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Young Indonesian Urged to Ignore Dating, Move Straight to Marriage


A religious officer canes an Acehnese youth onstage as punishment for dating outside marriage, which is against Sharia, or Islamic law on Aug. 1, 2016. The strictly Muslim province, Aceh is the only one in Indonesia with Sharia.

Some Indonesians believe the country would be better off if single people stopped wasting time on dating.

Writer La Ode Munafar started a group called Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran, or Indonesia Without Courtship, about two years ago.

He and his group say Indonesians spend too much time and energy on trying to find the perfect mate. They want young people to stop looking around for such a person, and go straight to marriage.

When asked why he started the group, Munafar said, “I was concerned about the younger generation, who are victims of the doomed culture of courtships.”

Munafar is married. A native of Southeast Sulawesi, the 26-year-old now lives in Yogyakarta on the island of Java.

His website says he has written 60 books since the age of 20. He also directs a “quick-write” training program. It promises that students will be able to write a book with only eight hours of training.

His group, Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran, has received over 200,000 likes on Facebook and over 300,000 Instagram followers. Its social media posts are often related to Islam. Many have messages critical of dating and photographs of women wearing head coverings.

The social movement has been gaining popularity. Its popularity has increased concerns about child marriage in the country. Depending on the province, between 14 and 35 percent of Indonesian girls get married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Some children’s activists are worried that the movement will lead to more child marriages. Indonesia is one of the top 10 countries with the largest number of child brides.

With permission from their parents, Indonesian girls can legally marry at age 16, but boys must wait until they are 19. Children younger than 16 can get married secretly. Nikah siri is a secret marriage carried out under Islamic law. These marriages are not registered with the government.

Emilie Minnick is a child protection specialist at UNICEF Indonesia. She said that when two people are married through nikah siri, it is easy to make the marriage official.

She said many child marriages take place because people use forged identification documents. Those documents often list the wrong ages.

Minnick said girls who marry before they turn 18 are six times less likely to finish secondary education than those who marry after they turn 18. She said those numbers come from Indonesia’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

She added that problems during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls between the ages of 15 and 19 worldwide.

Poverty is a big issue when looking at child marriages, Minnick said. Indonesian girls are four times more likely to be married before 18 if they are poor.

Cultural pressure is not the only reason for more child marriages. Poverty and a lack of social services are other possible reasons.

The anti-dating movement appears to be a product of Indonesia’s cultural and religious environment. The founder of Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran told VOA that his group offers advice to concerned individuals and holds discussions in WhatsApp groups. It also broadcasts relationship advice on social media and has launched online campaigns like #TolakValentineDay. The campaign urges Indonesians to reject Valentine’s Day, the traditional holiday for lovers.

"Dating only wastes time, energy and money for a moment's pleasure," said Munafar. "It's not for serious relationships or building a house."

The group suggests unmarried people try ta’aruf, an Islamic cultural tradition, instead of dating. Ta’aruf is a way of getting to know a future husband or wife through family members.

Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran is not the only anti-dating group in the country. Accounts such as @nikahasik and @muliatanpapacaran praise the value of Islamic marriages. Nikah Asik means “cool marriage” and Mulia Tanpa Pacaran means “nobility without dating.”

Indonesian law makers and law enforcement have also tried to fight dating. In parts of West Java, security cameras are used to watch social interactions between men and women.

Last year, conservative politicians proposed banning all extramarital sex. The nation’s highest court has yet to rule on the measure.

I’m Mario Ritter.

And I’m Olivia Liu.

Olivia Liu adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

datev. to go out with someone in hopes of developing a love relationship

courtshipsn. the activities that could lead to marriage

doomedadj. of or related to an unhappy ending

post – n. a message that is published on social media

briden. a woman who has just married

forgedadj. of or related to a copy, something that is not the real thing

online adj. connected to a computer or telecommunications system

nobility adj. great admirable qualities

extramaritaladj. sexual or romantic relations between a married person and someone who is not that person’s husband or wife

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