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Inter-religious marriage defended JAKARTA - Over the last three decades, marriages between couples of different religions have generally sparked controversy as the state does not recognize inter-religious marriage. A graphic designer with a foreign advertising company said he "converted" to Islam and the next day his Muslim girlfriend took an oath before a priest in a Catholic church to officiate their marriage.
They said they deliberately followed both Islamic and Catholic rituals as a compromise and in order to respect each other's beliefs, which is generally thought to be unacceptable from a religious point of view. Since then, both have practiced their respective religions. Activist Zoemrotin K. Susilo said the Law No. 1/1974 on marriage was a violation of the freedom of religion and belief -- which has been recognized as a basic human right -- for preventing people from obtaining legal status for inter-religious marriages.
The law stipulates that the state legalizes only marriages between people of the same religion, conducted according to their religion. This means that a couple of different religions have to pick which religious ritual they will follow in order to obtain a legal marriage. The state currently acknowledges six major religions and beliefs: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism, although in reality there are many traditional beliefs.
"This is unfair. The law is against the right to freedom of religion and belief," Zoemrotin, who is also a member of the National Commission on Human Rights, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. She said the law did not matter to those who could afford to get married abroad. But those who could not, would not be listed with the civil registration office. "As a result, their children will be considered to be born out of wedlock," she said.
A lecturer at the University of Indonesia (UI), Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, agreed with Zoemrotin, saying the law had resulted in hypocrisy as people were prone to seeking formality. "People are only looking for a legal marriage when they decide to follow the rituals of a certain religion. After the ceremony they practice their religions of choice," said Harkristuti. Harkristuti also said that children and women were most affected by the law.
"Children born out of an inter-religious marriage are considered illegal, thus, they have no legal right to inherit their parents' wealth," said Harkristuti, who teaches at UI's school of law. The law also prevents women from getting alimony should they divorce. "Thus, in most cases, people formally change their religions only to obtain a legal marriage, so that women will receive financial support from their spouses and their children will secure their rights," she told the Post.
Women activists' outcry for justice and gender equality has forced the House of Representatives Commission VI on education and religious affairs to propose a revision of the law. "It has now been included in our plan, however, we do not classify it as urgent," said Chodidjah H.M. Saleh, a member of the House commission. The government is also drafting a bill on religious courts concerning marital affairs, which will enhance the ban of inter-religious marriage.
Activists from the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP) and the Society for Inter-Religious Dialogue joined the chorus of criticism against the prohibition of marriage between people of different religions. "It is such an irony that the state pays so much attention to regulating the private lives of its citizens -- religious affairs in particular -- but fails to address more urgent issues such as corruption, which is still so rampant," said Lies Marcoes-Natsir, the Asia Foundation's program officer for Islam and civil society affairs.

Key articles

Article 2: A marriage is legal if it is conducted according to the joint religion or belief of a couple.

Article 34 (1): A husband is obliged to protect his wife and provide daily household needs.

Article 34 (2): A wife is obliged to administer household affairs.

Article 42: A child obtains his/her legal status when he/she was born of a legal marriage.

Article 43: A child born out of wedlock has a relationship only with his/her mother, and his/her legal rights are determined by a government regulation.

Posted in Religion @ 29 November 2003 00:01 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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