No Longer Delayed – A Nationwide Call to End Child Marriage in Indonesia
Since the turn of the century, Indonesia has been a rising power both in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the G20, and has grown to have Southeast Asia’s largest economy. This remarkable progress has seen its poverty rate reduce by more than half, and the country’s economic status rise from a low-income to a middle-income country. With such great leaps in social and economic development it’s easy to think that archaic practices such as child marriage would have disappeared.
However, just as other countries strive to achieve development goals, harmful practices such as child marriage remain a challenge.
One in nine girls marry before they reach 18 years of age in Indonesia. Across the country an estimated 375 child brides are married every day, limiting girls’ development, and exposing them to a multitude of health risks and abuse. The practice deprives many of the right to education, and limits economic opportunities. Fewer than 1 in 20 child marriages are legally sanctioned, further restricting child brides and their families from access to a legal identity and therefore vital services and social protection.
Recognising the severity of the issue, and the perpetual impacts child marriage has on the lives of women and girls, in 2018 the Indonesian Government’s Development Planning Ministry (BAPPENAS) embarked on a path to end child marriage through a nation-wide strategy. A working group was formed to help implement the strategy, involving BAPPENAS, the Cardno-managed Australia-Indonesia Partnership for Justice (AIPJ2), United Nations agencies UNICEF and UNFPA, and other development partners.
Speaking at the launch of Indonesia’s national strategy and report on child marriage prevention in February, BAPPENAS Minister, Suharso Monoarfa, said, "Child marriage prevention can no longer be delayed. We need collaborative effort from multi sectors. From families, to government, to development partners".
Founded on principles of child protection, gender equality, effectiveness, and sustainability, the strategy informs the Indonesian Midterm Development Plan which aims to reduce the rate of child marriage from 11.20 percent to 8.74 percent by 2024. The strategy also brings together Indonesia’s justice institutions, particularly the Supreme Court and its branches, as well as a wide range of government agencies at national and sub-national levels. Beyond the midterm plan, and in line with SDG 5, the strategy aims to bring child marriage rates to below 7 percent by 2030.
"Child marriage is one of the impediments to developing high quality human resources and reducing levels of poverty," said Monoarfa.
Through AIPJ2, Cardno is supporting the national strategy by funding activities in local communities that are testing approaches to child marriage prevention, including engaging with religious leaders, local government, and supporting child advocates to raise awareness among their peers. AIPJ2 has presented evidence and lessons learnt from these prevention initiatives to national and subnational policymakers.
AIPJ2 provides strategic advice and technical assistance to BAPPENAS in its legal and regulatory analysis, as well as giving direct input into the national strategy. Through the creation of platforms for knowledge exchange, such as AIPJ2’s Knowledge Hub For Justice, the program is able to create an enabling environment that fosters shared learning on research findings and best practices between partners and wider networks.
Consistent with the national strategy, AIPJ2 has also supported the Supreme Court to introduce a new regulation guiding judges who hear applications for judicial consent for marriages under the legal age of nineteen. Legalised child marriages enable identity documents for families and children but currently represent less than 5 percent of all child marriages. The Supreme Court regulation was passed in December 2019 after evidence was presented by AIPJ2 with the Family Court of Australia. The evidence demonstrated the need for judges to consider the rights of the child and follow other procedures to protect children in such cases.
As the rate of child marriage has barely fallen over the previous decade, it is hoped through these ongoing efforts to realise Indonesia’s national strategy that many thousands of women and girls will no longer be faced with the reality of child marriage. AIPJ2 continues to provide strategic inputs to BAPPENAS in its delivery of the national strategy and in line with Australia’s focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment as a priority for development outcomes.