Top of page

Article Indonesia: Court Rejects Two Challenges to Marriage Act

(June 25, 2015) On June 18, 2015, the Indonesian Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) released its decisions on two petitions for judicial review of Law No. 1 of 1974 on Marriage (Marriage Law). (Undang-undang Nomor 1 Tahun 1974 Tentang Perkawinan, Ministry of Religious Affairs website,(in Indonesian); Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 1 of the Year 1974 on Marriage, art. 2, THE INDONESIAN MARRIAGE LAW 10 (Department of Information, Republic of Indonesia, 1975).) In both cases, the Court upheld the relevant provisions in the Marriage Law. (Rosalia Sciortino, Insight: Constitutional Court Fails to Give Girls Better Protection, JAKARTA POST (June 20, 2015).)

Challenge to Provision Regarding the Marriageable Age of Women

The first petition concerned article 7(1) of the Marriage Law, which establishes the minimum marriageable age as 16 years for women and 19 years for men. (Marriage Law, art. 7(1).) The petition was filed by the Women’s Health Foundation, along with a coalition of five women’s and children’s rights activists and organizations. They argued that the provision was inconsistent with the rights set out in articles 28B and 28C of the 1945 Constitution and that it discriminated against girls due to the different minimum age of marriage for boys. They sought an increase in the minimum marriageable age for women to 18 years, arguing that the current age is also inconsistent with Law No. 23 of 2002 on child protection, which defines a child as being a person below the age of 18 years. (Sciortino, supra.)

Article 28B of the Constitution provides that

(1) Every person shall be entitled to found a family and to procreate through legitimate marriage. …
(2) Every child shall have the right to survive, grow and develop and shall have the right to be protected against violence and discrimination. … (The 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia, art. 28B [unofficial translation] Ministry of State Secretariat website.)

Article 28C relates to the right to self-development through the fulfilment of basic needs and the right to obtain an education. (Id. art. 28C.)

Experts who presented evidence for the petitioners sought to show the negative socio-economic impacts of marriage at a young age, arguing that “early marriages were born out of destitution and perpetuated a vicious circle of inter-generational poverty, in which already vulnerable brides were deprived of educational and economic opportunities for them and their children.” (Sciortino, supra.) They also raised issues related to health risks and violence involving younger brides. (Id.)

In an eight to one ruling, the Constitutional Court rejected the argument that the current marriageable age for women is unconstitutional. It also considered that a change to the marriage age by the Court was not warranted as there “was no guarantee that with increasing the age from 16 to 18 there will be a reduction of divorce rates, health improvements and reduction of other social problems.” (Id., referring to Mahkamah Konstitusi, Putusan Nomor [Decision Number] 30-74/PUU-XII/2014, at 231, Constitutional Court website (in Indonesian).) The Court held that if it were to set a fixed age for marriage this would limit the ability of the state to determine what policy is best for the citizens of the country and recommended that the petitioners seek a legislative review to determine a new minimum marriageable age. (Sciortino, supra.)

Challenge to Provision Regarding the Religion of the Couple

The second challenge to the Marriage Law concerned article 2(1), which states that a “marriage is legitimate, if it has been performed according to the laws of the respective religions and beliefs of the parties concerned.” (Marriage Law, art. 2(1).)

Interfaith marriage in Indonesia has been a controversial issue for some time. (Kelly Buchanan, Indonesia: Inter-Religious Marriage, LAW LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (July 2010); Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Marriage Law Challenged, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Nov. 3, 2014).) The petitioners in the case before the Constitutional Court, current or former students of the University of Indonesia School of Law, argued that the Marriage Law needed clarification as the language in article 2(1) has been applied in a way that prevents couples with different religions from registering their marriages. (Anita Rachman, Group Pushes Further for Interfaith Marriage in Indonesia, WALL STREET JOURNAL (Sept. 17, 2014).)

They challenged the provision on the basis that it is inconsistent with several constitutional provisions, including articles 28B(1) (right to form a family and establish a legal marriage); 28E(1) and (2) and 29(2) (related to freedom of religion); and 28(1) and 28D(1) (related to equal treatment before the law). (Mahkamah Konstitusi, Decision No. 68/PUU-XII/2014, Constitutional Court website (in Indonesian).)

The Court considered the meaning of marriage under different religions, as well as under the Marriage Law, and concluded that marriage is sacred in every religion and that its aims include fostering a prosperous household and continuing the line of descent. (Id. at 98.) It held that article 2(1) of the Marriage Law did not violate the Constitution, as marriage includes “spiritual and social” aspects, not just formal aspects, and that the role of the state is to provide legal certainty and protection for nuptials validly performed according to a religion. (Erwin Sihombing, Interfaith Marriages Still Unsanctioned as Court Rejects Judicial Review, JAKARTA GLOBE (June 18, 2015).)

About this Item


  • Indonesia: Court Rejects Two Challenges to Marriage Act

Online Format

  • web page

Rights & Access

Publications of the Library of Congress are works of the United States Government as defined in the United States Code 17 U.S.C. §105 and therefore are not subject to copyright and are free to use and reuse.  The Library of Congress has no objection to the international use and reuse of Library U.S. Government works on These works are also available for worldwide use and reuse under CC0 1.0 Universal. 

More about Copyright and other Restrictions.

For guidance about compiling full citations consult Citing Primary Sources.

Credit Line: Law Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Buchanan, Kelly. Indonesia: Court Rejects Two Challenges to Marriage Act. 2015. Web Page.

APA citation style:

Buchanan, K. (2015) Indonesia: Court Rejects Two Challenges to Marriage Act. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Buchanan, Kelly. Indonesia: Court Rejects Two Challenges to Marriage Act. 2015. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.