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.


Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie talk ‘Bombshell’ and tense scenes

“Bombshell” is directed by Jay Roach. (Supplied)
Updated 5 min 37 sec ago

Charlize Theron, Margot Robbie talk ‘Bombshell’ and tense scenes

  • The film stars a power trio of A-listers — Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman portray former Fox anchors Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, with Margot Robbie playing Kayla, a fictional composite of multiple women at the news network

LOS ANGELES: In 2016, Fox News was turned upside down when allegations of sexual harassment against CEO Roger Ailes were made public. The build-up, backlash and fallout are chronicled in new movie, “Bombshell.”

The film stars a power trio of A-listers — Charlize Theron and Nicole Kidman portray former Fox anchors Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, with Margot Robbie playing Kayla, a fictional composite of multiple women at the news network. With director Jay Roach at the helm, “Bombshell” is a slick dramatization of events in the style of writer Charles Randolph’s previous film “The Big Short.”

Theron and Robbie have already received Golden Globe nominations for their roles and and Arab News sat down with them them and co-star John Lithgow, who plays Ailes, about making the film.

“Ailes is a fascinating character,” Lithgow said, “the most valuable asset I had in the role was Connie Britton (as Ailes’ wife, Beth). The look on her face and the look of shame on his face at her finding out about it was extremely powerful.”

The decision to take on a role in the movie wasn’t easy for Theron, however.

“It wasn’t a very easy decision for me. Jay (Roach) gets credit for giving me the last push. He really helped me get my head around understanding Megyn because that was complicated for me. While we were shooting it became more complicated because she was let go from NBC for racially insensitive comments and that devastated me,” she told Arab News.

The film led the Screen Actors Guild Awards nominations Wednesday, boosting its Oscar hopes. Lionsgate's star-studded #MeToo drama secured acting nods for its lead Theron, as well as supporting actresses Kidman and Robbie, and an overall cast nomination.

And Robbie’s nomination is well deserved, especially considering one particularly uncomfortable scene depicting sexual harassment.

“I can’t think of a single scene that has really gotten inside the room where some version of sexual harassment on this level takes place… if you just saw a transcript, you wouldn’t know anything wrong had happened. But as she says in the film, ‘something just happened and I don’t know what it was.’ That’s what harassment is all about,” Robbie said.