Interview with Misiyah: Gender Parity in Education is Important


Misiyah, Director, Institute for Alternative Education for Girls: Gender Parity in Education is Important

Indonesia’s child marriage rate stands at 23 percent, in spite of the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) report, prepared in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). According to the 2016 report, last year’s child marriage rate is still lower by seven percent compared to 2015. The report also notes that West Sulawesi has the highest incidence of child marriage, followed by South and Central Kalimantan.

Early marriages have the potential of leading to adverse consequences, including highrisk pregnancies and births, high dropout rates and domestic violence, said Misiyah, director of the Institute for Alternative Education for Girls (Kapal Perempuan). “Yet our current laws actually legitimize child marriage,” Misiyah told Isma Savitri of Tempo English, in an interview two weeks ago. Excerpts:

What is the main cause leading to Indonesia’s high rate of child marriage?

The strongest reason is the common misperception that girls must marry young. If women marry ‘late’, they are branded ‘old maid’, which worries some parents as well as the girls themselves. So parents feel they have to save their daughters from that awful stigma. Secondly, poverty makes parents want to quickly free themselves of the burden of caring for their children (especially daughters).

Are education levels among parents and their children also a factor?

The level of education is not a major factor. Rather, it’s the parents’ level of understanding that is critical. If parents who never went to school are educated on gender equality, they would reject the practice of early marriage. On the other hand, even if the parents are university graduates, if they are gender biased, they would still endorse early marriages.

In your opinion, what is the worst effect of early marriages?

In terms of education, a married schoolgirl may lose her 12year mandatory access to education when education is, in fact, a determining factor when applying for a job. This may later impact her family’s income. She will earn a low income and remain disadvantaged. In terms of health, the reproductive organs of girls under 18 are not yet physically ready to bear children, which means their reproductive health is at risk.

And what are the potential social and psychological effects?

Children, particularly girls, are not yet ready to be independent and selfsufficient. Because our patriarchal culture is still predominant, a woman’s position in the household tends to be weak, leaving her vulnerable to violence.

Because of the inequality between husband and wife?

Yes. Discrimination emerges whenever a woman is positioned as subordinate to a man. The woman cannot negotiate her role in their household.

How effective are the laws on the protection of children?

Not yet effective. Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage allows 16yearold girls to marry. Amendments to the law have been proposed, but the Constitutional Court rejected them in a judicial review, although the law contradicts the Law on Child Protection (which defines children as being under 18 years of age).

What solutions do you propose?

Apart from revising the stipulations on the marriage age, we need to adopt gender parity in education. This is important to develop critical awareness, to rid ourselves of such myths as being ‘old maids’ if unmarried. We need to make an effort to motivate women and build up their confidence so they can speak out and voice their views.


Source: Tempo English April 2017