INDONESIA: Rasminah, a valiant advocate against child marriage, passed away on Saturday (26 Aug), leaving a profound legacy that reshaped Indonesia’s perspective on underage unions.
“Verily, we belong to Allah, and to Him, we shall return. Mbak Rasminah passed away at 2:00 AM earlier this morning. Please forgive any mistakes she made,” reads an excerpt from the message conveyed by Darwini, Chairwoman of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (KPI) West Java.
Darwini has consistently accompanied Rasminah during her treatment at the halfway house and hospital due to a malignant tumour.
According to VOA Indonesia, the name of this modest woman from a remote village in Indramayu, West Java, became known to the public in April 2017, when she, alongside fellow child marriage survivors Maryanti and Endang Wasrinah, initiated a historic legal battle by seeking a judicial review of Article 7 in Law Number 1 of 1974, addressing the age limit for girls to marry.
Supported by the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (KPI) and Coalition 18+, Rasminah’s resolve led to an extensive series of hearings challenging the constitutionality of the law.
In a landmark decision in December 2018, the Constitutional Court (MK) granted their plea, mandating legislative amendments within three years to address the minimum age for girls’ marriage.
Responding swiftly, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (KemenPPPA) drafted these amendments, which were subsequently proposed as a government-initiated bill.
During the legislative process, Rasminah’s resolute efforts inspired civil society groups to rally female members of the Legislative Body (Baleg), resulting in a bill proposal backed by 24 DPR members.
On 12 September 2019, Baleg passed the bill, setting the minimum marriage age for girls at 19, harmonizing it with boys.
Afterwards, Rasminah returned to her hometown to raise her five children with her last husband, Runata.
A few months ago, she complained of pain in her partially amputated leg, and further examinations revealed a malignant tumour.
“Upon taking a biopsy and discovering the malignancy, immediate treatment was initiated. Moreover, the tumour was found to have spread. The doctor said there were many tumour clusters, but the origin remains uncertain,” said Runata.
Her health condition continued to deteriorate until she took her last breath in the early hours of last Saturday (26 Aug).
Continuing Rasminah’s valiant battle against child marriage
With her passing on 26 August, the Indonesian Women’s Coalition referred to her as a “great fighter,” vowing to ensure her struggle is not in vain.
Numerous figures also expressed their condolences and urged the continuation of Rasminah’s fight against child marriage, including Misiyah from Kapal Perempuan (Women’s Ship), Henny Supolo from the Cahaya Guru (The Light of Guru) Foundation, Eva Sundari from the Sarinah Foundation, Sylvana Apituley from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), and others.
Lita Anggraini, Chairwoman of the National Advocacy Network for Domestic Workers (Jala PRT), shared her admiration, stating that Rasminah’s bravery “saved women from a patriarchal marriage regime that trapped them in ongoing oppression and impoverishment.”
Rasminah’s efforts, supported by women’s rights organizations and advocates, to raise the minimum marriage age for girls to 19, represented a significant breakthrough for Indonesia, which had tolerated this issue for decades.
Rasmirah herself got married after finishing elementary school, to a 25-year-old man.
However, later on, she and her first child were abandoned by her husband out of the blue. Since then, she was forced and compelled to undergo three marriages and divorces, in order to provide for her children.
Eventually, Rasminah met Runata, who was willing to provide for her and her three children. They were blessed with two more children.
65,000 child marriage related cases recorded in 2021 and 55,000 in 2022
Quoting a press release from the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (KemenPPPA), based on data from religious court proceedings regarding requests for marriage dispensation due to child age, there were 65,000 cases recorded in 2021 and 55,000 in 2022.
Nur Djannah Syaf, the Director of the Directorate of Administrative Justice, emphasized the urgency, with factors including parental requests driven by affection, pregnancy, intimacy, economics, and arranged marriages after children reached maturity.
Titi Eko Rahayu, Expert Staff to the Minister for Poverty Alleviation, stressed that child marriage’s high prevalence threatened fundamental rights, causing physical, and psychological impacts, deepening poverty, stunting growth, school dropouts, and elevating cervical cancer risks.
“The high prevalence of child marriages is a threat to fulfilling children’s basic rights. Besides the physical and psychological impacts on children, marrying at a young age exacerbates poverty, stunting, school dropouts, and the risk of cervical/uterine cancer.”
:These children are the future hope for building Indonesia, and child marriage cases hinder progress significantly. This is a shared responsibility due to the complex and multisectoral nature of the child marriage issue,” said Titi Eko Rahayu, the Expert Staff to the Minister for Poverty Alleviation at KemenPPPA.
Meanwhile, Professor Emil Salim, a member of the Steering Council of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), highlighted that achieving Indonesia’s goals for 2045 would be challenging if underage marriage persists.
Currently, Forced Child Marriage is considered a form of sexual violence as stated in the 2022 Law on Sexual Violence.
Rasminah’s journey, marked by cooperation between civil society and women’s advocates, achieved a remarkable milestone: altering the minimum marriage age for girls. Her legacy resonates across Indonesia, fueling a broader movement to protect the rights and well-being of young girls.