Indonesia allows men to marry more than one woman – but only under strict conditions. So polygamy isn’t that common there. The BBC’S Karishma Vaswani reports on a new controversial “club” that is trying to promote the virtues of polygamy.
Read the Transcript
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI’s THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to email@example.com. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI’s THE WORLD is the program audio.
MARCO WERMAN: I’m Marco Werman. This is The World. In Indonesia, Muslim men are allowed to marry more than one woman under certain conditions. Still, polygamy isn’t widely practiced there. Now, some Indonesians are trying to change that. They’ve created a controversial club to promote the virtues of multiple marriages. The BBC’S Karishma Vaswani recently met with some club members to find out what they are trying to achieve.
KARISHMA VASWANI: This is Karishma Vaswani, Jakarta. Rows of men kneel in prayer inside a large hall on the outskirts of Jakarta. The women sit behind. It could be afternoon prayers anywhere, but this one happens to be inside the sprawling headquarters of Jakarta’s newest club, The Global Ikhwan Polygamy Club. Set up here earlier this year but with its origins in Malaysia, the club says it has more than 1,000 members worldwide, as far away as Australia and the United States. Its not just polygamy that’s promoted here. Right now there are classes being held for children of many of the families who are a part of this community, teaching the next generation of this club how to become good Muslims. There’s also a minimart here that sells Islamic and Halal food, even a production house which makes Islamic films. But the main aim of the club is to promote the virtues of polygamy, as well as to support those who are struggling with their choices. In one of the club’s rooms the director of the organization Dr. Gina Puspita speaks to a group of young women trying to help them get over their jealousies and insecurities
DR. GINA PUSPITA: [In foreign language]
VASWANI: She says she, too, found it difficult when her husband Rizdam first took on a second wife.
DR. GINA PUSPITA: [Translated] It was difficult for me in the beginning, but I knew it was because of my emotions, my desires. There are a lot of advantages for women in polygamous marriages. We learn how to control our desires and our jealousies, and this brings us closer to Allah.
VASWANI: But Dr Gina’s stance on polygamy is firmly opposed by other women in Indonesia, including women’s activist, Nursyabhani.
NURSYABHANI: Its a kind of terrorism, its terrorizing Indonesian woman because we are fighting to abolish the Article 3, 4, and 5 in Indonesian marriage law that allowed husband to have the second or third and fourth wife.
VASWANI: This country has strict rules about who is allowed to take on multiple wives. The guiding principle of Indonesia’s marriage law is monogamy Polygamy is tolerated but tightly controlled, and you do have to go through a number of steps to take more than one wife. You have to get your first wife’s permission. You must prove that she is either infertile, terminally ill or not performing her wifely duties. And finally, you have to get the permission of a religious advisor.
Although there are no official statistics for how many people in Indonesia are polygamous, because so many of the marriages go unregistered, women’s groups say organizations like the Polygamy Club could prompt more Indonesian men to take on multiple wives. But that’s not an interpretation Dr. Gina Puspita accepts. Back at her house, she’s frying up some rice and chicken for her family for lunch. She cooks while Sawa [PH], wife number three, chops up the vegetables. It’s a picture of domestic harmony, an unusual family tableau. Her husband Rizdam says this system works for them.
RIZDAM: I think polygamy is good for me, much better than one of them because in polygamy we tend also to promote or to improve our leadership because you have to lead four wives. It’s not easy even to lead one now woman, it’s not easy. For a woman, it’s much, much difficult.
VASWANI: Indonesian women’s groups are calling on officials to shut the club down. But so far the Indonesian government has said it will only monitor the club’s activities. It won’t curtail it. For the World, this is Karishma Vaswani, Jakarta.
Copyright ©2009 PRI’s THE WORLD. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to PRI’s THE WORLD. This transcript may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior written permission. For further information, please email The World’s Permissions Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.