Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – A series of YouTube videos featuring a young married couple, Adhiguna and Sabrina Sosiawan, has caused a stir on social media for allegedly endorsing child marriage, with users expressing concern over the couple touting the illicit practice in public.
Twitter user Pritta Lora Damanik, who uses the handle @prittadamanik and whose profile identifies her as a "UN Volunteer", spoke out against the couple in a tweet that has gone viral, criticizing the video series as an obvious attempt to romanticize child marriage.
"Please don't be poisoned by the negative content from the toxic couple Adhiguna and Sabrina. Whoever they are, child marriage can never be justified. The country is waging a battle against [child marriage], please help me report their YouTube account," she wrote.
At the time of publishing, her tweet had been retweeted nearly 5,000 times. She claimed that she had reached out to Adhiguna on Instagram about the contentious video series.
"I tried to point out that child marriage is a serious issue in the country and that [Adhiguna] should not promote it on YouTube. And yet, my comment was deleted!" she said in a follow-up tweet.
The couple at the center of the controversy has made a name for themselves on YouTube by recounting the story that led to their wedding in August 2019, when Adhiguna was 25 and Sabrina was 16.
Through their multi-part series titled "Reasons Why [We] Married at 16", Adhiguna and Sabrina take turns explaining why they got married when Sabrina was still underage and how their marriage has affected their lives.
Children's and women's rights activists have also taken to social media and condemned the couple for "glorifying" and deliberately glossing over the risks of child marriage.
Coordinator Lia Anggie of the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+) said that the couple seemed to be using their YouTube channel to spread a "romantic" narrative of child marriage, noting that the practice was a persistent issue in Indonesia, especially among low-income families.
"Contrary to their privileged reality, child marriage doesn't automatically lead to picture-perfect overseas vacations for most people," Lia told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. "Quite the opposite. The trend shows that it often leads to poverty."
She added that early marriages also tended to rob young women of their right to education.
Lia said that Koalisi 18+ would ask YouTube to remove the controversial videos immediately to prevent undue influence on impressionable children and teens.
"It's not just about 'love'. There are so many other variables that must be taken into consideration," she stressed.
Early marriages are prevalent in Indonesia, influenced in part by religious beliefs and socioeconomic factors. Statistics Indonesia (BPS) found in 2015 that 23 percent of Indonesian children, particularly girls, married before their 18th birthday.
A 2018 BPS report found that girls from the poorest households were nearly three times more likely to marry as minors than those from higher social classes.
The minimum marriageable age for both girls and boys is 19 under the Marriage Law, which was amended in September 2019.
Women's Health Foundation chair Zumrotin said that the YouTube couple should not have preached publicly about the supposed merits of their early marriage, as their experience did not represent the social reality in Indonesia.
"They really should have looked at [early marriage] on a macro level. The fact is that most early marriages deprive women of education and parental love," she told the Post.
Zumrotin said early marriages could also negatively impact the reproductive health of young women, thereby robbing them of their agency over their bodies.
"Please remove the videos. They serve no other purpose than to endanger the lives of many young women," she appealed to the couple.
The criticisms on "glorifying child marriage" refer to the way the couple talk about their marriage on their YouTube channel in a narrative resembling teen romance.
"When my husband and I tied the knot, I was 16 and he was 25," Sabrina says in the first video of the series, and that the pair married little over a month after they first met. "We believed it was the best decision, as we both love each other. It's our destiny," she adds.
She then says that her parents and in-laws had been lifelong friends and are even in the same professional circles. Both her and Adhiguna's parents had approved of their marriage, she says.
Meanwhile, Adhiguna gives "tips" by sharing how he proposed to Sabrina and married a "woman" who was significantly younger than him, saying that everything boiled down to "love and affection".
"The 'falling in love' factor is crucial for people who wish to marry," he says in one video interspersed with clips of the couple's trip to Europe.
He later points out that the couple married one month before the government raised the minimum marriageable age for girls in September 2019 from 16 to 19, and therefore, their marriage was legal.
Separately on his Instagram profile, Adhiguna posted a photo of himself and Sabrina wearing high school uniforms in what appears to be a promotional campaign for the couple's video series.
A number of Instagramers have expressed their admiration for the young couple's seemingly idyllic marriage in the comments section below the photo. Several teenaged users have commented that they were following in the couple's footsteps and were due to be married to significantly older men.
"Pray for me, I will make like mas [Adhiguna] and kak [elder sister] Sabrina and be married at age 16 to a handsome CEO," one comment reads.