Indonesia’s parliament has raised the minimum age at which women can marry to 19, in a ruling which is expected to curb child marriage in the country.
There was unanimous agreement on the revision to the country’s existing marriage law, according to a statement on Indonesia’s House of Representatives’ website.
Under current laws, girls are allowed to marry at 16 and boys to marry at 19, while parents can also ask religious courts or local officials to authorize marriages of younger girls – with no minimum age in such cases.
Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child brides in the world, according to Girls Not Brides, a global partnership committed to ending child marriage.
According to UNICEF, 14% of girls in Indonesia are married before the age of 18, and 1% are married before their 15th birthday.
Poverty, ideas of family honor, social norms, customs and religious laws are factors that could force girls into child marriages.
“The Indonesian parliament’s decision is a positive step towards recognizing that girls are entitled to the same opportunities in life as boys,” Rachel Yates, executive director for Girls Not Brides, told CNN in a statement.
“Ending child marriage will not be achieved by laws alone,” she added. “While laws and policies are essential in preventing child marriage, we also need to change the attitudes that make child marriage acceptable in the first place,” she said.
Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise called the ruling “a present for Indonesian children,” Reuters reported.
Changes to existing laws will take place within three years.