Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Polygamy won't become easier: MPR speaker

Irawaty Wardany, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Constitutional Court's rejection of Muhammad Insa's petition to have re-evaluated the pre-requisites for polygamy, as stipulated in the 1974 Law on Marriage, have been lauded by politicians and activists.

People's Consultative Assembly speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid said Monday there should not be any further argument on the issue following the court's verdict last Wednesday.

"We must appreciate the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which has the right to review all laws that might run counter against the 1945 Constitution," Hidayat said.

The 1974 law stipulates a man can marry more than one wife, if his first wife agrees, or if that wife is disabled or cannot have children.

But Insa said this made many men avoid registering their second marriages.

He said children from unregistered marriages "often lose their rights for inheritance and other benefits".

But Hidayat said, "The court has done its job ... according to its authority". He said the court's decision must be accepted as a legal product.

"And the important thing is how to maintain this legal product in the future."

Hidayat also said the public should realize the objective of establishing a family was to pursue happiness, fairness and harmony.

"It is up to the person whether he can get all of those aspects from one wife or more."

Hidayat said he was not a polygamist.

Executive Director of Kalyanamitra, an NGO promoting women's rights, Rena Herdiyani, said she was "quite happy" with the court's ruling because it would help make the concept of polygamy clearer.

"Most people think that polygamy is an easy thing to do in Islam, but it is not," Rena said Monday.

Islam allowed polygamy on the condition multiple wives were treated fairly, she said.

"Men cannot just practice polygamy whenever they like, in the name of ibadah (religious worship), because most likely it is just to meet their passion," Rena said.

University of Indonesia sociologist Imam B. Prasodjo said life for women today was different to the life women led during the age of Prophet Muhammad.

"Today's women live in a situation where many institutions can help them protect their rights," Imam said.

He said during "the old age" the only institution that offered any protection to women was marriage.

"Besides, current polygamy practices are no longer for protecting the women's lives, but merely for sexual passion," he said

Rena and fellow activists said they expected the government would amend the 1974 marriage law.

"The law is actually monogamous in principle, so why can't we just eliminate all articles about polygamy," Rena said.

Several organizations for women have proposed the House revise the law, she said.

"We have submitted a draft proposal, but unfortunately it has yet to get any response from the House."

She said there were several key points included in the new draft law, including the elimination of articles on polygamy, role sharing and the minimum age for marriage.

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