Marriage Laws

May 11th, 2007, in News, by

The 1974 Marriage Law violates religious freedom.

About five months after the Aa Gym polygamy controversy, the government’s (non-)response to it, and the Zainal Ma’arif case, a man in Jakarta, M. Insa, has filed for a judicial review of both the 1974 Marriage Act and Law No. 10 of 1983 on Marriage & Divorce for Public Servants. M. Insa of Bintaro, South Jakarta says that the restrictions on polygamy to be found in both these laws violate his religious freedom, as set out in the 1945 constitution.

The 1974 Marriage Act prohibits the practice of polygamy except in cases where both women give their written permission – the first wife, and the (prospective) second wife – and when a court has allowed the second marriage to take place. Additionally such polygamous marriages can only occur where the first wife either cannot fulfil her (sexual) obligations to her husband, or cannot conceive a child, or suffers from a terminal illness.

In a Constitutional Court session on 10th May Insa was heard to complain that the restrictions on polygamy prevent Indonesian citizens from living according to the laws of their religion, in this case Islam. In Islamic law polygamy is permissible, says Insa. Because the law makes it difficult to obtain permission for polygamous marriages Muslims are forced to resort to semi-formal marriages (kawin siri), which are only partly recognised by the state, and cause problems for any resulting children. hukumonline

Insa has repeatedly tried to have a second marriage recognised by the authorities in South Jakarta, but without success, hence his case at the courthouse. republika

In court he said:

The Marriage Act is based on monogamy. In Indonesia there are many religions and for other religions maybe the law is suitable. But for Islam it is not.

In response to this presiding judge Roestandi seemed unimpressed. He postponed the hearing to give more time for Insa to set out his case for a judicial review of the Marriage Act in a more complete and logical way. detik

The case of Insa’s challenge to the marriage law is ongoing.

On 27th June 2007 the minister for religion, Muhammad M Basyuni, appeared at court in front of Chief Justice Jimly Asshiddiqie and said that polygamy was not a human right.

What constitutes a human right is the desire of a person to form a family, because through that biological needs can be met.

Therefore the 1974 Marriage Law was not in contradiction of the 1945 constitution, which guaranteed protection of human rights. He added that a person could satisfy his biological needs and desire to have children without resorting to polygamy.

The head of the Islam section of the department of religion, Nasyaruddin Umar, said that in Islam marriage was based on monogamy, as outlined in the Quran.

Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, a member of parliament, quoted a national hero, Kartini, whereby the latter said that polygamy without restrictions was a great crime. mediaindo

Insa’s challenge to the law was rejected on October 3rd 2007 with the Constitutional Court predictably finding that restrictions on polygamy were not a violation of Indonesian law and nor of Islamic law. antara

27 Comments on “Marriage Laws”

  1. El Gran Combo Puertorico says:

    Ok, let them do the polygamy; they will have to fight their own battle against the “women rights” groups.

    But in return, they will have to improve their attitude a bit; be much more civilized, basically be just like any other normal fine human beings.

    How is that for a deal?

  2. Arema says:

    I think non-moslems would have no problems at all with the polygamy law, we’d just follow what we know is best for us, monogamy.

    But I believe if polygamy is legalized, it will bring so much unbeArable grief to Indonesian women, and even much more stray, “parentless” (heh, not really, but practically so) child. And children without a proper care and education from their parents tend to be criminals. And we have an ample surplus of criminals already.

    M. Insa of Bintaro, South Jakarta says that the restrictions on polygamy to be found in both these laws violate his religious freedom, as set out in the 1945 constitution.

    True. But our forefathers violated the “religious freedom” with good reasons. And it better stay violated until a huge meteor hit the earth.

  3. Janma says:

    Lets just take a closer look at Mr Insa’s statement.

    on 10th May Insa was heard to complain that the restrictions on polygamy prevent Indonesian citizens from living according to the laws of their religion, in this case Islam.

    Polygamy is not a ‘LAW’ of Islam. You don’t need to practice Polygamy in order to fulfill your obligations as a Muslim. It’s merely permissible, not recommended, and permissible only under certain circumstances, like the first wife agreeing and so on, so it’s the Laws of his religion placing the restrictions on polygamy, not just the law of Indonesia.
    Can I call him an ignoramus pleeeze!?
    Besides, the marriage law that most violates relgious freedom in Indonesia is the one that makes it that the husband and wife HAVE to be of the same religion, forcing people to convert in order to marry someone from a different religion. Now that’s dumb!

    *who worships the dog… a subsidary deity designed to catch the overflow, or excess of the worlds worship*

  4. Dimp says:

    What about if the husband is suffering from terminal illness or cannot fulfil the wife’s (sexual) desire? Can the wife get another husband?

  5. Bas says:

    Sexual obligations, what about a daily blowjob obligation?
    Let them indulge in their polygamy fantasy. That will just make even more Indonesian women looking for more decent men (foreigners).

    The real shame and more basic human rights issue about mariage in Indonesia is the interdiction to marry a man or woman from another religion. You should be able to marry who you want. That’s not the case in Indonesia.

    As long as there are laws like that the country will remain a primitive fanatic country with no future.

  6. WP says:

    Polygamy is a bit luxury problem.

    There is also this law that forbid marriage between people of different religions. I find this to be a more serious infringing of civil right. I have friends who had to switch religions so that they can marry their loved ones. This is really absurd. Neighboring with other religions is ok, but having a wife of a different religion is suddenly not okay. Why!? I fail to see the logic in this.

    But I suspect the moslem majority will be against the abolishment of this law.

  7. Mohammed Khafi says:

    I don’t have anything to add to the comments about polygamy, my views on this will be well know to the people who view Indonesia Matters, from other comments on other threads, I would just like to air my views about the question of marriage between peoples of different faiths, I realise that this is off topic, but has been raised during earlier comments.

    True Islam……….. Wow sorry, I can’t use that phrase anymore, lets try again. Submission, which is the closest direct translation for Islam in English, clearly states that believers can marry other believers:

    “Do not marry idolatresses unless they believe; a believing woman is better than an idolatress, even if you like her. Nor shall you marry idolatrous men, unless they believe. A believing man is better than an idolater, even if you like them.” 2:221

    So just what is a believer?

    “Those who believe, and those who follow the Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabeans, any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness shall have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” 2:62

    Why do we have laws which prohibit us from that which God has given us? Which promote religious tensions, and deliberately cause divisions in our society?

    In fact why do we have laws based on religion at all? The holy books have all been sent as guidance, not as laws, Al Quran clearly states:

    “There is no compulsion in religion.” 2:256


  8. El Gran Combo Puertorico says:

    Bas, you said:

    As long as there are laws like that the country will remain a primitive fanatic country with no future.

    Umm…. Malaysia has such law, and *cynical mode on* it seems to have a future…. 🙂

    *cynical mode off*

  9. Piddy says:

    If all parties to the marriage give their consent, what is the problem?

    In this case, the state might be stepping in to limit the freedom of consenting adults to live as they choose.

    That being said, I have never thought multiple wives are desirable. If you have more than one wife, none of them will truly love you. They only see you as a walking wallet.

  10. Bas says:

    Malaysia future is brigther than Indonesia’s future, but not that brighter unless they too change all these illegal laws. Economy is not all.

  11. El Gran Combo Puertorico says:


    Economy is not all.

    Yea, that’s what I was saying actually. Just read it on indcoup blog entry:

    Miss Malaysia, meanwhile, is a frumpy bespectacled bore who likes to cover up

    Ha ha ha… exactly that’s how I see Malaysia.

  12. Tony says:

    Can anyone tell me how long after marriage can I seek a divorce?

    She is Indonesian, I’m English… we were married in Bali, Indonesia August 2007 and seperated October 2007, my wife said she didn’t love me!! She hasn’t tried to fix our marriage since leaving, but I’ve tried everything. The wedding service was christian service and registered in England.

    I would also like to know if it would be quicker to divorce in Indonesia over England.

    I appreciate any information anyone can give.

  13. Cookie says:

    I thought we were discussing polygamy? ANYWAY in this constantly changing world, one really should take the time to BREATH and not try to change things any faster. Polygamy obviously has an appeal to men in indonesia only because their is some prestige associated with having more than one woman. If only we could eradicate this prestige….if only other men could sense the total chaos if polygamy was legalised. Consider this, he talks about the deprivation of his right…if the gov. granted him polygamy rights..then they would have to extend that to everyone else, and then eventually to women! I might be a little pessimistic, but I feel as soon as everyone is given the choice of having more than one spouse, they’ll take it. THEN, the sanctity of marriage based on loyalty and love will b lost – and can only b relived through fairy tales and telenovelas. 🙁

  14. rose says:


    I’m sorry about your marriage life… As I know if you were married in Indonesia and only registered in england, It’s quicker and cheaper if you make it in Indonesia.

  15. diyu says:

    There is also this law that forbid marriage between people of different religions

    There is?????????

    No-one told me and my wife, she is Muslim from Jakarta and me an agnostic from Australia and we were married in Jakarta. Bugger, are you telling me we are in the preverbally sh*t
    Oh no thats right we were married in the 90,s when Mr Suharto, Bless his sole, was in charge and had all these religious nuts under control and who were to afraid to utter a word for fear of getting a bloody good slapping

  16. Raj says:

    Dear All

    I know this may seem out of Topic but I have an Issue ‘ere

    My Fiance (21Yrs Old Indonesian Citizen) Is of Muslim Origin and Originates from Indonesia Jakarta , I (28yrs old Indian Citizen) on the other hand follow the Hindu Religious Outfit but we Firmly Believe in Mixed marriages .

    Since we are of Diff religions is there any Possibility of gettting Married w/o Converting our Religion?? Are there any BiLaws Against / for Us ?

    Is there any Existing Pertaining Protocol which we have to Pertain before getting married as we are heading to Jakarta this month ..

    Kindly advice……………….

  17. Raj says:

    Dear All

    I know this may seem out of Topic but I have an Issue ‘ere

    My Fiance (21Yrs Old Indonesian Citizen) Is of Muslim Origin and Originates from Indonesia Jakarta , I (28yrs old Indian Citizen) on the other hand follow the Hindu Religious Outfit but we Firmly Believe in Mixed marriages .

    Since we are of Diff religions is there any Possibility of gettting Married w/o Converting our Religion?? Are there any BiLaws Against / for Us ?

    Is there any Existing Pertaining Protocol which we have to Pertain before getting married as we are heading to Jakarta this month ..

    Kindly advice……………….

  18. Geordie says:

    Since we are of Diff religions is there any Possibility of gettting Married w/o Converting our Religion?? Are there any BiLaws Against / for Us ?

    Raj, I do believe PN answered this somewhere in this blog and it would be better to search that out or request a direct response from him. However, my understanding is that inter-faith marriage is a no-no unless you go of-shore to Singapore or similar.

    I’m sure if I’m wrong on this, someone’ll tell me quickly enough – we love each others’ mistakes on IM.

  19. purba negoro says:

    In short Raj,

    Bluntly: No Not in Indoensia without you one of you converting. and most likely only recognised as correct and authentic marriage with full basis of mutual compatibilty if religion is shared- with a preference for Muslim.

    Although your situation is somewhat unique- I do know of several Javanese Muslim who married Balinese women (Hindu).
    Quite common for Westerner to also marry Balinese Hindu male and female.

    Hinduism, although recognised and protected under State Law- is considered an artifact religion generally confined to Bali.

    The easiest path is to convert to Islam as it much quicker- less supporting documentation and evidence is required.

    This is why many whites opt for conversion to Islam- much quicker than their wife converting to Christianity- which requires several month of Sunday School.

    The strength of the person belief is irrelevant- it is merely an issue of complying with an inflexible system.

    I am not sure what procedure is required to convert to Hindu- but I assume it would be lengthy and only properly recognised as authentic if undertaken in the Hindu majority island of Bali.

    The easiest option would be to have civil registered marriage in Singapore- NO religious ceremony- purely civil celebrant FIRST. Afterwards you can have your religious party or wedding.
    You both should then register your marriage at your embassies in Singapore- yuo at Indian, wife at Indonesian.

    Then on arrival- within less than ONE MONTH it is PREFERABLE you should register your Marriage as authentic at your embassy and Indonesian Civli Registrar.

    It is your legal obligation to register within 12 months of arrival into Indonesia to register your marriage to YOUR respective Embassies AND Indonesian Civil Registrar Office.

    Yes- a hassle- but one that can be easily negotiated if correct procedure is followed.

  20. Nanci says:

    In regards to polygamy… I am a western woman who was deserted by my western husband and left with two sons to raise. I moved to Bali to give them an opportunity to grow up as citizens of the world, not just one country. A Balinese man who I have worked with for four years has asked me to be his 2nd wife and I am thrilled.
    At first, a little apprehensive, I questioned several Balinese and western women living in Bali about the polygamy issue and found their attitudes positive and unshocked. Along with my future partner’s mother, they focused on the added responsibility this man was willing to take on – not on some repressive, western overconcern with the sexual issue. We have spoken to his family and his first wife extensively and responded to all their concerns – none of which were about the sexual side.
    Looking at the issue positively, I think the western, exclusively monogamous norm is failing a lot of people -especially woman and children left behind by an irresponsible husband. Even while still living in a western country, my friends’ husbands – men who were good and doing the right thing by their wives and children for all the right reasons – felt great concern for me and my two sons, but could do nothing within our culture. Now, my sons will have a male in their lives and see marriage in a different light – more a system of mutual support than some sort of possessive contract, or a situation entered into initially for the fullfilment of sexual desire and often, much regretted as time goes on.
    Both this man’s first wife and myself have no other family. What drives him is a desire to take care of both of us and offer us a home and family. What could be bad about that?
    His first wife and I have been friends for these four years and we have often helped each other. We intend that this will only continue. Neither of us is concerned about sharing the sexual attentions of one man. In fact, almost every woman I know would admit that taking care of a husband’s needs (not just sexual) full-time can get exhausting – especially once you have kids who need you, too. I love the nights my husband will be with his other wife – I’ll love having the break to spend time on my own and it will make our sexual life more fresh and unpredictable – eternally un-boring!
    Like other belief systems that have led to wars and murders, it’s worth looking at polygamy with a fresh, non-dogmatic view. How many murders have been committed over the seemingly difficult demands of monogamy? How many lives have been ruined by broken marriages that never give the children an opportunity to see two (or more) adults working toward a secure future together. How often do monogamous couples get into difficulties/conflicts with no other concerned party to mediate or offer solutions?
    As modern peoples, we are allowing changes to tradition, such as divorce, to become the new “norm”, but do not do enough to take care of the ramifications – the well documented affects on woman and children. We are we so uptight about polygamy if it would offer security, belonging, love and support to the “victims of divorce”?
    It’s worth a rethink, if you ask me.

  21. Andy says:

    I disagree Nanci, it just shows a lack of discipline to me. If someone or a couple can’t cut it with a real marriage ie. 1 of each then maybe the institution is just not for them and better to remain single.
    Also you look at women in a rather helpless way in that they need the security of a man to exist and they would be lost without one. Why settle for second best? Many marriages work as long as the couple are willing to sacrifice for each other. Because your first monogamous marriage wasn’t successful doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
    Polygamy is only acceptable in backward cultures or in in-bred rural areas of developed nations. The rest of the world frowns upon it and rightly so. Oh and Nanci, how about if you asked your Balinese guy if he would allow you to have 2 male partners? What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

  22. shuja says:

    Pologamy is a personal affair of anyone who decides to enter it. The first wife is always free to leave, and the second free not to get into such a relationship. Through pologamy atleast there is an institutional option available for those men and women to continue their marriages whereas it would otherwise have to end. For example, if i a man decided he wanted to be with another woman, either he would: a) be with her without the legal obligations of marriage or b) divorce his current wife to be with the second. At the least, whilst not preferable, pologamy gives such cases an option c) to continue existing marriage and enter a new one, where the burden of responsibility for providing for the family falls solely on the man. I guess inline with todays latest trend, it is preferably to have sex without marriage, make children without obligations, and leave them to rot with their mother who have to become a prostitute to feed them… yeah that sounds great!

  23. Nanci says:

    To Shuja – Thanks for that refreshing, unbiased view.

    To Andy – “Lack of discipline”: I actually see your point, but look at world-wide divorce statistics. It seems it only takes one of the partners in a marriage to lack that discipline, and all is lost – and it happens to lots and lots of people.
    And, assuming you are male, by all means, ask as many women as you like. I would be surprised if 10% would even be interested in having more than one husband. Husbands are actually a lot of work!
    So why do I still want one? Especially a shared one? Not because I feel helpless; but because I am a lighter, happier person when in love and loved. I would prefer my two sons see that aspect of femininity than the purely pragmatic, independent single mum making it on her own. Not to mention their need for a male role model in the mix.

  24. shuja says:

    We today speak so much of tolerance, however, the term is confined to a very narrow sphere of applicability. Men/Women can have sex operations yet a woman who wishes to enter into a pologomous marriage is considered a backward in-bred trash. Homosexuality is a norm, and giving into our animal instincts of mating with countless others is acceptable, yet when a man wants to marry two, three or four women, he is the devil’s representative on earth and should be eliminated for the sake of mankind. Unfortunately, muslim countries lend themselves to criticism because they are the world’s worst at discharging justice. However, this should not be used as an example to condemn Islamic law/jurisprudence. The esscense of the matter and its human application are two seperate matters. Islam restricted marriage to four, under strict conditions, in an environment where men had tens of women, wives and slaves. Women of other tribes were kidnapped to punish enemies or taken as bounty of war by the victors. The same was true for the Europe which was equivalently backwards. Then came Islam, limiting men to four wives and obligating them to certain responsibilities. Having more than one wife was likely necessary, with high infant mortality rates, wars, femine etc chances were one wife couldnt make enough children to ensure the lineage carried on. Furthermore, women didnt have much say in matters concerning who her husband was sleeping with. Islam provided a realistic framework to establish legal relationships with obligations/responsibilities. We must not look down on those who decide that this way of life works for them, rather target our rejection towards those men (or women) who dont live up to their promises, i.e abusive/alcholic/lathergic husbands/wives who are not concerned about the impact of their negativity on the future of our soceity, the children. A pologomous man who loves his wives and takes care of children, and works hard to ensure his family’s needs are thoroughly met is a billion times better than a monogomous man who beats his wife, abuses his daughter, and spend all his earning on alchol and gambling. So lets keep things in perspective, shall we?

  25. Pinkie says:

    I think in this present world, Men and women are equally of human rights… Nothing is wrong with pologomous marriage it depends on individual thinking

  26. Akib Jabed says:


    I’m from Bangladesh, I have a relation with a Indonesian women, Our relation is too long and true but few month ago her mother was dead and now she was alone, She was a orphan girl, my family was already accepted our relationship.
    I can not go to Indonesia Because Indonesian Government will never give me permit to get married with her because this is a Indonesian country rules.
    I have no idea that why we can’t get married with each other. Yes our country is different but We both are Muslim. Our religion is Islam, no matter which country you are, It’s not our Islamic rules..

    Please help me, Please any of you can Give me some a solution.
    I will be very appreciated If any of you could help me. Please reply my mail.

  27. Ati sur says:

    Well in indonesia it is very common for Muslim women of javanese descent to marry Balinese Hindu men, most women convert to hinduism, i also found one of such articles pondering upon inter faith marriages marriage btw javanese muslim women with balanese hindu men are very frequent .
    Though i am not sure about marriage btw Indian Hindu man and indonesian muslim women

    Joey Brakus, Staff Reporter

    April 25, 2012

    On April 17, Anthropologist and Associate Professor Lene Pedersen hosted the event Keeping the Peace: Negotiating Tolerance in Hindu-Muslim Relationships in Bali, Indonesia.

    “I thought it was interesting that the villages are separated by walls even though they are living on an island,” said Grayson Bullinger, freshman paramedic.

    Chase Tibbles, freshman sociology, really liked the pictures because they gave him a great understanding of the Balinese culture.

    Pedersen is planning to travel back to Bali in the summer to continue her work.

    From June 2010 through August 2011, Pedersen conducted fieldwork in Bali.

    The Indonesian island of Bali is home to Hindus and Muslims, two religious cultures that have peacefully coexisted there.

    Pedersen hopes students will gain a sense of the Balinese culture and community.

    “It’s important for anyone to have an idea of what goes on in the world,” Pedersen said. “It also busts some stereotypes when you actually get a sense of real people in real lives at a local level.”

    In Bali, one of the biggest misconceptions is that Hindus are all peaceful while Muslims are orthodox and more prone to radicalism. Another misconception is the veil women wear.

    “If there is any sort of restriction, it is internalized,” Pedersen said. “They believe they want to wear it because of their faith.”

    Pedersen hasn’t experienced or headed any cases in Bali where women are told they have to wear a veil.

    Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, but in Bali they are the minority while Hindus are the majority.

    Originally, the Balinese Muslims were enslaved to the Hindus due to the sheer number of people.

    “They weren’t the typical slaves where they were balled and chained,” Pedersen said. “They still had the freedom to practice their religion.”

    Muslims are now citizens on equal footing.

    According to Pedersen, Hindus and Muslims of Bali have an economic interdependence; Hindus grow rice and Muslims are vendors.

    Many Muslim women marry Hindu men. When that happens, the woman takes the man’s religion. If the woman keeps her religion, it is frowned upon by the community.

    Hindus have many ceremonies. The most important ones are about death because Hindus believe in reincarnation.

    “They have these ceremonies to help the soul liberate itself from the body and then to transition from this world into heaven, if you will, so the soul can be cleansed and can reincarnate,” Pedersen said.

    Hindus believe if the soul is not assisted through this path by ritual, the soul will become unhappy and the spirits will wreak havoc on the living. If a Hindu feels they are continuing to have bad luck, the first thing they will typically ask is if they made a mistake at a ceremony. In order for the mistake to be fixed a corrective ceremony must take place.

    Hindu ceremonies also create a strong community. They play a huge part in their religion and social life. According to Pedersen, even if someone cannot financially afford to have a ceremony he or she will still have it anyway.

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