Tara Marchelin, Jakarta – Several factors have contributed to the declining child marriage rate in Indonesia, but a lot more need to be done to enforce the law that protects girls from early marriage.
Maria Ulfah Anshor, a commissioner of the National Commission for Women, said the compulsory education period of 12 years is among the key factors that helped prevent child marriage.
"The compulsory education of 12 years has impact on the child marriage rate, especially because many cities and districts have implemented this program. We must continue supporting this regulation to ensure it is implemented in the entire regions," Maria said in Jakarta on Friday.
The Indonesian government aims to slash further the child marriage rate from 11.21 percent in 2018 to at least 8.7 percent by 2024, with integrated efforts involving all related states agencies with the support from international organizations and foreign governments. The long-term goal is to meet the sustainable development goal of reducing the rate to 6.94 percent by 2030.
The National Development Planning Ministry, or Bappenas, and the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry launched the national strategy on child marriage prevention on Feb. 14, in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, the Unicef, the Canadian Government and the Australian Government.
Bappenas' child protection sub directorate head Yosi Diani said the national strategy seeks to optimize children's capacity so that they have resilience towards the issue and become agents of change at their peer group.
It also aims to build an environment against child marriage by changing people's mindset on the issue, including parents, and ensures that children obtain comprehensive basic services for their well-being.
The joint measures to combat child marriage also include attempts to raise public awareness about regulations on marriage, Yosi said.
Last September, the House of Representatives enacted the amended marriage law that stipulates marriageable age at 19 for both sexes.
Yosi added the government will select several district as pilot projects to implement the anti-child marriage policies.
"We haven't decided where, but several districts have declared their commitment in preventing child marriage," she said.
Disadvantage for woman
Maria said child marriage does harms to the brides in many aspects.
"In the education aspect, many formal schools don't allow attendance by a woman who is pregnant or married. In the economic aspect, a woman tends to be very dependent on the husband, especially if the husband is way older," Maria explained.
Moreover, Maria said child marriage puts the girl at risks of domestic violence and one-sided divorce even if her spouse is at the same age.
She added that child marriage contributes to maternal and infant mortality rates in Indonesia because the bride is not yet physically ready for pregnancy.
"In Indonesia, there are 359 deaths per 100,000 live births and one out of three infants suffered stunted growth due to child marriage," Maria said.