Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Unusual Marriages

The Marriage Law No.1/1974 adopted the Monogamy concept, whereby a man can only marry one woman, and a woman can only marry one man.

However the said Law also give possibility for men to practice Polygamy, i.e. marry more than one woman under very strict conditions, as follows :

1) The man should get an approval from the Court to marry another woman;
2) The man's wife is not able to fulfill obligations as a wife; or severely ill or cannot give birth to a child;
3) The man's wife should give a written approval for him to marry another woman;
4) The man should be morally & materially capable to support more than one family;
5) The man should be able treat his families equally;

Considering the above very strict conditions, some men would marry again illegally:
1)  Based on his own religion but not registered with the registrar office as required by the Marriage Law, this illegal practice is known as SIRI Marriage.
Example: Illegal marriage between Syeh Puji(43) and Ulfa (12).
2) Only based on a mutual agreement between a man and woman, thus against the Marriage Law which require religious ceremony and official registration.
Note:  Usually between an expatriate and an Indonesian woman.
Due to their illegal status, the man can dump his illegal wife anytime and any way he wants, and their children would only have legal relationship with the woman (as mother).

Considering the above, the Department of Religion has prepared a Bill of Law regarding unusual marriages i.e. Polygamy and Ilegal Marriages which will make people who are involved in illegal marriages criminals. This Bill has been supported by the Chief of the Supreme Court, Chief of the Constitutional Court, the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), memberrs of Parliament, and Female activists.

For detailed reports, please click here, here and here.

I hope that the Bill of Law would firmly determine the status of Unusual Marriages, including Polygamy.


PauTravels said...

nice one.. heheh.. we'll in the Philippines, some legislators are suggesting a 10-yr marriage contract validity... :D

H. Nizam said...

Pau Travels,

A legitimate 10-years marriage contract? WOW! I thought that such marriage only happen here.

Thank you for your visit and comment.

colson said...

A good, brief, but amazingly informative post on Indonesian family law. And I have to admit: sometimes Indonesia is an enigma to me.

First of all the subjectivity of the criteria:

1. how on earth can anyone determine without any doubt ( mind you: it should be a "strict" criterion) whether a man is 'morally' capable to support two families. What does 'morally capable' factually mean at all???
2. how on earth does one measure whether someone is able to treat both families equal. What kind of definition is used for 'able' and for 'equal'?

Secondly it is puzzling to me why cohabitation as such ( usually a monogamous relation after all - often long lasting, even life long relationships sometimes- between consulting adults without being officially married) is illegal.

Of course the law should protect women against trafficking, exploitation or abuse. That includes lewd expatriates abusing sweet country girls. And also aggressive, violent husbands beating up their wives every now and then, for instance.

But is a a weird - and incorrect- kind of selective perception to single out cohabitation.

The overall big question which is bothering me now is: why is gender equality so obviously absent in the law?

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H. Nizam said...


Thank you for your kind words.
Let me answer one by one :

1) Court judges who examine a man's request for polygamy will ask for witnesses (more than 1), bank account, other things needed to consider his capabilities.
Of course, as any other court decisions, there's no guarantee.
2) same as above

To understand why cohabitation is illegal here, one must understand that the Indonesian society is tightly bound by religion and tradition which require that long lasting unity between man and woman should based on marriage in this case a legitimate one.

Re gender equality, I admit that the marriage law is still not balanced. But the 1974 law was the best at that time, because before that there were many laws: Civil Code (B.W?), Islamic Law, Traditional (Adat) Law.
And many Muslim ladies protested
the restriction for Polygamy saying that it is against Islamic law.

H. Nizam said...


Terima kasih banyak atas inputnya yang memang saya butuhkan saat ini.
Saya akan cek.

colson said...

@Harry: "Indonesian society is tightly bound by religion and tradition"; In my opinion that's the problem: the laws of a secular state - which RI appears to be- should not be bound by any particular religion any other specific ideology. Human rights, gender equality amongst them, should prevail.

Of course if the majority of Indonesian women choose to be defined by law as dependent on men, that choice should be respected. But it is quite different if the laws are/have been drafted and decided upon mainly by men.

H. Nizam said...


The marriage law may still be biased to men's right but since 1974 Indonesia has gone through a whole lots of changes, including women's right, this was proven a.o by the election of Megawati as VP and Prez.
And the Bill of law that I talked about was one of the proof of such change.

umihoney said...

Here's hoping our women and children are not abused and dumped willy nilly and get the protection they deserve.

H. Nizam said...


Yes, let's hope that the lawmakers would make sure that he rights of women and children will be protected under any circumstances.

Rob Baiton said...


What happens where religion and tradition clash with the law?

In this case nikah siri is only a reflection of the religious tradition for some within the community, isn't it?

The Syekh Puji example is an interesting one. He was ultimately let off when the case was dismissed, wasn't he? If he was to all intents and purposes, acquitted, then the marriage was not illegal, was it?

Finally, isn't kawin kontrak really a fixed-term nikah siri? where the woman gets specific benefits for agreeing to the terms of the contractual marriage? Furthermore, wouldn't a breach of contract in this instance be a civil matter rather than a family law one?

H. Nizam said...


Although Nikah Siri is based on religion but considering that it is not officially registered as stipulated by our marriage law, therefore it is illegal.

Re Syeh Puji's case:
The District Court of Ungaran only passed an Interim Verdict on the formality of prosecution which is considered incomplete and obscure.
Charges against Syeh Puji has not been tried yet, therefore cannot say he is innocent.
The Central Java High Court has canceled said verdict and ordered the District Court to reopen the trial.
Currently the Supreme Court is examining the verdicts of both courts.