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Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.

The Divorce Rates in Indonesia, a Fascinating Story

Before we believe that the divorce rates go UP in the past five years, let’s not forget the classical study of GWJone’s Marriage and divorce in Islamic South-East Asia (1994) and Heaton et al’s research (2001). This is not some cliched “women become smart so they know how to fight for their rights” story. Please pay attention to the “traditional” high divorce rates that plunged in the 70s, 80s. 近年來的印尼論述完全是在自己嚇自己,好像自己過去從來沒有高離婚率似的,跟「亞洲價值」的說法被創造出來的發明差不多等級。

For discussion about the interpretation of statistics showing declining divorce rates in Indonesia, see Jones (1994: 265, 310) and Guest (1991) Marital Dissolution and Development in Indonesia. Canberra: Australian National University.

Gender, State and Social Power in Contemporary Indonesia: Divorce and Marriage Law By Kate O’Shaughnessy


Trends such as delayed marriage and educational expansion account for about one third of the decline in marital dissolution. Moreover, factors associated with marital disruption are shifting in importance. In particular, age at marriage and marital duration are becoming less reliable predictors of marital stability, whereas education is becoming more important. We conclude that the shifting forces governing marital formation and dissolution in Indonesia have modified the linkages between the conjugal couple, broader kinship systems, and modes of economic support such that traditional patterns sustaining high levels of marital instability are no longer in effect.

10% is perhaps very big but it’s only among the new marriages. But in the 1950s, it was almost 50%.

So the more ACCURATE picture is that the divorce rates goes down with modernization, and goes slightly up again in the past decade. 

Mong Palatino from the global voices mentioned that

Records show that in 2006 there were nearly 1000 cases of divorce because of husbands marrying another woman. Polygamous marriages are also increasing – the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice received 87 reports of polygamy in 2008, up from 16 in 2007.

More women in polygamous marriages are becoming more assertive about their rights. Abdul Khalik writing for The Jakarta Post quotes the views of scholars about this issue:

Director General for Islamic guidance at the Ministry for Religious Affairs Nasaruddin Umar: “There has been a significant increase in divorce because women have been rejecting polygamy in recent years.”

Muslim scholar Siti Musdah Mulia: “The data shows women are now daring to fight for their rights and reject male domination. They are now saying, ‘What is the point in continuing a marriage when I am miserable’”

My problem with these quotes is simply that it implied that women in the past DID NOT FIGHT FOR THEIR rights. Maybe it was not in the language of “right” regime. But hello, the very high divorce rates in the 1950s and 60s? Shouldn’t we deal with that first? The same question is applied to another post (August 2009):

“Around two million couples get married annually, and on the other hand, roughly 200,000 couples divorce annually. The divorce rate is 10 percent of the marriage rate, it’s very big,” Antara news agency quoted Nasaruddin Umar, the religious affairs ministry’s director general for Islamic public guidance, as saying here on Saturday.

In fact, almost 70 percent of those asking for divorces were women, and only 30 percent husbands who wanted to divorce their wives, he said.

“It’s because women have become smarter, stable, protected by laws, and more aware of their rights and gender equality,” he said.

There were at least 13 excuses for asking divorces, namely they were not compatible anymore, household violence, polygamy, economic, unregistered marriage, a big gap of the couples’ ages.

“Even political factor has played a significant role, for instance the husband voted a certain candidate, the wife chose a different candidate. This political factor has affected couples in the village level to provincial and national levels,” he said.

However, he noticed there was a trend that the divorce rate would decrease in 2009 as the situation has become more stable after the start of the reform movement in 1998.

There is no reliable and rigorous statistics showing what actually happened in the past decade.

“In 2005, 105 couples cited political differences as the cause of their split but this figure jumped to 502 couples in 2006.”(But this is not percentage, no total count of marriages is provided. )

The official said 90 per cent of marriages between people of different religions ended in divorce. (of which year? 2005? Do they think they are divorced not due to other reasons?)


The Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry said the number of divorces per year in their nation has increased ten fold since reform of the laws was introduced in the 1990s. In 1998, there was an average of about 20,000 divorced but last year (2010) that figure had increased to 200,000. 1998年兩萬。2003五萬。

“Data Badan Peradilan Agama (Badilag) Mahkamah Agung RI tahun 2010 melansir bahwa selama 2005 sampai 2010, atau rata-rata satu dari 10 pasangan menikah berakhir dengan perceraian di pengadilan.2005-2010中的婚姻有10%離婚收場。2010年有二十八萬多。亞太區域之冠。其中又以女性要求離婚居多。

“Seminar Membangun Ketahanan Keluarga di Tengah Krisis dan Tingginya Gugat Cerai” di Auditorium Kantor BKKBN, Halim Perdana Kusuma, Jakarta Timur, Senin (23/12/2013)


A 2008 article cites the causes of divorce:

incompatibility (because of adultery) – 54000 cases
disharmony – 46000
economic hardship – 24000
interference by relatives – 9000
family crisis – 4700
forced marriage – 1700
domestic violence – 900
polygamy – 879
biological defect (like infertility) – 580
underage marriage – 284
imprisonment – 150
political differences – 157

“The numbers increased from 10 years ago, in which the divorce rate was only around 50,000 per year,” said Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Dr. Nasaruddin Umar in Jakarta, Saturday (09/14/2013).

nearly 70 percent of divorces are khul’a divorce. In other words, more women filed for divorce than a man who divorces his wife.

Women tend to be independent with no need for men and marriage as they can earn money by themselves. The financial security is mostly the reason of khul’a when there is a marriage problem.

Menurut catatan Bimas Islam dalam angka yang diterbitkan Ditjen Bimas Islam akhir 2007 lalu tercatat hingga akhir 2006 terjadi perceraian sebanyak 148.738 peristiwa, terdiri dari 54.456 peristiwa cerai talak dan 94.282 peristiwa cerai gugat.


Idrus says:

In the 1974 Indonesian Marriage Law, a divorce can only be granted through the Religious Court which must first try to reconcile the husband and wife. A Hadith states that ‘divorce is lawful, but deeply despised by Allah.’



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This entry was posted on March 10, 2014 by in 【Indonesia-ish & SEAsia】, 【Performing Gender Logs】 and tagged .
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