Child Marriage: Demographic Problems, Gender Inequality, and Effective Interventions in Bangka Belitung (A Sociological Approach)



As Indonesia seeks to develop resilient and competitive generations, one of the key issues for the country to address is to ensure that its people are adequately competent and skilled, thereby able to distinguish themselves and excel. To grow individuals who are able to augment their personal skills is a goal of the national development, which will enable Indonesia to acquire the benefits of its demographic dividend and ‘Golden Indonesia’ in 2045. In order to achieve this objective, a strong synergy is needed across all sectors, including in the family as the basic unit of the society. A strong, healthy family is one of the basic foundations of a developed nation. This is because the behavior, social interaction, and social actions that we see reflected in the society begin with the family and the learning an individual acquires from this smallest institution.

Nevertheless, there are barriers in the journey to realize the conception of an ideal family. One of them is child marriage, also referred to as early marriage. Child marriage disrupts the development of the children that experience it. It radically shifts their focus to taking care of domestic affairs, whilst more important aspects get neglected, such as education, which then lead to other demographic issues.

In accordance with the mandate of the Child Protection Law, the right to grow and develop properly to be resilient and competent adult is the right of every child. Marriages between or involving individuals aged below 18 years old are considered as early marriage. It is unfortunate that, according to the 2018 data of the Statistics Indonesia (BPS), 2 of every 100 young people are married before the age of 16. Furthermore, based on the National Socio-Economic Survey (Susenas) of 2018, 6% of adolescents aged 15-19 years have become mothers.

The Population and Family Planning Board (BKKBN), through the Family Development, Population and Family Planning program (Bangga Kencana), has designed various approaches, including carrying out large-scale awareness raising activities to tackle the issue of child marriage. However, overcoming this problem is not an easy task. While a policy that increases the minimum age of marriage is crucial to reduce the rate of child marriage, there are a range of other factors that cannot be undermined: poverty, low education of parents, the tradition of marrying off a daughter at a young age, religious influence, and social values ​​in the society. These factors perpetuate child marriage in Indonesia.


Child marriage is also closely related to gender equality and justice. Evidence show that child marriage is more likely to involve female than male children and adolescents. Based on the research conducted by Maria Ulfa Anshor, a former commissioner of the Child Protection Commission (KPAI), young girls who are involved in child marriage are vulnerable in multiple ways to problems such as unilateral divorce, sexual violence and pedophilia, domestic violence, disrupted education (dropout), and restricted access to employment.

From the social anthropology perspective, marriage is a customary transaction and performed to gain legitimacy from the society. This definition explains why the values ​​held by a society are also part of the driving factors of marriage. In Indonesia, where customary values are still deeply ingrained in the society, those values are also the factors that perpetuate child marriage. One of the places where this practice holds is Bangka Belitung Province. Here, in 2019, 15.5% of young females aged below 18 years old are married, the 8th highest rate of child marriage nationally. In fact, this number has increased from 14.22% in 2018. In Indonesia, Bangka Belitung is one of the five provinces with the highest rate of child marriage.

Child marriage in Bangka Belitung is inseparable from cultural factors and habits of the local society. In this province, child marriage is more prevalent in rural areas. This may be caused by the economic concerns of rural communities that are greater than their concerns for educational attainment. This explains the motivation of most young people in villages to work in the mining sector, for instance in tin mining, or in plantations – oil palm, pepper, and rubber. They rely on these jobs to provide for their families amid difficult circumstances.

In countries with low level of welfare or economic capacity, the education of girls tends to be the first to be sacrificed. The society’s social and gender construction create a certain perception that the place of women is to take care of their children and husbands, while men work outside of the house to provide for the family. This results in the subordination of women in marriage.

Moreover, severe economic challenges can drive families with daughters to marry their girls rather than giving them an education. Consequently, there are girls who are married even before they complete their high school education or are married immediately after graduating. According to Blumer, an American sociologist and a leading scholar in social behaviorism, a tradition may shape the social behavior of a society. Blumer states that human actions derive from various considerations on things they know. Each individual interprets their situation and actions are construed based on that interpretation. In making considerations, an individual take into account their desires, progress, goals, and means available to achieve them. Therefore, the desire to marry at a young age is a result of human actions and desires. As evident in Bangka Belitung, child marriage is driven and perpetuated by families and the local customs.

Data show that, after completing high school education, girls prefer to work in various sectors, such as in shops, grocery stores, plantations, or helping their parents. Pursuing a higher education is not considered a priority, as families perceive women’s role as limited to the domestic domain. The social aspects as described are the driving factors of child marriage. These factors should be carefully considered in order to design effective interventions. Appropriate alternative policies are also needed to break the chain of child marriage. Policies that target younger children, such as children in primary school, and parents that need awareness raising in family formation, need to be implemented in a holistic manner.


Strengthening laws and appropriate policies is important to protect young generation, especially girls, from child marriage that occur whether involuntary or voluntary. Overcoming poverty can also be an alternative, so that families and children can attain a decent level of welfare and avoid actions that lead to wrong decision. Policies also need to be more gender-responsive.

The programs that are carried out currently are limited to education and awareness-raising. However, effective interventions are needed to empower vulnerable groups, such as families with children who are married young. Age at first marriage may refer to BKKBN’s standard that recommend 21 years old as the the ideal age at first marriage for women and 25 years old for men. Age standard may also refer to Marriage Law No. 16 of 2019.  Interventions can also target families who are already formed by young couples according to the age standard, to help them navigate their journey, understand about family functions properly, and foster a better generation.

By performing various interventions, demographic problems caused by child marriage can be reduced. The interventions can also raise the awareness of the society to make better plans for their future. In addition, those efforts are also important to avoid persistent poverty and the risk of divorce or domestic violence. Providing effective interventions are the challenge for relevant stakeholders in reducing the number of child marriages in Bangka Belitung. A bottom-up approach is needed to see the issue more broadly in the society, as data may be presenting just the tip of the iceberg and issues are undereported, causing prevention efforts to not be able to address these unseen gaps.

Keywords: Bangka Belitung, Gender Inequality, Child Marriage, Effective Interventions



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About the Author

The author (Alfin Dwi Rahmawan) is a student majoring in Sociology at Universitas Bangka Belitung. He is the Ambassador of Generasi Berencana Bangka Belitung 2019. Active as a social observer and an independent researcher, the author has produced research papers and actively writes for several local and national media. The author has also attended several international seminars and has his papers published in the seminars’ proceedings. To access his other papers, please go to and

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