Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – In a decision that may pave the way for the elimination of rampant child marriage in Indonesia, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the 16 years old minimum age requirement for women to marry, as stipulated in the 1974 Marriage Law, was unconstitutional.
The court granted a judicial review petition filed by three child bride survivors and their lawyer from the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+), challenging Article 7 of the law, which sets the minimum age requirement for women to marry at 16.
In a hearing presided over by Chief Justice Anwar Usman, the court argued that the rule was a form of gender-based discrimination since the minimum age for requirement for men to marry was 19, and therefore contradicted the 1945 Constitution.
The court, however, refused to grant the plaintiffs' demand to raise the minimum age for women to marry to that of the age for men, arguing that it was the authority of lawmakers and the court did not want to make a decision that could prevent any future law revisions.
"[The court] orders lawmakers to revise the 1974 Marriage Law, particularly in regard to the minimum age for women to marry, within a maximum three years," Anwar read out the ruling on Thursday.
Justice Saldi Isra said the provision in article would remain valid until the deadline of three years. Should there be no revision prior to the deadline, the minimum age requirement would be harmonized with the 2002 Child Protection Law, which defines a child as someone below 18 years old.
Justice I Dewa Gede Palguna said that those at the age of 16 were still categorized children under the Child Protection Law, meaning that those who married at 16 were considered as being involved in child marriage, which had negative impact and threatening children's welfare.
"Not only in terms of negative impact on health, there are possibilities of child exploitation and the increase of threats of violence against children in underage marriage," Palguna said, adding that child marriage also threatened children's rights to education.