Will he follow through with the annulment? Or will this move simply get the media off his back until the uproar dies down? In any event, this story has yielded one important development: The assertion that, at least for now, Indonesian civil law still trumps sharia law in this area. What remains to be seen is the strength of the political will to keep it that way. An update on this story. “Indonesian cleric reconsiders marriage to minor,” by Yunita Rovroy for Radio Netherlands, October 29:
In Indonesia, the controversial marriage between a Muslim cleric and an underage girl will probably be annulled. Wealthy businessman and Muslim cleric Pujiono Cahyo Widiyanto, aged 43, married 12-year-old Lutfiana Ulfa in August. Lutfania is the daughter of a poor family in the city of Semarang in central Java. The marriage has led to widespread protest.
Seto Mulyadi, chairman of the national children’s rights commission Komnas Perlindungan Anak, feels reassured. He met Widyanto on Tuesday. He believes that the Muslim cleric has understood that his marriage constitutes a violation of the law. Widiyanto, who until now insisted that his marriage was in compliance with Islamic law, has eventually come around. He reportedly intended to conclude two other marriages with girls aged seven and nine.
Mulyadi believes the Indonesian government should take the initiative to create better social conditions for children:
“The government could achieve this in the cities, but also in villages. I hope these measures will better safeguard children’s rights. In addition, children should be better protected against all kinds of forms of violence and abuse.”
Mulyadi is pleased with Widiyanto’s decision to have his marriage to Lutfiana annulled. His commission has succeeded in convincing the Muslim cleric that he made a mistake. By admitting his mistake, Widiyanto also acknowledged that national law takes precedence over Islamic Sharia law. Mulyadi hopes Widiyanto’s step will make others realise that marriages with minors cannot be tolerated.
Indonesia’s 1974 Marriage Act forbids marriages involving persons under the age of 16. Nevertheless, marriages to minors are quite common in rural Indonesia.
Even though the marriage will be dissolved, Professor Agnes Widanti of Jaringan Perempuan dan Anak Jawa Tengah (the Central Java Women’s and Children’s Network) speaks of a regrettable and embarrassing case. Widiyanto promised Lutfiana a good job with his company. The marriage was concluded with the consent of both the girl’s parents. Widanti says money and power played an important role.
Physical and psychological problems
Widanti argues that for a minor, a marriage results in both physical and psychological problems. Lutfiana, says Widanti, will eventually feel locked out in society. As a child, she won’t feel at home in the company of adults. And she will always remain the odd-one-out in the company of her peers.
“She will carry a heavy load. She will have to take responsibility for her family at a very young age. From a physical perspective, sexual intercourse with a child under 16 can lead to injuries and an increased risk of contracting a wide variety of diseases. These traumatic events in turn can leave their marks. All in all an extremely worrisome situation.”Azyumardi Azra, an Islamic scholar, is also opposed to marriages involving minors. Even though according to Islam Lutfiana is ready to marry – she had her first period at a young age – in Indonesia national law takes priority over Islamic law.
“This marriage is in violation of the law, in this case, the 1974 Marriage Act puts the minimum legal age at 16. The marriage is also in violation of the international treaty on the rights of the child [which has also been ratified by Indonesia].” Media reports prove there is widespread opposition in Indonesia against marriages with minors, also in Islamic circles. It is not clear exactly when the marriage between Widiyanto and Lutfiana will be annulled.