Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ballad of Puji & Ulfa

Too Young to be Married
Too Young to be Free
Too Young to be Married
But what can they do?
That’s the refrain of the song "Too Young to be Married" performed by the British pop band The Hollies, which tells a story about a couple of school girl and boy who were forced to get married because the girl was pregnant. The song was popular in the ‘70s not only because it sounded nice but also because the lyrics reflects the marriage life of many youngsters.

I have not heard the song for more than 10 years, but since one month ago I started to hum the refrain again after I heard the daily news in the mass media about the controversial marriage between a 12 years old girl i.e. Ulfa and a 43 years old man i.e Syekh Puji who is the owner of an Islamic Boarding School in Semarang, Central Java in early August 2008. The strange thing was that the mass media and the man’s lawyer have been treating the story as if it is about a normal marriage, while actually the marriage was a clear violation of our Marriage Law i.e. UU No.1/1974 which stipulates that the minimum age for a female to be married is 16 years old. Especially that when he married Ulfa, Puji already has a wife. Beside that, Syekh Puji can be charged with violating the Children Protection Law i.e. UU No.23 Year 2002. It seemed as if the mass media has been mesmerized by Syekh Puji’s claim that the marriage was done according to Islamic Law, and by his Arab style appearance i.e. wearing a long white robe, a bearded face and bead necklace. Only after interference by the Minister of Empowerment of Women, the Chairman of the Islamic Clergyman Council (MUI) and Chairman of the National Commission for the Protection of Children did the Police start investigating Syekh Puji, who later on agree to return the little girl to her parents.

This case shows that the Marriage Law and Children Protection Law are still not popular enough. In this regards, the mass media can assist by spreading information regarding those laws when they first knew about the case, that way the Police would have been able to investigate Syekh Puji much earlier.


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