The Consequences of Child Marriage in Indonesia - Q&A

What policies/intervention would you recommend for the policy makers in Indonesia to address the unintended consequences of child marriage?

We discuss some policy options in the report. There are policies that attempt to reduce the occurrence of child marriage which we discussed  in the presentation. Other policies that address the consequences of child marriage for those who have been married at an early age include allowing and supporting married girls to attend school (provision of child care at schools for girls with children); facilitating access to education in adulthood; policies that encourage and support young mothers to access health care during pregnancy and childbirth; and facilitating those who marry early to obtain marriage certificates (once they reach the legal age) and birth certificates for their children.

Given your rich dataset, will you able to identify key determinants of child marriage? In particular, will you be able to disentangle the effect of poverty vs social norms vs other factors.

Our project looked at the consequences of child marriage, not the drivers (for more information on the drivers see the UNICEF/BPS/PUSKAPA report in this link). It is possible to examine the drivers using the same data (the Indonesian Family Life Survey) but it is difficult to account for social norms as the data do not have any information on attitudes to child marriage. It might be possible to construct a community index of behaviours that would identify more conservative communities from other communities but we have not attempted to do this.

Do these occur mostly in big households where parents may "sacrifice" one child - i.e. a child which they can't invest in the human capital of - to help the others? If so, does the story of child marriage link with the story of fertility and family size?

We haven’t examined this directly. We examined whether older sisters were more likely to marry early than younger sisters but did not observe any systematic patterns.

Can you say something about the geographical variations of child marriage in Indonesia? My personal observation is that it is more widespread in some areas than others, and given limited resources, we should focus interventions in those areas (and they will need to be location-specific solutions).

That is true, although child marriage is prevalent in most areas. Of IFLS provinces, female child prevalence is lowest in Yogyakarta (11.5Figure 3 and Appendix A in the report show provincial child marriage prevalence rates for men and women (note that the IFLS does not cover all Indonesian provinces).

The IFLS provinces with the highest prevalence of female child marriage are Sulawesi Tenggara (40.7%); South Kalimantan (35%); West Papua (34%); Lampung (33%); East Kalimantan (33%); and Papua (32%). Male child marriage is highest in Sulawesi Tenggara (13%); West Papua (12%); Maluku (10%); and Papua (10%). Although provinces in Java do not have the highest prevalence rates, prevalence is not a lot lower there. For example, female child marriage prevalence is 29% in West Java and 28% in East Java. %).

Note these are figures for the population of women who were alive at the time of the survey (not figures for women who are currently of marriageable age). For figures on prevalence among young women, see the UNICEF/BPS/PUSKAPA report in this link.

Did you look into urban and rural samples separately?

Yes, we did but we found that the consequences of child marriage were largely the same across rural and urban areas so we do not report these results.

Have there been other policies intended to discourage child marriage in Indonesia? And if so, what have we learned of their effectiveness?

The national policies are raising the legal age of child marriage for girls to 19, child marriage prevalence targets in the National Mid-Term Development Plan, the development of a National Strategy for the Prevention of Child Marriage. The Ministry of Women’s Empowerment also has developed a Child Friendly City Program of which child marriage statistics are one measure. These are all relatively recent developments and as far as we know have not yet been evaluated. It is likely that various local governments have tried local initiatives but we are unaware of any evaluations of these attempts.

From your study, do you have information on which region had the highest incidence of child marriage in Indonesia? By knowing this information, we might have more understanding probably about the local culture that allows child marriage to occur.

As discussed above, Figure 3 and Appendix A in the report show provincial child marriage prevalence rates for men and women (note that the IFLS does not cover all Indonesian provinces). The IFLS provinces with the highest prevalence of female child marriage are Sulawesi Tenggara (40.7%); South Kalimantan (35%); West Papua (34%); Lampung (33%); East Kalimantan (33%); and Papua (32%). Male child marriage is highest in Sulawesi Tenggara (13%); West Papua (12%); Maluku (10%); and Papua (10%). Although provinces in Java do not have the highest prevalence rates, prevalence is not a lot lower there. For example, female child marriage prevalence is 29% in West Java and 28% in East Java.

Can you elaborate more on this finding: men (who marry earlier) have less say in household decisions? Who/what is the comparison against?

This is a comparison with other men who did not marry early. So it says nothing about men’s decision-making power versus women’s in the household.

What do you think about children who are aged under 18 and prefer to be married soon because of the family situation?

In some instances e.g. family violence against children, child marriage is the only option available that allows young girls and boys to leave their dysfunctional households. This is far from an ideal situation. Policies need to be developed that address the problem of family abuse and violence directly by providing young people with access to shelters and other forms of support, rather than having them resort to getting married which may not improve their situation and has long term negative consequences in other domains.

Have you presented this study to the policy makers in Indonesia? What’s their reaction? What’s the next step? Any policy focus on birth spacing for the couple?

We have presented our findings to the National Planning Agency. They are very supportive of efforts to reduce child marriage as are the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment. Child marriage leads to the woman having more children but it is unclear how this affects birth spacing as having married early, they have a longer period of time in which to bear children. The IFLS does provide information on birth-spacing. We didn't focus on it in the report but a quick preliminary examination of birth spacing showed that women who married early had greater birth spacing. This however does not result in better outcomes as can be seen from the results for child health.