JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's main Muslim women's group has issued an edict against child marriage, urging the government of the world's most populous Muslim nation to increase the legal minimum age for females to marry from 16 to 18 years, the group said Friday.
The Congress of Indonesian Women Ulema said the religious edict, or fatwa, was decided at a three-day meeting that ended Thursday in the West Java town of Cirebon.
The fatwa, which has no legal force but is influential, urges the government to amend a 1974 Law on Marriage to raise the minimum marriage age.
The law currently sets a minimum age of 21 years, but with the parents' consent, boys are allowed to marry from age 19 and girls from 16. Parents can ask religious or district courts for an exemption for their daughters to marry at earlier ages.
Minister of Religious Affairs Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who closed the meeting, said the problem of early marriage is the responsibility of both parents and society.
UNICEF, the U.N. children's agency, welcomed the edict, describing it as a landmark moment in efforts to end child marriage in Indonesia, where one in four women marries before age 18.
The women's group also urged the government to do more to protect the rights of women who are victims of sexual violence and to eliminate the violence.