Family planning officials want to raise Indonesia’s legal age for marriage from 16 to 21 years, in a bid to curb the country’s high maternal mortality and birth rates.
Hardiyanto, the deputy for advocacy at the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN), said on Friday that his office had proposed the raise to the House of Representatives because “16 is still such a tender age” at which to get married and start having a family.
He said the average age at which Indonesians were getting married had increased in the past two years from 18 years to 19.6 years. The board is hoping to see the average marriage age increase to 21 years in two years’ time.
Hardiyanto said that people marrying in their teens were both physically and behaviorally immature, and also lacked sufficient formal education. People married at this age, he said, tended to have higher divorce rates.
He also said girls were put at risk when they married young and got pregnant, because their bodies were often not ready for the rigors of pregnancy and labor.
“Delaying the marriage age would help maintain the health of the reproductive organs, which will help keep the mother healthy and able to give birth to healthy babies,” Hardiyanto said.
He added that the rationale for marrying young was that the couple would have time to produce more children. But this also poses a serious medical risk for the mothers, even leading to death.
“The more often a woman gives birth, the higher the risk she faces of dying during childbirth,” he said.
Indonesia’s maternal mortality rate is 228 per 100,000 live births, the highest level in Southeast Asia.
The BKKBN also hopes that a higher age for marriage will help curb the country’s birth rate. The rate, at 17.4 births per 1,000 population, sees the country’s population increase by four million every year.
The current fertility rate is 2.7 children per woman, which the BKKBN hopes to bring down to 2.1 by 2014.
The BKKBN seeks to prevent women from giving birth at too young an age, above the age of 35, too frequently or too closely because they all carry medical risks.