Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Polygamy in Indonesia

On 17 October, a polygamy club was established in Bandung, West Java.

In spite of the club's name, the Malaysian based club is headed by a woman i.e.
Chodijah Binti Am, and its members consists of polygamous men as well as unmarried men.

The establishment of said club has been supported by members of a similar club in Indonesia that was established by the polygamous owner of Wong Solo restaurant, Puspo Wardojo. However, it was strongly protested by lawyer & ex lawmaker Nusyahbani Kantjasungkana and the Women's Legal Aid Institution (LBH Apik) who are worried that the club's high profile campaign might inspire more men to practice polygamy.

Actually polygamy is not forbidden in Indonesia, whereby the Marriage Law No. 1/1974 stipulates that a Muslim man can marry more than one woman provided that a Court allowed him to do so.For which purpose the following conditions should be fulfilled :
1) He has a (written) permit from his wife
2) He guarantees to fulfill all the needs of his wives & children
3) There is a guarantee that he will be fair on his wives & children

These conditions are necessary, because a man who marry two or three or four women must equally share his love with all his wives and children, therefore must have a steady income that is two or three or four times much bigger than if he only has one wife.

For detailed media reports on the above, please click here, here, here and here.

Considering that the Marriage Law allowed Muslim men to practice Polygamy under certain conditions, as law abiding citizens we cannot reject a man's right to marry more than one woman as long as it is done legitimately.
However, I hope that civil servant/public officials would not be allowed to marry more that one woman so that he would not be tempted to get more money by abusing authority that has been placed in him.


colson said...

I can't but agree with your demand that civil servants and officials should not be married to more than one wife.
I wonder however why there is a lawful exception. Because I don't see any real logic why others should still able to practice polygamy ( be it within certain very flexible conditions).

The law in a decent society should be neutral. At least it should not discriminate on the grounds of religion, gender, political convictions, socio-economic status etc.

Male and female rights usually are and should be equal for each and every citizen in any modern country. So by definition
polygamy in such a modern country is beyond my comprehension because it is a blatant breach of women's rights.

I really hope the loophole in Indonesian law which permits polygamy, will be closed soon.

H. Nizam said...

Basically the marriage law adopted the monogamy system. Polygamy is only allowed under strict conditions mentioned in my post.
When the law was issued in 1974,it
brought big improvement especially for Muslims. Before that men were free to conduct polygamy merely based on religious law.
There has been talks about revising said law & eliminate polygamy, however the result is still unclear.

Rob Baiton said...

Harry + Colson...

I saw this story as well. Did my Roy Suryo post inspire you? :D

I agree with Colson in the sense that "polygamy is either in or its out". If it is in, then it is open to all to practice, civil servants included. Or, alternatively, if it is out, then it is out across the board.

However, the idea that it is a blatant breach of women's rights is an interesting argument. Who determines the blatancy of the breach? Can women not determine that for themselves? Or is there a group of women somewhere who get to make these decisions for the whole of womanhood?

I appreciate that there are many women who are coerced and coopted into a polygamous marriage against their wishes. However, how should those women who choose freely, and can demonstrate that they have chosen freely, to be part of a polygamous marriage?

Is there a council of elders who determines that no sane woman would choose a polygamous marriage, and any woman that does must have done so against her wishes?

I am not pro-polygamy, I am not anti-polygamy, it is not my cup of tea though. However, I am a firm believer that individuals, both women and men, have rights. If it can be proved that a polygamous marriage was forced, then I have no problem with it also being forcibly dissolved.

However, if this cannot be proved, then to each their own.

It is not a loophole that arose because of the construction of the law. It has been purposefully included. Therefore, the legislation needs to be amended to prohibit polygamy across the board, if that is what is believed to be necessary.

I am not sure that I would ascribe to the theory that the Marriage law basically adopted the monogamy system. What it did, was an attempt to codify the practice of marriage as it existed in Indonesia into a set of enforceable rules.

Nevertheless, the idea and the practice of Kawin Siri has not disappeared. In fact, in the past few years the former VP even suggested that the practice was a good one for the economic development of women in the areas around Bandung.

Admittedly, he backed off that statement when people starting to suggest that kawin siri in that context was nothing more than legalized prostitution and a pre-cursor to human trafficking and other nasties.

The idea of a polygamy club where singles can turn up sort of sounds like a swingers club, and a cover for some wife swapping, which is kind of sad.

Rob Baiton said...


BTW, how did you become so popular? You have five times as many followers as I do.

Must be the writing ;)

H. Nizam said...

You are right, I was inspired by the statement about polygamy in your Roy Suryo post.

I agree with you & Colson that we should either agree or disagree with polygamy. However, as always, I want to see things as they are i.e a 35 years old law determined that polygamy can be practiced under strict conditions. As long the law still exists, we have to honor it. The important thing is how to make sure that the strict conditions are met.
Rob, maybe you've heard about men who faked their wive's written consent, or their own ID, in order to get more wives.
Moreover, there is the Kawin Siri alternative, although illegitimate according to national law, but getting popular.

Re: polygamy club, I heard that even MUI denounced its existence.
I believed polygamy will not be more popular than before.
Maybe you've heard about Ulama in Bandung who loose popularity after marrying more woman.
There's also an owner of Wong Solo restaurant who closed most of his outlets after promoting polygamy incl. giving polygamy award to a former Vice President.

Regarding my 'popularity' actually I haven't done much except that I always try to make my blog guests friendly. I thought that people who visit blogs are people who want to get information easily. That's why I tried to make my posts short & clear.
I think of blogging as collective work whereby bloggers share information so that people would want to come to visit our blogs.
Therefore I posted on other blogs and/or let others post on my blog e.g family consultant in Jakarta, history student in London, a U.S crisis management consultant, etc. Such cooperation brings visitors to my blog as well as to them.
Beside that I joined social media networks: Blog Catalog, Mybloglog, Twitter, Blogged, Technoratti, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.

Rob, I respect you because you know Indonesia & your writings are GREAT! I learned a lot. Especially that you are the first blogger who want to follow on Google Friends Connect, that means a lot to me.

colson said...

@ Rob: First of all: I promise your thorough comment will enhance the traffic for the rabexperience. I got hooked.

As for the incompatibility of equal rights and polygamy, we obviously differ of opinion.

To make a comparison: It,s a fact fact that some laborers are willing to work in conditions which are potential lethal ( say coal mines in the Ukraine or China). A decent society wouldn't allow that. It would want protect by law each and every laborer, those who are willing to put their lives at stake included, against these dangers.

Polygamy potentially is unfriendly to women; it grants wealthy men a kind of privilege in relation to women. It is a breach of equal rights by definition - it does not allow the same privilege to women. And it's hierarchical character ( the husband is in charge) is a threat to a meaningful relationship based on man and women being equal partners.

Well, your opinion is refreshingly "politically incorrect", but you didn't convince me ( at all).

Rob Baiton said...


As I said, polygamy is not my cup of tea.

Interesting side note, and still on the subject of polygamy, Australia recognizes a polygamous marriage for the purposes of the division of assets.

The polygamous marriage is recognized as a de facto relationship. Much in the same way as the recent amendments to the Family Law Act (Cth) recognizes mistresses.


I don't know that we do differ in opinion. My point was more academic than anything else. In the sense that if one believes in things such as democracy and freedom of choice and a whole range of other civil liberties, then when is it OK to tell someone how to live their personal lives.

I was pretty clear in my comment that there are numerous examples of women forced, coerced, or coopted into a polygamous marriage.

The question I was posing was how do "we" as a community deal with situations where a woman voluntarily chooses to enter into a polygamous marriage, even when she is aware of all of the arguments about equal rights and the like?

There is not much politically incorrect in that, is there?

As a community we still have not mastered equal rights. For example, what do the stats say about matters such as equal pay, equal opportunities for promotion in the workplace, among others.

The other question I have is this, "Since when have marriages been about the equal rights of men and women?"

It would be a rare occurrence that a husband and a wife earn exactly the same amount, wouldn't it? I do not see too many men taking time of work to have children (aside from the fact that economic conditions do not allow it even where the law might)?

In any event, why can't we go the other way and allow polyandry? Let's face it, it would be fun to watch how some men handle being the second or third husband to a successful wife :D

H. Nizam said...


Polygamy is not my cup of tea either. It only draw my attention when public figures especially government official are practicing it.

It would be very interesting if women are allowed to practice polygamy. Why not?