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Stories From The Field

Religious courts in Indonesia deal with all aspects of family law and are the only institution that can formalize divorce
cases and settle child custody and maintenance claims. These courts deal…
FORMALIZING DIVORCE IN INDONESIA’S RELIGIOUS COURTS

Religious courts in Indonesia deal with all aspects of family law and are the only institution that can formalize divorce
cases and settle child custody and maintenance claims. These courts deal with 97 per cent of divorce cases, most of
which are initiated by women.214 In contexts where rates of intimate partner violence are high, women use divorce as
an escape route from abusive marriage, making the accessibility of the family courts of paramount importance.
Religious courts also legalize informal marriages, which is important not only for women but also for children as
it allows them to obtain a birth certificate with both the father’s and the mother’s name on it, in turn enabling
access to education. Mandatory marriage registration and widespread availability of birth certificates also
enable the enforcement of minimum age of marriage laws.215
However, women face a number of barriers in accessing the courts, including cost, distance, language and
understanding of the legal process. Over the past decade, the Government has implemented a number of
policies to address these problems. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including the Woman Headed
Family Empowerment (PEKKA) programme, played a key role.
As a result of PEKKA’s advocacy, court fees, which previously amounted to approximately 122 per cent of the
monthly income of someone living on the Indonesian poverty line, can be waived.216 The Government also
provides free legal advisory services at courts across the country, and PEKKA has trained paralegals who have
helped over 125,000 individuals resolve family law issues, obtain legal identity documents and access social
protection programmes.217 PEKKA also helps coordinate mobile courts. Between 2008 and 2018, there was an
18-fold increase in court cases being heard by judges travelling to villages and hearing cases in circuits courts,
which, effectively bring justice to women.218
As a result of these interventions, women’s access to the family courts increased by 132 per cent between 2007
and 2016, compared with 19 per cent between 1999 and 2006. Out of the approximately 500,000 people who filed
cases with the family courts in 2016, 57 per cent had their fees waived, had access to a circuit court or were given
legal advice.219

Source : PROGRESS OF THE WORLD’S WOMEN 2019–2020

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