Can child marriage be stopped? One girl did and wants others in Indonesia to follow

A young actress plays the role of Giorgia, 10, forced to marry Paolo, 47, during a happening organised by Amnesty International to denounce child marriage, on 27 October, 2016 in Rome. (AFP)
Updated 30 August 2017
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Can child marriage be stopped? One girl did and wants others in Indonesia to follow

KUALA LUMPUR: In Sanita Rini’s village on the Indonesian island of Java, child brides were so common that girls who were not married by the time they turned 16 were labelled “old virgins.”
Like other parents in the village, Rini’s tried to marry her off — to a motorbike driver seven years her senior — as soon as she celebrated her 13th birthday.
“I was shocked. I cried, I was angry,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I knew from my friends who married young, they can’t continue school, their life is over,” said Rini, now 22.
Rini’s story is not uncommon in Indonesia, which is among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest number of child brides, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides.
But she stopped her child marriage and now, along with a group of teenage girls, Rini is seeking to empower others to fight back through a new network, the Youth Coalition for Girls.
One in four girls marry before they turn 18 in Indonesia, according to the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF. On average over 3,500 Indonesian girls are married off every day.
Globally, 15 million girls become child brides each year, exposing them to greater risks of exploitation, sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth.
Campaigners say poverty and tradition continue to drive underage marriage in Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago in Southeast Asia with a population of 250 million people.
STRIKING A ‘DEAL’
The UN defines child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union before age 18. However in Indonesia, the minimum age a girl can wed is 16, and 19 for boys.
Rini said her father, a construction labor, and mother, who runs a grocery store from home, tried for two years to marry her to the man from her village to help the family’s finances.
The youngest of five siblings, Rini resisted and her parents eventually dropped the idea after she struck a “deal” with them.
“I asked my parents how much they have spent on me, for my education. I said I would repay them this money if they let me continue my studies. If they forced me to get married, they would not get a single cent,” she said.
The coalition hopes stories like Rini’s can inspire other girls to stand up for their rights on issues ranging from child marriage to sexual violence.
Launched in March, the group now has 180 members aged between 15 and 24 in 11 provinces across the archipelago who want to tackle gender equality through talks and book projects.
The coalition has a few survivors of child marriage and Rini, the group’s deputy head, said sharing their experiences help girls who are trapped to envision a different future. “I want to tell the girls, they are not alone. They have the power to say no,” she said.
The coalition also reaches out to parents to tell them the importance of education and encourage them to let their children continue their studies until at they are at least 18.
A university graduate, Rini has spoken about her experience in Japan and the Netherlands and her parents are proud of her.
The new coalition comes as women’s rights campaigners in Indonesia broaden their movement by engaging men and religious leaders.
In April, female Muslim clerics issued an unprecedented fatwa — a religious edict which is not legally binding but influential among Muslims — to declare underage marriage harmful and said its prevention was mandatory.
Rini admits the network is only in its infancy, but she hopes by taking this step, politicians will start engaging youths themselves when drafting policies and enacting laws.
“My dream is to see boys and girls in Indonesia enjoy their rights equally,” she said.


Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium ends in Riyadh

The Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium was the first event of its kind in the Kingdom. (SPA)
Updated 23 March 2019
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Tuwaiq Sculpture Symposium ends in Riyadh

  • The artists thanked the authority for the successful organization of the event

RIYADH: The Tuwaiq International Sculpture Symposium ended on Friday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
It began in Riyadh’s Diplomatic Quarter earlier this month, featuring the works of 23 artists from 18 different countries, and was held under the patronage of Prince Badr bin Abdullah, minister of culture and chairman of the board of directors of the General Authority of the Diplomatic Quarter.
The artists came from Albania, Italy, Serbia, Germany, Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, Denmark, Spain, Slovenia, England, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Fahd bin Mushayt, executive chairman of the General Authority of the Diplomatic Quarter, said: “The event’s importance lies in the diversity of nationalities taking part in it. This helped establish a suitable environment for cultural, expertise and experience exchange among some of the world’s most famous artists.
“The holding of such artistic and cultural events contributes to the promotion of expertise, the development of capabilities and the sustainability of such artistic fields,” he said, adding that the symposium was in line with the authority’s recently adopted strategy to promote international cultural dialogue and local culture.
The artists thanked the authority for the successful organization of the event.
The symposium’s three Saudi participants were Ali Al-Toukhais, his nephew Talal Altukhaes, and Mohammad Althagafi.
Altukhaes, who was an organizer as well as a participant, previously told Arab News that the goal of the symposium was to create an environment in which artists could share techniques, collaborate with one another, and promote a sense of camaraderie.
The symposium was attended by students, experts and the ambassadors of the artists’ countries.
Some visitors took part in the closing ceremony and were offered the opportunity to examine the sculptures and meet the artists.