Women activists in Yogyakarta condemn polygamy, unregistered marriages

Kompas.com – March 8, 2013
International Women's Day rally in Yogyakarta - March 8, 2013 (Swaranusa)
International Women's Day rally in Yogyakarta - March 8, 2013 (Swaranusa)

Wijaya Kusuma, Yogyakarta – Hundreds of women activists from the Central Java city of Yogyakarta held a peaceful action on Friday March 8 at the zero kilometer point near to the central post office to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD).

During the action, which took up the theme “Celebrate the Fidelity of Love”, the activists voiced their opposition to the widespread practice of polygamy and unregistered marriages.

Several organisations took part in the action including the Indonesian Women’s Movement (GEPARI), the Yogyakarta Different Abilities Women’s Alliance (APDY), the Rifka Annisa (Women’s Friend) Women’s Crisis Center, the Yogyakarta Women’s Network (JPY) and the Yogyakarta Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

Rina, the head of the NGO division of the Annisa Women’s Crisis Center explained that discriminatory actions such as polygamy trigger acts of violence against women, both physical and psychological.

“Who wants’ to be relegated to second place? Because of this polygamy is one of the forms violence against women and nikah siri (unregistered marriage) is a vehicle used to smooth the way for polygamy. So we explicitly reject it”, asserted Rina.

Rina explained that many of those who justify such behaviour fail to see the impact this has on their partners. The example being cases of partners (wives) in unregistered marriages that are still underage, which obviously violates children’s rights.

“In cases of nikah siri there is a kind of scam played on women, both on the legitimate wife as well as the unregistered wife, and this is often done by men”, revealed Rina.

According to Rina, it would be beautiful if people had one of the characteristics of the bird of paradise, which symbolises absolute fidelity. “Let use together take on the character of the bird of paradise that is always loyal without hurting its partner. Let us be people who have commonsense and reject and fight acts of violence against women”, shouted Rina.

Speaking separately, APDY general coordinator Novita Winahyu said that cases of violence against women, particularly in Indonesia, have risen sharply. Based on data from the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), in 2011 there were 4,377 cases of sexual violence out of a total number of 119,107 reported cases.

“The state as a power structure should be able to protect women. However this hope has yet to be realised to this day. This can be seen from the increasing number of violence acts that are taking place”, said Winahyu.

[Aktivis Perempuan Demo Tolak Poligami dan Nikah Siri – Kompas.com. Jumat, 8 Maret 2013. Translated by James Balowski.]