Muslim Cleric Marries 12-year-old Child
A Muslim cleric has caused public furore in Indonesia after marrying a 12-year-old prepubescent girl as a second wife. The cleric is now in Singapore.
Pujianto Cahyo Widianto, who runs a public boarding school, has fled to Singapore after marrying an under-aged girl.
It is reported that he picked the girl to wed from a group of 20, due to her maturity, physical development and intelligence. The girl is his second wife.
After an unofficial religious ceremony held in the central Java city of Semarang, to marry the two, Widianto and his two wives flew to Singapore.
Although Indonesia has yet to ask Singapore to extradite the man, police are conducting investigations.
If Widianto consummates the marriage, he will be violating child protection laws.
Investigators say that Widianto was planning to put the child in charge of a calligraphy business. If so, the child is protected under labor laws.
However, Widianto defended his action, citing the Prophet Muhammad's marriage to a seven year-old, Aisha, in the 7th century A.D. to justify his actions.
He is not alone. Hilman Rosyad Syihab, deputy leader of the Islamic party Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (PKS), is backing him up.
"Many parents give their children for marriage when they reach 11 or 12 years of age," Hilman said. "It is a normal practice even if it is in decline."
"If there is no conflict in the family, we should respect it and give them the opportunity to become a harmonious family."
Widianto has also promised not to engage in sexual activity before the child reaches puberty.
The religious wedding ceremony, called 'nikah siri', is not recognized by the country. In Indonesia, a woman can only be legally married at sixteen, which is also the age of sexual consent.
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