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Indonesia police arrest 4 men in 'forced marriage' case

Men abducting and forcing women to marry is an old tradition still practiced in parts of East Nusa Tenggara Province
A screengrab of a video showing a group of men abducting a 20-year-old woman on Sumba Island in Indonedia's East Nusa Tenggara province to force her to marry a man according to a local tradition

A screengrab of a video showing a group of men abducting a 20-year-old woman on Sumba Island in Indonedia's East Nusa Tenggara province to force her to marry a man according to a local tradition. (Photo supplied)

Published: September 08, 2023 11:11 AM GMT
Updated: September 08, 2023 11:12 AM GMT

Indonesian police have arrested four men for allegedly abducting and trying to forcibly marry a young girl in East Nusa Tenggara Province.

Forced marriage, locally known as Kawin Tangkap or Padeta Mawinne, is an old tradition still practiced in the province’s interior areas such as Kodi and Wawewa on Sumba Island.

The Catholic Church in the Christian-majority province opposes it and government and advocacy groups are working to abolish it.

A video of the Sept. 7 incident showed a group of men in Southwest Sumba Regency grab a woman while she was walking on a street and push her into a pick-up truck as she resisted them.

Southwest Sumba Police Chief Sigit Harimbawan said the 20-year-old girl was kidnapped by a 50-year-old man who wanted to marry her.

"The man gathered a group of 20 people to kidnap and take her to his house,” he said.

Four people including the 50-year-old man have been arrested and named as suspects, Harimbawan said.

The police officer said the abductor and his victim knew each other. They were in a relationship and the man wanted to marry her.

The abduction of a woman by several men in public places, such as busy markets, streets, or even from her residence in full view of the local community is part of the local tradition of forced marriage.

However, the National Commission on Violence Against Women in 2020 categorized the tradition as sexual harassment of women.

It has recorded 20 cases of forced abductions and marriages since 2020.

The Ministry of Women and Children's Empowerment also defines the tradition as "a form of violence against women and children, under the guise of culture."

Redemptorist Father Paulus Dwiyaminarta from the Sarnelli Legal Aid Office in Sumba said the last such case was reported in 2021.

"This came as a shock to all of us because, in the previous incidents that we advocated, the perpetrators were successfully prosecuted and have been convicted," he told UCA News.

The priest said that they would monitor the legal process in this new case as well in order to ensure an effective deterrent for the perpetrators and prevent a repeat of such incidents in the future.

"We’ll continue to advocate marriage according to law, both civil law and religious law and the local Marapu beliefs that are adhered to by some of the people of Sumba," he said.

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