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Women dominate divorce cases at Banda Aceh Islamic Court

Jakarta Post - August 25, 2007

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh – Accompanied by her mother, "Dedek" sat nervously in the Banda Aceh Islamic Court waiting to hear if her request for a divorce would be granted. There was no sign of her estranged husband.

"I requested a divorce because I couldn't take it anymore. I am sure the court will grant my request," she said.

The 32-year-old filed for divorce on the basis that her husband regularly physically abused her and acted jealously. "This is my final decision. I have given him chances to change in the past," she said.

Following the devastating tsunami that hit Aceh in 2004, the Banda Aceh Islamic Court has heard hundreds of divorce cases, mostly filed by women.

Aside from well-educated women who are well informed of their rights, housewives and uneducated women living in remote areas of the province also regularly file for divorce.

"In June this year, 93 women filed for divorce at the Banda Aceh Islamic Court. Only 34 divorce cases were filed by men," said Basri SH, a staff member at the court.

He said in most cases, the reasons women gave for seeking divorce made more sense than those of men. Cases filed by women, who are often seen as victims, generally do not spend long in court.

"Ninety percent of women who file for divorce do so because their husbands are irresponsible or engage in polygamy," Basri said. Other women file for divorce because they are tired of fighting with their husbands or being the victims of domestic violence, he said.

So far this month the court has received 58 divorce submissions. Of this number, 45 cases were filed by women. Aside from divorce cases, the Islamic Court also deals with other matters, including issuing permits for polygamy and hearing inheritance disputes.