Javanese women under a marriage contract in Indonesia

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Illustration by Dream ID

A marriage contract is a contract between a man and an unmarried woman where there is an agreement in terms of the marriage and dowry. The marriage, which is based on the agreement between a man and an unmarried woman, does not require a witness and it is not recorded by the Office of Religious Affairs. This contract marriage has taken place in Kalisat village, Rembang sub-district, Pasuruan and in the Warungkaleng area in South and North Tugu, Cisarua District, Bogor Indonesia.

Generally, a marriage aims to avoid adultery and protect women. However, as a preliminary study that contract marriages have been carried out by women entering the age of nine years (when they have not started menstruation), and there is a woman who has changed partners nine times because of a divorce. Marriage that occurs at an early age is caused by cultural factors. Contract marriages are the result of a patriarchal culture which not only gives priority to women but also children born of such marriages.

The implementation of the marriage contract in Warungkaleng and Kalisat village, Pasuruan turns out to involve a network. The marriage can be entered into by a man from the village or outside of the village. If the person is a man from the village, then he needs to come to kyai to look for a mate. Then the kyai must fnd a woman that does not have a husband yet. If a woman is found, the kyai will tell her parents that there is a man who wants to ask for their daughter. Usually, the parents will agree and give her photos without the consent of the child and in general, the woman also agrees does so due to the fear of being considered “rebellious” by her parents. The parents’ choice is considered to be the best option.

On the other hand, for a man from outside of Warungkaleng, Cisarua, who wants a marriage contract, the process is more complicated because he must go through the process of asking for help specifically of a motorcycle rider, taxi driver, tour guide or villa caretaker. These people also act as a “link-person” (liaison) to women who can be married temporarily. The liaison with this woman also works under a pimp who is involved in the practice of marriage contracts in Cisarua. This practice is difficult to end because there are syndicates from the local government, security forces, police, business people, politicians, thugs, etc., all of whom are united by money. The liaison is called a biong. The biongs are from Java, so they are not village natives. The women who are married almost entirely come from other areas such as Cianjur, while the locals-only work as biong. Biong is a term for a contract marriage syndicate that seeks to offer witnesses, guardians, and consent qabul, all of which are biong games. They already are an acquaintance of the women who want to be married in a contract, usually by visiting male tourist lodgings and entering into marriage contracts that way. In general, biongs can also speak Arabic.

Marriage contracts are quite easy to do. By having enough money to hire someone and to pay for the bride price, a marriage can be carried out. In contract marriages, the presence of witnesses is not required; this type of marriage is easy to do because it looks legal in the eyes of customary law and the community.

Factors that influence women in contract marriages are economic factors. The uncertain income of the population causes the community to experience difficulties in meeting their economic needs, so this marriage is carried out by the local community. Next to cultural factors, contract marriage for the people of Kalisat, Pasuruan and Warungkaleng Cisarua, Bogor, this marriage is considered a “normal” thing. The legality of this marriage does not violate the norms of religion and the local community. The last factor is education. For people in Cisarua and Rembang, the education factor directs women to enter contract marriages. In the village of Warungkaleng, the informants, on average, only graduated junior high school and a few dropped out of secondary school. In Rembang, they only graduated from Islamic boarding schools which are equivalent to the elementary school level. The education factor is the result of poverty in the local population, which means that they cannot send their children to tertiary education. Low education leads to other social problems such as contract marriages that have been entrenched in these two regions.

Author: Sri Endah Kinasih, Toetik Koesbardiati and Siti Mas’udah Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Airlangga


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