Marriageable Age: Political Debates on Early Marriage in Twentieth-Century Indonesia

Susan Blackburn, Sharon Bessell
1997 Indonesia  
The purpose of this article is to show how the age of marriage, especially for girls, became a political issue in twentieth century Indonesia, and to investigate the changing intensity, focus, and participation in the debate over the issue. Compared with India, the incidence of very early marriage among Indonesian girls appears never to have been exceptionally high, yet among those trying to "modernize" Indonesia the fact that parents married off their daughters at or before the onset of
more » ... the onset of puberty was considered a "social evil." Social reformers differed as to the reasons for their concern and as to what action should be taken and by whom. In particular there were strong disagreements about whether government intervention was either desirable or effective in raising the age of marriage. The age at which it is appropriate for girls to marry has been a contentious matter in many countries in recent centuries. In societies where marriage was considered to be the prerogative of families, the children themselves were rarely consulted and the age of marriage, or at least of betrothal, was likely to be quite young, before children could exert their own will. Although physical readiness for sexual intercourse and child bearing was a consideration, this was a matter to be supervised by adult kin, and the wedding could, if necessary, be timed so that it occurred separately from the consummation of marriage. Apart from families, the only other institutions directly concerned with marriage were likely to be religious ones. It has been considered a mark of modernity that decision-making about marriage becomes less collective and more individualistic, passing from parents or older kin to
doi:10.2307/3351513 fatcat:uvxw3ij4gzfdzcdwg7yl4indfe