“They can get married at any age, even girls who haven’t started menstruating. And they can have intimate relationships and intercourse, as long as they are able.”
Cholil Nafis, secretary of the committee for religious issues for this past week’s 32nd NU congress, said the gathering had agreed that there should be no age restrictions on marriage because sacred Islamic verses or regulations had not stipulated a minimum age. Cholil said Islamic law only suggested that marriages would be better after a woman had her first period.
“If people disagree with our fatwa, so be it. We never force people to follow what we say.” Cholil said an NU report mentioned underage marriages in some regions, but added that they were mostly traditional engagements between families who wanted their offspring to marry.
Under such a marriage, the minors are wed under Islamic law as if they were adults, but live separately with their families until they are judged mature enough to assume adult responsibilities.
Friday’s edict drew immediate criticism from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)). “Girls need mental maturity to be responsible for their husband and children,” MUI chairman Amidhan. “Based on the 1974 Law on Marriage, girls can only get married after they are 16.”
Yunahar Ilyas, Muhammadiyah’s fatwa committee chairman, said NU should not issue edicts and recommendations based solely on an Islamic perspective. “They are supposed to see this matter comprehensively. Menstruation is not a measurement of a girl’s maturity,” Yunahar said. “She needs to be mentally and intellectually mature to be able to be a good mother and wife.” INDONESIA THIS DAY