Illustration by Citra Adi Lusiandani on LPM Opini Online
Indonesia, a nation with much cultural diversity and natural beauty, has made significant progress in various socio-economic movements. However, one persistent issue that threatens the development and well-being of Indonesian women is early marriage. While this practice is deeply rooted in traditions and social norms, it is high time we acknowledge the detrimental impact of early marriage on the lives of Indonesians young-girl who are forced to be obedient and do not have other choices to be made.
Indonesian women nowadays still get unfair treatment by society as the perception of men having more power in any aspect of life, such as politics, education, job opportunities, etc., is still highly accepted and followed by the Indonesian community. This patriarchal perspective that has been rooted in Indonesian culture eventually causes the trigger of women’s stereotypes to appear — women are only expected that once they are mature, they should be married, become a housewife, and give birth to their children. Therefore, this issue eventually impacts the idea of early marriage to emerge in Indonesian society and becomes a demand for women to get married as soon as possible.
Indonesian Ministry Of Women’s Empowerment And Child Protection reports that the child marriage dispensation accepted in 2021 reached 65 thousand cases, whereas, in 2022, it was recorded with 55 thousand submissions — most of the reports are because of premarital pregnancy experienced by young girls or parental coercion to have an early marriage.
More studies found by Statistics Indonesia show that more than one million women aged 20–24 married at the age of fewer than 18 years old (1.2 million people), whereas 61.3 thousand women of the same age had their marriage before they were 15 years old. Furthermore, the data also shows that the percentage of early marriage in rural areas is 16.87 percent compared to urban areas, which only reaches 7.15 percent — the economic level in rural areas is lower than in urban areas, so it makes people tend to have low education due to lack of funds. In addition, the job status of someone’s husband is also perceived that when parents are married off their daughter, the economic burden will be shifted to their husband afterward — women are seen as a family’s burden, and early marriage is perceived as a way-out solution to decrease the economic burden as they do not need to pay for them to continue their education level.
The Harmful Consequences
Early marriage perpetuates a vicious cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and gender inequality. In Indonesia, there are several regulations for students in educational institutions that force their students not to have married during their studies. Thus, if they once choose to break the rule, they will be compelled from their school and do not have a decent educational opportunity to help them in every aspect of their lives. Education is essential for women to achieve independence, build careers, and contribute to their community, yet early marriage tradition has damaged a massive impact on personal growth and the nation’s development.
Moreover, the serious impact of early marriage that will be experienced by women is the damage to their reproductive organs that are not ready to accept the pregnancy, so it can cause various complications, risk of anemia and early death, or even maternal mortality — it has a risk of experiencing 2.6 greater maternal mortality, 50 percent infant mortality, 2–5 times pregnancy complications, 5 times miscarriages, 35–55 percent low birth weight and labor complications. Therefore, it is necessary for Indonesian society not to continue this tradition, and women should be free to choose their options themselves without any pressure — there are lots of things to be considered before deciding to have an early marriage, and women should know the consequences of every decision they make.
Protecting the Young-Women’s Rights
Yet, it is important to implement and enforce comprehensive legislation and policies that protect women’s rights in any aspect of their lives, and the Indonesian government must prioritize the eradication of early marriage by raising the legal age of marriage itself, enforcing stricter penalties for offenders, and providing systems to help the victims. Furthermore, the smallest action that can be done so far is to spread awareness of the early marriage impacts on all Indonesian communities, so that the romanticizing portrayal of it can be minimized. Education plays a pivotal role in challenging social norms and changing people’s perspectives. Thus, by investing in education quality and equality, especially for girls who live in rural areas, can empower them with knowledge, critical skills, and confidence to fight against prejudices.
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