Female Muslim clerics meet in Indonesia, decry child marriage, spousal abuse

April 28 (UPI) — Female Muslim clerics issued decrees against child marriage and spousal abuse at a rare conference in Indonesia this week.

The weeklong inaugural Indonesian Women’s Ulama Congress in Cirebon, West Java, ended Thursday with fatwas, or rulings based on Islamic laws, calling for Indonesia’s legal age for marriage of women to increase from 16 to 18. It also declared marital rape to be “haram” or forbidden. While the edicts, issued at what is believed to be the first meeting of its kind, are not legally binding in Indonesia, they are expected to have influence in national politics, the Independent said.

Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country; 90 percent of its population of 255 million is Muslim. One in four women are married before the age of 19, United Nations data shows, and a nationwide survey by Statistics Indonesia found that one quarter of married women acknowledged they have experienced acts of violence from their husbands.

Female clerics from all over the country attended the conference, as did scholars from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India. Male government representatives also attended, including Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Indonesia’s religious affairs minister, who said of the child marriage decree, “I will take this recommendation to the government. This congress succeeded in fighting for justice in the relationship between men and women.”

A final fatwa called for an end to the country’s environmental destruction, noting that Indonesia’s has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates.

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