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Indonesian firm in hot water over child marriage ads

Wedding planner faces prosecution for encouraging girls as young as 12 to get hitched

Indonesian firm in hot water over child marriage ads

Women Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga. (Photo: Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry)

A wedding planner has drawn widespread condemnation in Indonesia for promoting child marriage in an advertisement posted on its website and social media earlier this week.

The advertisement from Aisha Weddings, which specializes in organizing Muslim marriages, encouraged Muslim women aged 12-21 to get married as a form of “obedience to God.” 

According to the agency, a Muslim girl’s job “is to serve a husband’s needs,” so she “must rely on a man as early as possible for the sake of a settled and happy family.”

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The firm’s website and social media posts have now been taken down following the outcry that included calls for the agency’s bosses to be jailed.

Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga called the ads a flagrant breach of child protection laws.

“Aisha Weddings’ promotion of child marriage cannot be condoned by the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry or all non-governmental organizations which take an active part in dealing with issues related to child protection,” she said in a written statement received by UCA News on Feb. 10.

“Marriage in Indonesia is regulated by a 2019 law which stipulates that a man and a woman cannot get married before the age of 19.” 

She accused the agency of deliberately attempting to undermine the government’s efforts to stamp out child marriage in Indonesia.

According to a 2018 study by the Socioeconomic National Survey (Susenas), Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child marriages in the world.

“I have discussed these ads with the Communications and Information Ministry and national police chief for the need for further investigation … We need to involve law enforcement here to prevent children from becoming victims,” she said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Millennial Friends, the youth wing of the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, was of the same view and filed a police complaint against the agency on Feb. 10.

“Aisha Weddings’ ad promoting child marriage is disgraceful,” Disna Riantina, one of the group’s activists, said in a statement.

“The promotion of child marriage is a denial of child rights and leads to child exploitation and human trafficking. It also violates a child’s constitutional rights 

“SAMINDO-Setara Institute expects the Jakarta Regional Police to act on our complaint and bring those responsible for the ads to justice.” 

The agency also violated a computer crime law that prohibits such advertisements and which could land those responsible with a 12-year jail term, Riantina added.  

Another police complaint was filed by the Indonesian Child Protection Commission. 

Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Sesilia Susana Anak Agung, coordinator of the Atambua-based Women and Child Care Forum, called the ads disgusting and said those responsible for them had shown no care for the well-being of young girls.

“Besides violating existing laws, child marriage creates many problems. It endangers the health of young girls if a man expects his bride to have children. and at an early age. Underage girls are also not mature enough to cope with the pressures marriage brings in general. The very idea of child marriage is totally wrong,” she said. 

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