Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Marriage Law and Practice in Indonesia

This project looks at the current practices of marriage law in Indonesia. It examines the often ambiguous views different groups hold of marriage, from local villagers in Bengkulu to women’s activists in Jakarta, and how these relate to the development of national law on the one hand and local practices on the other.

Contact
Adriaan Bedner

In many countries the ways in which people organise their way of living together in families is highly resistant to state intervention, while at the same time states have a direct interest in governing such relations for promoting reproductive health, birth control, education and gender equality. Many states moreover have to compete with alternative authorities – such as religious and customary leaders – to impose their ideas concerning how family life should be regulated, whereas at the same time they are under pressure to conform with their international law obligations.

In Indonesia’s such tensions are particularly acute. On the one hand the Indonesian economy is rapidly modernising  and gender relations are changing as a consequence of different working patterns. We see for instance a sharp rise in the independence of women who work in industries or as migrant workers. Similar effects are caused by the increasing numbers of teenagers who continue their education after primary school. On the other hand, the increasing importance of religion as an identity marker and the recognition of the primacy of religion by the state when it comes to marriage have reinforced the authority of religious leaders over marriage, some of whom openly attack state norms regarding the limitations on polygamy and minimum age of marriage.

This project looks at the current practices of marriage law in Indonesia. It examines the often ambiguous views different groups hold of marriage, from local villagers in Bengkulu to women’s activists in Jakarta, and how these relate to the development of national law on the one hand and local practices on the other. It tries to map how state institutions mediate between national legal norms and local ideas about marriage, as well as how religious and customary authorities attempt to use marriage as a source of reinforcing their position, and what this means for the position of poor and vulnerable groups. Ultimately, the project seeks to identify how the universalising tendencies that seem to follow from modernisation, state-building and the ideals incorporated in international treaties that promote the nuclear, gender-equal and stable adult family are confronted with different local and transnational ideas about the regulation of sexuality and family life, and how this works out in practice for the people concerned. 

This programme mainly consists of a number of PhD-research projects in collaboration with LIAS and the KITLV.

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