Brokered Marriage

777maufurEndi Saputro

Research coordinator of CRCS

Since two years ago, “nikah sirry or secret marriage” has been hotly debated in Indonesia. Interestingly, reactions come not only from various muslim scholars who argue for/against nikah sirry, but also from policy makers who sought to draft a bill on very the matter. Despite the disagreement, this book explains fluently, emploting religious perspective, that nikah sirry simply means “marriage which is not officially registered in KUA [Office of Religious Affairs), but it fullfils all the marriage requirements as prescribed in Islamic Law” (p.1). On the other hand, in the context of public sphere, the bill on nikah sirry aims to protect the future of the children resulted from nikah sirry. And it seems that this debate knows no end in sight.

Elaborating on the issue of children protection, Maufur’s book provides ethnographic descprition on nikah sirry without having to resort to any single judgement. Doing his research in East Java, Maufur shows how nikah sirry has long been normally practiced among muslim communities in Rembang. Or, to put it in Bourdieusien term, it has been accepted as a habitus. Interestingly, this habitus cannot be separated from multiple religious context within which the domination of priests and, more importantly, male authority are ever prevalent.

Nikah sirry can appear in many forms of marital relationship, namely polygamy, polyandry, temporary marriage and suspended formal marriage. Polygamy is when a man is married more than one woman, and polyandry is being the opposite. Furthermore, the third term nicely represent the position of nikah sirry in this book. Nikah sirry, Maufur argue, is quite different from “nikah kontrak” (contracted marriage). Maufur argues that “the former does not include a predetermined time limit as in the latter” (p. 38) While suspended formal marriage is dealing with formal registration in the religious civil registration (KUA); that “the couple is basically committed to formal marriage, but due to some considerations, they postpone it and prefer nikah sirry (p. 39). In addition, it is problematic that some actors of these marriages argue that “it is better to do nikah sirry than doing zina” (p. 70).

In the last page, Maufur concludes that:

“…the reproduction of the brokered nikah sirry at the same time is that of male-domination over women who live in a historical reality where they are socially and culturally bound to act according to a set of meanings regarding their marriage which is unfriendly towards them. For the people of Rembang, the brokered nikah sirry is not just a personal and economic dimension for the actors … but also political dimension.”

It seems to me that Maufur emphasizes the role of religious institution and in doing so overlooks the political dimension. How about agency of the actors? Doing interview with the actors of nikah sirry is still the best way to answer this question.

This post is also available in: Indonesian

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