Female clerics on Thursday issued an unprecedented fatwa against child marriage in Indonesia in a bid to stop young girls becoming brides in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
The fatwa – which is influential among Muslims but not legally binding – came at the end of an extraordinary three-day conference of female Islamic clerics: a rare example of women assuming a lead role in religious affairs in this mostly-Muslim country.
“Maternal mortality is very high in Indonesia. We – as female clerics – can play a role on the issue of child marriage,” conference organiser Ninik Rahayu told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Female clerics know the issues and obstacles women face, we can take action and not just wait for the government to protect these children,” she said by phone from Cirebon in the West Java province, where the congress was held.
Indonesia has one of the worst records for under-age marriage – its high number of child brides puts it among the top 10 countries worldwide – and it is common for girls to marry before they turn 18.
Thursday’s fatwa, or religious edict, called underage marriage “harmful” and said its prevention was mandatory.