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Friday, May 11, 2007

Marriage Law in Indonesia

Since feminist movement was spread in Indonesia widely in the beginning of 1990s, more and more women organizations have done their best to awaken women’s awareness about the gender bias applied in many rules, regulations, policies, etc. Those gender-biased rules, regulations, and policies are not to be viewed as naturally created, but socially constructed.

One example is what is stated in the Marriage Law Number 1 issued in 1974. The chapter 4 of this law says that men can have another wife as long as under some conditions; such as the first wife suffers from one disease for a long time so that she cannot serve the husband; the first wife is proven infertile so that the couple cannot have children. On the other hand, it is not stated that a wife can marry another man if those two unfavorable things happen to her husband; i.e. the husband suffers from one disease for a long time so that he cannot support the needs of the family; the husband is allegedly infertile so that he cannot make his wife pregnant.

Women organizations have tried to awaken women about this unfair treatment. It is very important because the strong indoctrination done by Islamic religious leaders—that it is acceptable for Muslim men to practice polygamy—has blinded many common women so that they see the rules as naturally created: men are the only right sex while women are the other, so that women have to follow what is decided by men.

After struggling for more than one decade to make another more fair marriage law for both sides—man and woman—women must admit that it is not as easy as to turn our palm down. There are still many women (including those who have high education that are supposed to be able to think critically) who think that men are created superior so that they can have more than one wife; a group of women who believe that by sacrificing their life in this world will lead them to heaven in their life after death.

Shockingly, recently there is a group of people that want marriage law to be reviewed again because it does not support Muslim men to practice polygamy. The two reasons—the wife has suffered from disease for a long time, and the wife is infertile so that she cannot get pregnant—are considered to make Muslim men difficult to practice what has been done by Prophet Muhammad; that is to have more than one wife.

Obviously they see the polygamy done by Prophet Muhammad only from one side without trying to view the reasons why Muhammad did that, without taking a look at the first marriage (that is monogamous) Muhammad had with Khadijah that lasted for twenty-five years. Muhammad’s polygamy had social and political reasons.

Ø Social reason è to help women whose husbands died in one big war—Uhud war where the Muslim were beaten. Living as a widow in that era was a very disadvantageous thing, a woman could not become the proprietor of her own things. Her riches would belong to her brother or uncle. If the brother or uncle cheated her, her children would lose their right.

Ø Political reason è to unite many ethnic groups that often had war to one another to seek power at that time. Muhammad’s wives came from different ethnic groups so that it was expected they would not get involved in wars that would just kill innocent people.

In this era, what reasons do those selfish man have to marry the second, third, and fourth wives but their greed in sex?

Indeed it is not easy to realize the more equalitarian culture, to make people to have equalitarian perspective in viewing life. The same Marriage Law can be viewed from two contradictory perspectives: women view it as not women-friendly, it can easily encourage violence to women; while selfish men view it as a big obstacle to have more than one wife.

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Anonymous said...

According to logic in laws, everything which is not forbidden is allowed. Thus, if "it is not stated that a wife can marry another man..", means it is not forbidden, isn't it?

I don't agree that current Marriage Law easily encourage violence. If a wife doesn't agree her husband marry again, she can put a divorce proposal. The same is true when a wife wants to marry another man, the husband can propose divorce, too. If physical violence occurs, then this is a case which can be reported to the police/court. Physical violence can occur not only in a polygamy marriage, but also in a monogamy marriage.

Last but not least, who can give judgement that a law is fair or not? Fairness doesn't always mean the same. And who is blinded? Both sides can point one to another.

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