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

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.


Highlights from Sotheby’s 20th Century Art sale in London

Sotheby’s will take place October 22 in London. (Supplied)
Updated 18 October 2019

Highlights from Sotheby’s 20th Century Art sale in London

Here are some highlights from Sotheby’s 20th Century Art/Middle East sale, which takes place October 22 in London. 

‘After The Rain’

Mahmoud Said

The famous auction house is billing this 1936 painting as “the most impressive example of Said’s landscapes ever to appear at auction” and predict it will fetch between $375,000 and $500,000.

Said is widely recognized as one of the most important figures in modern Egyptian art. His work combined elements of European art movements — from the Old Masters to post-impressionism — but retained a definite Egyptian feel, “capturing the Egyptian spirit during a time of intellectual renaissance.”

“After The Rain” was created during Said’s “Armana period,” and portrays an Egyptian countryside village — the backdrop to all of his paintings from this period — and another of his recurring motifs, a ripened palm tree. Sotheby’s particularly praises Said’s skill at “capturing the complexities of light to illustrate the depth of a sky as it is after rain — heavy clouds looming, yet with the hope of light and promise of sun,” and they way he uses the color of the sky to allude to the Nile — “his emblematic cobalt blue peppered with hints of turquoise and deeper, darker shades.”

‘Dodechahedron within an Icosahedron’

Dana Awartani

Sotheby’s expects this 2016 piece from the Palestinian-Saudi Jeddah-based artist to fetch around $25,000 at the auction. The wood, copper and glass sculpture — which Awartani created with craftsmen in Morocco — is an excellent example of how her works “gently fuse the lineage of Islamic craftsmanship, its motifs and tessellations with contemporary practice” and, the auction house says, “encapsulates her contemporary approach to the age-old spiritual appreciation of geometry … marrying the precarious with the perfect.”

‘Stardust’

Ali Banisadr

 

The hugely successful 43-year-old New York-based artist’s 2011 canvas is a typically striking display of Banisadr’s acclaimed technique. His work, Sotheby’s says “weaves together historical contexts — Islamic worlds meld with Medieval Europe with ease, and the gestural power of abstract impressionism is fused with battlegrounds from Persian miniatures.”

The auction house describes “Stardust” as “one of the most joyous works by the artist ever to appear at auction, the effervescent colors enveloping the viewer with a cosmic sense of harmony and serenity.” It is expected to fetch between $350,000 to $450,000.

‘Untitled’

Seta Manoukian

Manoukian’s 1987 oil painting is part of the auction’s ‘Armenian Diaspora’ section, which “takes a look at the unique and multifaceted Armenian artistic heritage.”

“Through exile and war, many artists preserved their culture, history and language,” the auction brochure reads.

Manoukian spent much of the Lebanese Civil War in Beirut before moving to Los Angeles, where she now lives as a Buddhist nun. This work, which Sotheby’s expects to fetch between $12,000 to $15,000, is a self-portrait created soon after her move to Hollywood and depicts the loneliness and confusion she was feeling at the time. One of the artworks on the wall in the painting is a small watercolor painted by fellow Armenian diaspora artist Aroutyun Vartanian in 1950.

‘The Stamp’

Abdulnasser Gharem

The Saudi army major and artist first conceived this large sculpture when his promotion led to him spend much of his time behind a desk stamping papers. On his website, Gharem explains that he was interested in how these stamps — “no matter how complex the logic that informed the thinking behind his decisions” — reduced everything to “a single stab, a binary ‘stamp’ or ‘no stamp.’”

He realized that, all across the Kingdom, every day, officials are slamming thousands of stamps down onto sheets of unrelated papers. “They articulate an unconscious and collective imprimatur, pronouncing what is right, what is acceptable, and which is the right path.”

The text on Gharem’s oversized stamp is short and to the point. “Have a bit of commitment,” it reads. Then, “Inshallah.” It is expected to fetch between $19,000 and $25,000 at auction.

‘Untitled’

Bahman Mohasses

The late painter and poet — sometimes referred to as ‘The Picasso of Iran’ — was known for the emotional power of his painting. His work in the 1960s, in particular, is disturbing and striking, offering, Sotheby’s says, a “host of dark, mythological characters used to express the anguish and despair of the huan condition.”

This oil painting from 1966 — expected to fetch between $150,000 and $225,000 — “encapsulates the artist’s unique ability to capture strength and vulnerability in the space of one canvas.”

‘Rhythmic Composition’

Saloua Raouda Choucair

The pioneering Lebanese abstract artist, who lived to the age of 100, was in her nineties before her work got any real exposure outside of Lebanon — becoming the first female Arab artist to have a solo show at London’s Tate Modern in 2013.

Choucair’s time in Paris just after the Second World War, absorbing the European avant-garde, informed much of her work. “Her aesthetic is shaped by, but not restricted to, Islamic geometry and calligraphy, colored with the daring palettes of her Parisian contemporaries and infused with the soft landscapes of Lebanon,” Sotheby’s explains. This 1949 work, estimated to be worth around $38,000 to $50,000, is the first of Choucair’s paintings to be available at auction.