­masin, South Kal­i­man­tan, the con­gress urged the in­crease of girls’ le­gal mar­ry­ing age from 16 to 18.

As the Con­sti­tu­tional Court has thwarted a ju­di­cial re­view at­tempt to change the min­i­mum mar­ry­ing age for girls in the 1974 Mar­riage Law, cit­ing fears of sin, among oth­ers, Reli­gious Af­fairs Min­is­ter Luk­man Hakim Sai­fud­din told the au­di­ence he would im­me­di­ately con­vey the rec­om­men­da­tion to Women’s Em­pow­er­ment and Child Pro­tec­tion Min­is­ter Yo­hanna Yem­bise so the gov­ern­ment could draft an amend­ment to the law.

Habib read out the rea­sons for the rul­ing, “First, re­li­gion obliges all peo­ple to avoid and fight ev­ery fac­tor that can cause mud­harat [harm] and child mar­riage con­tains many mud­harat such as ma­ter­nal death.”

“Se­cond, pre­ven­tion [of child mar­riage] is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of par­ents, ed­u­ca­tors, so­ci­ety and the state, cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment.”

“Third, vic­tims of child mar­riage must re­ceive for­mal ed­u­ca­tion and health care just like any other child, as well as pro­tec­tion from all kinds of vi­o­lence and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Their par­ents are obliged to con­tinue to take care of them.”

The rul­ing added that schools must con­tinue to en­sure vic­tims of child mar­riage could con­tinue their stud­ies, “in­clud­ing when a girl be­comes preg­nant.”

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s dis­cus­sion group on child mar­riage, re­searcher Mukti Ali raised the is­sue of us­ing Is­lamic sources, in­clud­ing Qu­ranic verses, to jus­tify child mar­riage. This is im­plied in Su­rah Al Tha­laq, de­spite Su­rah Al Rum men­tion­ing Al­lah’s cre­ation of cou­ples “so that you can feel bliss­ful to­ward him/her”. The aim of bliss­ful fam­i­lies can­not be achieved through child mar­riage, Ruqqoyah, said.

The con­gress re­sults were far too late for one deaf girl who was raped and forced to marry her rapist. This was the fam­ily’s de­ci­sion, a par­tic­i­pant said, as her voice cracked. “So I had to pre­pare her [dress and do her makeup], but I feel I’ve sinned.”

The sec­ond con­gress rul­ing was also ground­break­ing: that sex­ual vi­o­lence is haram within and out­side a mar­riage. The third was that de­vel­op­ment that caused dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment was also haram.

The con­gress rul­ings, while non-bind­ing, are to serve as a ref­er­ence for mat­ters con­sid­ered ur­gent by over 1,000 con­gress par­tic­i­pants. (Nurul Fitri Ramadhani and Ati Nurbaiti)

Thejakartapost.com, April 28, 2017

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2017/04/28/avoiding-child-marriage-mandatory.html