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The Problem with Polygamy in Indonesia Essay


Polygamy in Indonesia is legal. A man is permitted to have as many as four wives under the Muslim law. But Despite the low incident of polygamy in Indonesia, it has been a central issue in relations between the Indonesia women, and the state in the twentieth century. Indonesia women’s organizations have long wanted the state to legislate on this matter, yet it was most reluctant to do so until the passage of the marriage Law in 1974.

After that the fire went out of the issue as far as women’s organizations were concerned, although “in very recent years” there has been a revival of interest. With respect to marital status, the census report stated that “among Indonesians” 75% of the adults’ males, and 68% of the adults’ females were married. However the number of married females was higher than the number of married adult males. The difference, amounting to 424,588 persons was in part due to the existence of polygamy. For Indonesia, approximately 25 % of the men had more than one wife (Salim 9).

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Why Polygamy Is Considered Wrong In Indonesia

Indonesia women’s concern about polygamy are a complex mixture, touching on economic, emotional, social, sexual, moral, legal and religious aspect of marriage. The core of women’s concern was the threat of polygamy to a wife’s love and self esteem. Men have been given power to do what they want yet women are the ones suffering.

When a husband took what is almost a younger girl as a new wife, repugnance at having to share a husbands sexual life with another women, and the threat to the economic basis of marriage when resources had to be spread amongst more wives and children. Women in a polygamous marriage always feel inferior towards other women in the same marriage and it often lead to jealousy, frustration and at times death (Day 28-29).

Why Some Women Still Prefer Polygamy Relationships

Some women still prefer polygamous relationship, if the man they are involved is a person of high position in a society. Sometimes you will hear women saying that it’s better to be married as a third wife to a rich man than a first wife to a poor man. That’s why at times you find women getting into these unions, maybe because of money, or a high position that a man holds.

Women have been known to be associated in this form of relationship without caring. We can conclude that this mostly happens due to marriage security purposes (Survival). Better incomes would mean that these women could get married according to their choice and reduce the economic pressure experienced by women and children in polygamous marriages.

Is Polygamy Related To Gender Discrimination In Indonesia?

Ant-polygamist in Indonesia view polygamy as fundamentally undemocratic institution that perpetuates the subordination of women to men, and violates women’s basic rights. Unlike other issues, polygamy touches on a range of issues relating to gender difference, most particularly that of power within marriage. The practice of multiple marriages occurs only in families where the husband holds tremendous power, while the wife and children are in a powerless position.

In other words, it is seen as a form of violence against women and children, and that Indonesia law continues to discriminate against women in allowing polygamy to exist in any form. Why should a man be privileged to have more than one legal sexual partner while women were prevented to have more than one legal sexual partner? Women in these relationships are also prevented from getting out of this relationship in case of violence, due to lack of immediate access to divorce (Susan 110-113).


Throughout the years, education and legal reforms have been regarded by most interested parties as the best ways of dealing with the problems associated with polygamy. They are viewed as the best in addressing the social causes and consequences. Since the state is heavily involved in education and legislation, it clearly has a role to play in dealing with the polygamy menace.

Work Cited

Day, Tony. Identifying with Freedom: Indonesia after Suharto. New York: Berghahn Books,

2007. Print.

Susan Blackburn. Women and the State in Modern Indonesia. UK: Cambridge University Press

2004 .print

Salim, Arskal. Shari’a and Politics in Modern Indonesia. Singapore: Inst. of Southeast Asian

Studies, 2003. Print.

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