Saturday, April 17, 2021

Children Who Give Birth

Husnawati, 17 years old, was breaking candlenuts skin while comforting her son, Muhammad Arkana, four months old, beneath her parents' house in Pokkang village, Kalukku subdistrict, Mamuju regency, West Sulawesi, on Tuesday, 12 February. Husnawati married Rudi (23) in May 2017.

West Sulawesi is the province with the highest number of child marriage cases in Indonesia. Many women in their teens bear the burden of being wives and mothers.

Ilna, 15 years old, seemed to grimace when she remembered the process of giving birth to her only child. He lowered his head for a moment, then gave a short expression, "It hurts."

It has not been a month since the young woman passed a normal delivery. The delivery process takes place at home with the help of a village midwife.

Despite having to fight illness, Ilna is grateful that her child was born healthy. Weights 3.1 kilograms.

The 18-day-old baby was sleeping in Ilna's arms when we visited her house in Sepang Hamlet, Karampuang Island, West Sulawesi, Monday (11/2/2019).

Ilna admitted that he was only 14 years old when he was edited by Firman Gunawan (28 years). At first they met via Facebook, and often exchanged messages. Firman, who works as a party photographer by profession, also frequently visits his house.

Many months of dating, Firman submitted a proposal. Ilna accepts it because she loves it.

School benches were abandoned to build a household. "Because of love and I really don't want to go to school anymore," said Ilna.

The economic background is also the reason for Ilna. His parents divorced. She lives with her mother who works as a household assistant. His two siblings are also unable to make a living. Marriage, Ilna hopes, can ease the burden on the family.

A different story comes from Ninda, 19, Ilna's neighbor. Ninda married at a fair age. However, her husband, Irham is only 15 years old. The two of them also have blood ties (cousins).

Now Ninda is two months pregnant. Strangely, in the last month, Irham has not seen his nose. Even though Ninda's pregnancy was vulnerable. "Last week there was bleeding, thanks to the midwife," he complained.

Child marriages and inter-family marriages are common in Karampuang Island.

The island, with an area of 2,302 square hectares, intersects with Mamuju Regency, the capital of West Sulawesi - it takes less than 30 minutes by motor boat.

We visited there to see the life of the young couple. A similar phenomenon can be seen in Kalukku District, about 37 kilometers from Mamuju.

Tuesday (12/2/2019), we spoke with Husnawati in Pokkang Village, Kalukku District, Mamuju.

At that time, Husnawati was working under her house on stilts. He peels the candlenut belonging to a village boss in order to earn Rp.1,000 per kilogram.

The work is done while caring for their children. The four-month-old baby is fast asleep in a swing hanging under the house. Occasionally, Husnawati cradles her child and hums lullaby.

Her husband, Rudi, is helping relatives plant corn. He is a construction worker by profession. However, in the last two months there were no orders. Odd jobs are an option

The couple signed a marriage contract in 2017. At that time, Husnawati was still 15 years old and was a junior high school student. Meanwhile, Rudi is 22 years old.

They do establish love, get intoxicated with love, and end up eloping. "Yes, you had to get married at that time," said Husnawati, answering a question about the reason for getting married.

The family took a shortcut to get around Husnawati's age, which had not passed the marriage requirements.

They changed Husnawati's age to 16 years. Marlina (41 years), Husnawati's parents, admitted that she spent Rp1 million to settle administrative matters at the Religious Court.

Shortcuts, said Husnawati, need to be done so that their children get a birth certificate.

On the other hand, there are also many young couples in West Sulawesi who are married religiously. Without state recognition. The story of Ilna-Firman and Ninda-Irham, at the beginning of this article, is a real example.


Husnawati exhibited her marriage book in Pokkang Village, Kalukku District, Mamuju. He married at the age of 15. The family manipulates her age to 16 in order to fulfill the requirements stipulated in the law. | Yusuf Wahil /

Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage has regulated the age limit for marriage: male 19 years old, and female 16 years old.

Medio December 2018, the Constitutional Court concluded that the old law was against the 1945 Constitution. The Constitutional Court recommended a change in the rules within three years. Many parties propose 18 years as the age limit for women.

West Sulawesi is listed as the province with the highest prevalence (prevalence) of child marriage in Indonesia, as stated in the document Analysis of Child Marriage Data in Indonesia (UNICEF, 2015).

The data analysis for the 2008-2012 period states that the prevalence of child marriage in West Sulawesi has reached 37 percent. Far above the national average of only 25 percent.

Fresher statistics, released by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), reveal the age of women in West Sulawesi when they married their first marriage.

The data shows that the percentage of women who are married under the age of 18 reaches 33.02.

The BPS Susenas tab (2018) contains the number of married people aged 10-18 years from six districts in West Sulawesi.

One serious fact: marriages aged 10-15 years can be found in Polewali Mandar (228 people) and Mamuju Tengah (205 people).

This statistic is even more concerning when considering the risk of child marriage, summarized by Girls Not Brides, an anti-child marriage coalition consisting of more than 1,000 civil organizations from 95 countries.

Girls Not Brides says child marriage has taken away girls' freedom. Generally, they lose their basic rights, especially education and health.

The girls were considered not to have physical and emotional abilities as mothers and wives. This situation can lead to domestic violence and divorce. On the health aspect, it can also endanger pregnancy and childbirth.

Mulyani Hasan, an activist for the Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB) Foundation, called child marriage an iceberg.

"The root of the problem, which is invisible and measurable, is greater than that which is visible and measurable," he said at a forum on child marriage in Makassar, South Sulawesi, Friday (14/12/2018).

Mulyani also explained gender perspectives in child marriage. He said that gender inequality made girls often seen as an economic burden. In that situation, parents are accustomed to looking at marriage as a solution to lighten the burden.

"Apart from that, there are customs, traditions, social ties, kinship, and religious interpretations that serve as excuses for child marriage," said Mulyani.


Left: wedding photo of Nurlina and Muhammad Irfan. Right: Nurlina (17), six months pregnant, hugging her child 'puppy' doll. | Yusuf Wahil /

We chatted with Abdul Khalid Rasyid, Head of the Campalagian District Office of Religious Affairs (KUA), Polewali Mandar Regency, Friday (8/2/2019).

Khalid claimed to have married off his school age brides. "Every month there are cases like that. Today, a couple whose files have just been submitted, ”he said.

The function of the KUA, said Khalid, was simply to record the administration of the marriage. However, prior to registration, underage couples must pocket a marriage dispensation from the Religious Court. This requirement is needed for couples who are impeded by law.

It is said that at the Religious Courts, most of those who applied for dispensation of marriage admitted that they were pregnant. Like it or not, the dispensation was issued.

For example, the Mamuju District Religious Court has issued 13 marriage dispensations over the past year. “Both families came to testify. That is according to procedure, ”said Muhammad Fauzan, Junior Registrar of Laws at the Mamuju District Religious Court.

The problem is, the pregnancy story isn't always true. Rahma (52 years old) conveyed a confession about false pregnancy, in Majene Regency, Sunday (10/2/2019).

Rahma is Rusli's parent (16 years), who two months earlier married Nanda Putri (15 years). The couple was still a junior high school student when they got married.

Rahma has no choice, because Rusli and Nanda admit to having had sexual relations, even though they did not get pregnant. After all, the woman's family charged responsibility.

As a result, they agreed to tell a story about Nanda's pregnancy before the Religious Court. In fact, said Rahma, until now her son-in-law is still not pregnant.

Such a situation cannot be separated from the cultural background. Mandar, the majority ethnic group in West Sulawesi, knows the term ottong which literally means tindis.

In practice, ottong allows women or their families to go to (ask for accountability) men's families, if they feel they have been touched or even just teased while walking.

This cultural issue was also the basis for the marriage of Nurlina (17 years) and Muhammad Irfan (23 years).

We met the lovebirds in Lombok Hamlet, Tinambung, Polewali Mandar Regency, Friday (8/2/2019).

They took the aisle on May 1, 2017. Their first child, Aulia, was born on February 14, 2018. Just a year old, Nurlina was pregnant with her second child. Her womb is already six months old.

Nurlina admitted that she was a little dizzy when chatting. Two patches stuck to the corner of his forehead. In her arms, Aulia fell asleep while hugging the puppy doll.

At the beginning of the marriage, Nurlina admitted that she was jealous of seeing friends her age free to play. However, he insisted, however marriage was his own choice.

"I'm afraid to go home. It's better to be married off, ”he said, turning back his memory of the choice he made two years ago.

At that time Nurlina was indeed dating Irfan. At one point, they were out until midnight. Nurlina was afraid that her parents would be angry. He chose to stay with Irfan's family.

The next day, when she returned home, Nurlina's parents immediately opened a conversation about marriage. Ottong was not spared.

Even though love and ottong led her to the wedding, Nurlina did not want a similar case to happen to her child.

"Anyway, don't let my son be like this," he said in a rising voice. Instantly his embrace to Aulia grew tighter. Her eyes were teary too.


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