Indonesian singles propose "marriage without dating"

11.03.2020

Faiz shares the couple's story with 1.4 million social media followers under the hashtag #NikahMuda or young marriage.

The seeds of this trend may have been planted back in 1998 – when many adherents were toddlers – in the ashes of Indonesia's collapsed Suharto dictatorship, which largely suppressed religious expression.

"This era of democracy has opened up space for religious expression," said Sidiq Harim, a sociologist at Gadjah Mada University. "Public piety through religious symbols is emerging and taaruf is one of them."

In recent years, Indonesia has seen a shift toward religious conservatism, with some celebrities announcing they'll adopt a more pious lifestyle. And last year the government unsuccessfully tried to push through a criminal code overhaul, backed by conservative Islamic groups, which would have banned pre-martial sex, sparking a public outcry.

Marriage-without-dating is also a pushback against fears that two decades of democracy have broken down traditional values in a country where arranged marriage was once the norm, and still endures in some rural areas, experts said.

Advocates insist the practice empowers women by giving them control over choosing a partner without feeling compelled to have sex before marriage. And it doesn't require permission from family members like arranged unions do, they say.

Still, a successful marriage means both partners must follow Islam's teachings on what's expected of a husband and wife, said Taufiq Andika, who married his wife after about three months of non-contact courtship.

"It's a problem if the couple doesn't know each other's rights and obligations," the 28-year-old said. "That could lead to divorce."

But even the most liberal interpretations of those obligations tend to call on women to prioritise their husband and children's needs over their own. Critics say brief, resume-based relationships can set couples up for failure – and put women at risk.

"I've heard many stories about domestic abuse," said Kalis Mardiasih, a Muslim feminist and gender campaigner at Gusdurian National Network, which represents thousands of grassroots social activists. "It can happen in other relationships too. But it's critical to assess someone's attitude as early as possible and see what kind of person they are."

Despite its growing popularity, not all Indonesians are sold on the idea.

"I don't agree with this sudden marriage thing," said 25-year-old Azara Mahdaniar. "You don't want to commit and find out later on that your partner is mean or abusive."    (AFP)

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