I feel guilty writing about divorce and polygamy on Valentine’s Day. But these two unmentionable topics are also realities of love and relationships. In Indonesia, more women are divorcing their husbands because of polygamy.
Records show that in 2006 there were nearly 1000 cases of divorce because of husbands marrying another woman. Polygamous marriages are also increasing – the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women's Association for Justice received 87 reports of polygamy in 2008, up from 16 in 2007.
Director General for Islamic guidance at the Ministry for Religious Affairs Nasaruddin Umar: “There has been a significant increase in divorce because women have been rejecting polygamy in recent years.”
Muslim scholar Siti Musdah Mulia: “The data shows women are now daring to fight for their rights and reject male domination. They are now saying, ‘What is the point in continuing a marriage when I am miserable'”
Divorce in general has risen in Indonesia in the past decade. A news report early this month confirmed this trend; and couples are also separating because of political differences:
The divorce rate jumped from an average of 20,000 a year to more than 200,000 a year over the decade
Believe it or not, some couples decide to divorce because the husband and wife have different takes on political issues. This has never happened before,” said Umar. In 2005, 105 couples cited political differences as the cause of their split but this figure jumped to 502 couples in 2006. Figures for 2007 and 2008 were yet to be calculated. The official said 90 per cent of marriages between people of different religions ended in divorce
Indonesia Matters cites a 2007 study about the causes of divorce:
The main causes of divorce, says a report by the National Child Protection Commission (Komnas PA), are economic pressures (23%), followed by domestic squabbling (19%), incompatibilty (19%), interference by relatives (14%), violence (12%), adultery (8%), and sexual problems (3.6%). However these figures are based on only 109 cases
A 2008 article cites the causes of divorce:
incompatibility (because of adultery) – 54000 cases
disharmony – 46000
economic hardship – 24000
interference by relatives – 9000
family crisis – 4700
forced marriage – 1700
domestic violence – 900
polygamy – 879
biological defect (like infertility) – 580
underage marriage – 284
imprisonment – 150
political differences – 157
It is difficult to be a divorcee in Indonesia. My Busy Brain explains:
Some people, in Indonesia that is (I don’t know about other countries), divorce is not a choice. Even if the marriage is not healthy, even if it is abusive, one choose to be still married because either cannot imagine living by themselves, too tired and just accept that this is fate , or economically dependant (usually woman).
This morning I was bombed by an email that I received from my friend from highschool, that he is not doing well and lost 7 kgs the last 3 months because he is going through divorce. Oh my God. Not another one. Even though I myself is a divorcee, I don’t really like hearing people getting divorce because I know how painful it is
Parvita writes more about the stigma associated with divorced women in Indonesia:
I have no problem being divorced, it was the right thing to do at the time and I never regret it. When people ask me where my husband is, I tell them I’m divorced. Usually, they are the one that feel uncomfortable.
The sad thing that I would like to address here is, that after 3 years, the person I hoped and wished to be able to accept me for what I am, still cannot accept it and look at me as I am incomplete. I am sure there are lots of women here in my country that experience that, especially from the older generation or the conservatives. Despite of their bravery to live alone, they just stick with an unhappy marriage because afraid of what other people think, or simply because they are not independent, financially or mentally.
In Indonesia, women are considered successful not from what they have achieved, but from their husbands, how many kids they can deliver and how fat their kids are and where their kids go to school.
nin's journey was inspired by the post written by Umm Faroug about being a radical Muslim feminist:
As a radical Muslim feminist I know my rights as a wife, which are to be fed, sheltered, clothed, and cared for in a way befitting to me. I have the right to a marriage contract which safeguards me in case of a divorce.
On a lighter note, Indosingleparent Community posts pictures of divorce cakes. Indonesian restaurateur Puspo Wardoyo offers “polygamy juice”, a mixture of four tropical fruits, and “polygamy vegetables”, a four-vegetable combo, in his restaurants.
Thumbnail image used is from the Flickr page of Daquella Manera