Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday ordered the legislature to increase the minimum marriageable age for girls, saying that the current law allowing those as young as 16 to be wed was potentially harmful to children.
The ruling, in response to a petition filed by former child brides and gender rights activists, could pave the way for an end to rampant child marriage in Indonesia.
The court gave the legislature three years to revise the 1974 law on marriage to rise the minimum marriagable age for women from 16.
It was not required to recommend an age for marriage.
Under the current law, girls under 16 can get married if their parents apply for an exemption to a religious court. Men must wait until age 19.
Chief Judge, Anwar Usman, said the law is at odds with another on children protection which defines a child as a person that is 18 years old or younger.
According to UNICEF, every year, one in seven Indonesian girls gets married before the age of 18.
UNICEF said while education and economic progress have reduced the prevalence of child marriage in Indonesia, the practice plateaued from 2008 to 2015.
Previous attempts to increase the marriageable age for girls to 18 have failed amid opposition from religious conservatives in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
The Constitutional Court had rejected a similar petition in 2015, arguing that Islam and other religions did not set the minimum age for marriage, and that puberty was usually an indication that girls were ready for marriage.