26 October 2008

Child Brides -- Indonesia

There are plenty of ways to get media attention in Indonesia. One of the best is to publicly announce you have married a 12-year-old and intend to take a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old in the near future as wives.

In most places this would be serial pedophilia and the perpetrator would be investigated and prosecuted and hopefully jailed.

It should be noted that this is not an attack on Indonesia alone. I have written about the child bride practice in Yemen here. You can find other commentary here.

There are many urging the police to take immediate action in terms of investigating the cleric, Pujiono Cahyo Widianto (AKA Syekh Puji), for breaches of the Child Protection Law, the Marriage Law, the Labor Law, and most obviously the Criminal Code.

The Child Protection Law states that the parents of a child cannot marry them off until the child has reached at least 18 years of age. The Marriage Law sets an age of 16 with the parents consent. The breach of the Labor law relates to the allegation that Puji has made his new bride, Lutfiana Ulfa, a Managing Director (or something similar) in one of his companies. The Criminal Code prohibits sexual contact with minors.

There would seem to be some inconsistency between the Child Protection Law and the Marriage Law in terms of age. This is potentially a Constitutional Court issue in terms of determining which age is the appropriate age.

In terms of the Marriage Law individually. The Marriage Law recognizes marriages know as kawin
siri. This type of marriage is one that is valid under one's religion. If this particular marriage is a kawin siri one then this raises a whole range of issues that warrant a much longer debate and post than I intend to make here.

However, suffice to say, if the parents provide their permission for the marriage to take place, the parents are of sound mind and body, then should the state be in a position to take their parenting rights away?

It would seem that there is much more to this story than a simple run of the mill kawin siri. I am sure that the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (
Komisi Perlindungan Anak Indonesia / KPAI), who have sent a team to investigate, will produce a report that will enlighten us a little further as to what transpired in this case.

Claims of child exploitation are interesting as the parents seemed to have agreed. If there was a transaction involved, a dowry for instance, would this be consistent with child trafficking? Just throwing that out there.

It seems the Syekh's reasons for marrying are varied but primary among these is his self-proclaimed penchant for liking little girls. The reason is that he can "educate" them to become great people. Maybe this is true.

However, he does not need to marry them to educate them and make them great people. He could just as easily facilitate their education through university, ensure that their parents have sufficient resources to provide a good home and good nutrition. The Syekh obviously has the resources to do this as he recently disbursed some IDR 1.2 billion as alms this past Eid.

Nah, I think it has more to do with that he enjoys having sex with children. He has chosen to dress this up as something that is permissible under his religion and it is so because the prophet did it. It is amusing in a really sad way that the Syekh equates himself to the prophet and that he thinks that the times have not changed.

This is not a justification for the prophet's actions rather a statement as to what may or may not have been acceptable then is not acceptable now. However, "acceptable" is relative and there are some who do not have a problem with what the Syekh has done or is planning to do. One of these people who does not have a problem with it is a member of parliament and a representative of the Prosperous Justice Party or PKS.

The Chair of the Indonesia Ulemas Council (MUI), Umar Shihab, has come out and said he is troubled by the marriage. His troubles are not an outright condemnation of the marriage. His statements go along the lines of he cannot see why the Syekh needs to marry a 12-year-old when there are so many older women available for marriage. Shihab then goes on to suggest that it is important that the reasons for the marriage be made clear and that it is OK to marry in order to protect yourself from sin.

This is most certainly not the required condemnation for the sexual exploitation of children that the MUI needs to be putting out there into the public sphere. It seems that the biggest hurdle is that some just cannot reconcile that the actions of the prophet some 1400 years ago no longer the way of the 21st Century.

Those that support this will never get past. "well the prophet married Aisha when she was just a child", which is simply an argument, "if it was good enough for the prophet then it must be good enough for us". A silly argument that seems more like a call to rationalize and justify modern day pedophilia than it is to protect some kind of sacred institution or practice.

In a cynical and sarcastic way it is too bad for followers of other religions that their prophets or founders chose not to take child brides. Then we could simply run away from the fact that we have men sexually exploiting children and hide behind some religious excuse that it is OK. It is not OK and it is time the practice was explicitly forbidden.

It is time for Muslim scholars to state unequivocally that the actions of Muhammad had their time and place back then but there is no justification for actions such as the practice of taking child brides in the 21st Century. The MUI could lead the charge on this in Indonesia.

For me there are lots of issues.

Simply, girls are not ready to become wives and are not prepared mentally, emotionally, or physically for being married. According to most reports, Ulfa has already menstruated and if the Syekh is as good as his religious word then this means that he has already slept with her. I just cannot bring my mind to the idea that a 12-year-old is in any way ready to become a parent herself. I know some 30-year-olds that are not ready for the challenge.

The second issue runs on from the first in a sense that being married at 12 rips away any normalcy of childhood. If you take a step back and think for a minute of two about your childhood, good or bad, this is the time that you develop, you grow, and you have fun with your peers, it is where you start to gain your life experiences that make you what you are as an adult. For Ulfa it would seem that her childhood or teenage years are destined to be a revolving door of pregnancies and isolation from her peers.

Let's face it, you do not usually see married and pregnant girls in year 7 or 8 of high school.

When push comes to shove, if this marriage has in fact taken place, then this marriage should be rejected and rejected with prejudice. The man should be investigated, prosecuted, and jailed for the sexual abuse of a minor. This can happen even without the MUI and others having the testicular fortitude to come out and openly say this is wrong no matter the circumstances proclaimed as being justification are.

Whether law enforcement is endowed with the courage to make a statement on the application of the rule of law in Indonesia by seeing this individual is punished for all breaches of the prevailing laws and regulations remains to be seen.

Being the eternal optimist then I will always remain hopeful that this person will be punished for his crimes.


Mei said...

Hei Rob,

very well written!

as in JP it is stated that the parents admitted that they are having financial difficulties and that's why they married her to that guy. this proves child trafficking!

the girl is selected through a contest and the other girls would likely be the same case. he even has his own successor team for this matter.

i still cant believe with the people who said that his act is very good and may God bless him and give him good deed for it. even some government people and MUI said that it's not wrong because the girl is mature enough to get married according to moslem law.

who are these people saying that somebody is mature enough to get married? even age cant be a measure for maturity.

what kind of person who gets aroused by little kids and still people cant see it as pedophilia?

Muhammad also married old women (>70s) but nobody is interested in marrying old women in the name of Islam and Muhammad. they always wanna have younger wives...but still we cant accuse them thinking by using their genitals more than brain because islam itself accepts poligamy.

the guy himself said that it doesnt matter if he gets imprisoned for 10 years not even thousand years. he was given a reverse psychological question whether he would like it if her daughter has to marry young and again said that he doesnt mind even when she has to get married when she's 3yo.

this guy is simply sick!! not eccentric...

therry said...

According to a news interview, Ulfa's father said that he preferred his daughter to be married now rather than later, when she's all grown up, because he worried that what with all 'the things young people are up to these days' his daughter might be following the wrong crowd (ie. have free sex, do drugs, take off her jilbab, whatever), so rather than risking all those things, he'd much rather his daughter be wedded off now, with a cleric who was not only filthy rich but also guaranteed her daughter to have a bright and secure future, since the cleric himself had promised to educate Ulfa so that she'd be able to run his company someday.

therry said...

Ironically, FPI was nowhere to be found when something like this happened.

So they must think it's definitely ok, if not recommendable, for Syekh Puji to marry little girls.

Mau jadi apa negara kita ini?


Rob Baiton said...


To be honest I have not delved deeply enough into it. However, I would have expected / suspected some kind of transaction to have taken place.

Successor team is just bizarre as is the competition angle. Is it to see how young he can go?

I make the point about the MUI having reservations but not going the whole nine yards and coming out and saying that this is just simply wrong.

This is not really about Muhammad and it should not be about Islam either. It is just plain wrong and must be called that. To ensure that this is not a Muslim thing then groups such as the MUI have to be at the forefront of rejecting the practice. If they are not then they run the risk of being accused of condoning the the practice and perhaps even supportive of it.

I am in agreement with the idea that this is not a matter of the fella being eccentric. He is a pedophile hiding behind what he believes his religion permits.


When it is all said and done she is still only 12 years old and it is plain and simple wrong for the parents to agree to marry her off.

I point out that if this is all charitable and the Syekh thinks he is helping out the family then he could do all the things he promised without marrying her.

Nope, this seems to be a trade. Perhaps the parents do not really understand, I don't know, but what he guarantees her education and well-being in between the kids she is going to be having?

Are you sure that FPI would be against this?

What is the country coming to? I am sure this is a question that many people are asking. Rima might be one asking a similar question ;)

anggara said...

berita itu menghebohkan di media, namun tak ada instansi satupun yang langsung bergerak, bagaimana dengan Komnas Perempuan dan Komnas HAM, terus Komnas PA?

Floyd said...

Got over here from link referral, great written story by the way. Basically this guy is one sick individual and he needs to go to jail.

schmerly said...


Thanks great article.

Rob Baiton said...


Komnas PA has already sent a "fact finding" team to check it out and confirm the marriage has taken place.

I have not read anything about the others.

It was a media sensation for a day, at least in the printed media. Maybe this is reflective of how seriously this is viewed?


Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. I am glad to see that link referral actually works :D

Yep, you are not alone in thinking that this fella is one sad bastard!


I have always gotta say my piece.

I noticed a Shmerly popped up in the comments section of the JP :D

Elyani said...

Great review Rob! I just read an update from detiknews the pervert--I refuse to use the word "syekh" as he is far from being honorable--has been married thrice prior to his recent marriage with the 26 y/o and the 12 y/o Ulfa. Their names are Miftahul Khusna, Wasiatun Khasanah, and Sudaryati. It was not very clear whether they are minor or adult but all the three marriages only lasted for a few months. What is more sickening both Puji and Ulfa's dad are proud because Ulfa is the chosen one out from a pool of 20 girls contest. He is definitely a sex starved pedophilia who hides behind the customs and traditions of 1500 ago. Sickening!!!

Rob Baiton said...


I will check out detik later and have a read.

I am not surprised that he has been married before, although it would be interesting to find out the ages of his previous brides.

I guess winning a competition is a source of pride for some!

anggara said...

tapi sebenarnya dengan pemberitaan media, sebenarnya polisi sudah dapat melakukan tindakan awal dan tidak hanya diam menunggu pengaduan. Buat saya itu masuk delik biasa bukan delik aduan? mohon maaf kalau salah...
Sayang, berita itu hanya sekedar menjadi berita, entah kalau para petinggi Republik ini kemudian ikut campur seperti kasus pemberian zakat yang menimbulkan kematian itu

Rob Baiton said...


I think the police could probably act without a complaint because there was pretty widespread media coverage even if it was only for a day (as sad as that is).

The complaint would have to be external of the family anyway. The family by all accounts I have read so far are for the marriage. particularly the father.

After all, the girl beat out 20 other girls for the "honour" of becoming this man's wife (child bride).

I have been discussing this off blog (hopefully those that I discussed it with will ultimately leave comments here too) and it seems that perhaps the call that he is just doing what the Prophet did is a little erroneous in that perhaps the Prophet only bedded his first two wives and the rest he just married.

In any event, my understanding is that there are Suras about "not" marrying children and that there are entries in the hadiths that state that the marriage practices of the Prophet were not to be followed by others as he had special dispensation from Allah.

I am not sure of the above but that is at least the way I am understanding it at the moment.

But, short and sweet, this bloke bears no similarities to the Prophet and his claims that he is following the example of the Prophet are misguided at best.

Maybe you can enlighten me further on this?

schmerly said...


Yea that’s me having a whinge in the JP, I (pop up) in a few of the JP comments posts.