SRH and Society

Sex, Marriage, and Family

On this page

Child, Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) and Unintended Parenting

Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child marriages in the world, with one in nine women married before they turned 18 years old. Badan Pusat Statistik Indonesia (BPS) 2016 reported that approximately 25% of girls are married before the age of 18 years. This early marriage would take away their opportunity to continue their education and other development events in adolescence. Some experiences that might occur in child marriage such as isolation from family, friends and community. They might as well experience violence, abuse and exploitation. Girls who go through early marriage often get pregnant while they are still children, which lead to greater risks of their own well-being and the baby.

In the late 2019 the government just gave an amendment to Marriage Law (1974). The law raised the age for girls from 16 to 19 years to be in line with the age for boys, which is also 19 years, both with parental permission. The age of marriage for both women and men without parental permission is 21.

Some of CEFM cases (WHO, 2015):

  • Child or early marriage
  • Forced marriage in conflict settings (such as at war)
  • Widow inheritance
  • Marriage with an abductor or rapist

What are the factors (mostly in Indonesia)?

  • Traditions and Cultural Attitudes: to continue one’s race descent
  • Economy: poor economy in family leads to early forced marriage, so the children will disengaged from the family’s economy

Culture and Gender Roles

Gender roles is a term that is used to refer to behaviors and identities of specific biological sex types that is acceptable both socially and culturally. In Indonesia, the government applies a heteronormative standard where there are only two genders, male and female. However, homosexuality and transgender exists in public life and are not criminalized.

Indonesia still has a patriarchal society, where women are expected to play traditional subordinate roles as daughters, wives, and mothers. Whereas men are expected to play dominant roles as sons, husbands, and fathers. In some cultures such as Minangkabau and West Timor, they adopt matrilineal systems in which women are in charge of the household and men take their wife’s surnames.

There is no particular line to this and any family can determine which and how they play their roles. Children learn and shape their gender roles from observing their own parents and community. Some characteristics such as race, culture, socioeconomic level, class, and religion can shape children’s gender learning significantly.

Sexual Relationships, Health Issues and Family Relationships

Adolescence is one of the significant stages in anyone’s life. This is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. During this stage children are going through many changes such as physical, emotional, intellectual, personality, and social development. Children also start to look for a peer partner. Some are curious enough to engage in sexual activity in relationships.

Though it can be a pleasure fulfillment, they need information about how to do it safely and what the risks are if they do sexual activity. Family relationships and social contexts play a significant role in youth and young adults’ sexual behaviors. However, it is  often difficult for parents to discuss sexual health behavior with their children. Engaging in unprotected sexual activity will increase risk of getting a Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD).

Sexually Transmitted Diseases also known as Sexually Transmitted Infections or STIs. STD can passed from one person to another through sexual activity including vaginal, oral, anal sex and intimate physical contact.

However, STD is preventable by:

  • Use protection like condom
  • Update self health such as get STDs and HIV test, and vaccines for hepatitis B
  • Avoid sharing towel and underclothes
  • Get help if you have drugs and alcohol abuse. People who is under alcohol or on drugs often fail to have safe sex

If someone has STD there is a greater risk that they will get HIV as well because of the same sexual behaviors and circumstances. In 2018 there were 640.000 people living with HIV in Indonesia while 51% knew their status and only 17% were on treatment (UNAIDS, 2020). Families play an important role as a primary support to their loved ones who have STDs and HIV.

There are some positive actions family can do to support family member affected by HIV:

  • Open and honest communication between parents and children about HIV
  • Being diagnosed with HIV can be life-changing news, listen and offer support to your loved ones
  • Educate yourself about HIV, knowledge can be empowering
  • Encourage to get treatment and support them in establishing medication routine
  • Take care of yourself too


Jade A. Enrique, H. R. (2007). An Overview of Family Development . Valdosta, Georgia, U.S.A: Valdosta State University.

Tabor, J. A. (2016). Sibling Relationships. (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition.

Miller, L. R. (2016). Definition of Family . (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies, , First Edition .

Halpin, K. S. (2016). Marital Separation. (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition.

Shah, T. (2016). Adjustment to Divorce (Spouses). (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition .

Badan Pusat Statistik. (n.d.). Retrieved from bps.go.id: https://www.bps.go.id/linkTableDinamis/view/id/893

UNICEF. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.unicef.org/eca/what-we-do/child-marriage.

Tabor, J. A. (2016). Adjustment to Divorce (Children). (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition.

Amutah, N., & Nellum, A. A. (2016). HIV and Families. (C. L. Shehan., Ed.) The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition.

HIV.gov. (2019). Retrieved from hiv.gov: https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/what-are-hiv-and-aids

Wimalasena, D. N. (2016). An Analytical Study of Definitions of the Term “Marriage” . International Journal of Humanities and Social Science , Vol. 6. No. 1.

WHO. (2015). Sexual Health, Human Rights and The Law. World Health Organization. orld Health Organization.

Kruglinski, J. (2019). UNICEF for every child. Retrieved from unicef.org: https://www.unicef.org/indonesia/stories/saying-no-child-marriage-indonesia

UNCT. (2017). United Nations Country Team Indonesia Report for the Universal Periodic Review of Indonesia, 27th Session, April-May 2017.

UNICEF welcomes recent amendment of Indonesia’s Marriage Act. (2019). Retrieved from unicef.org: https://www.unicef.org/indonesia/press-releases/unicef-welcomes-recent-amendment-indonesias-marriage-act

Khumas, A., Prawitasari, J. E., & Sofia Retnowati, R. H. (2015). Model Penjelasan Intensi Cerai Perempuan Muslim di Sulawesi Selatan. JURNAL PSIKOLOGI , VOLUME 42, NO. 3.

Matondang, A. (2014). Faktor-faktor yang Mengakibatkan Perceraian dalam Perkawinan. Jurnal Ilmu Pemerintahan dan Sosial Politik .

Neimand, A. (2016). Gender Roles. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Family Studies , First Edition .

UNAIDS. (2020). Retrieved from www.unaids.org: https://www.unaids.org/en/regionscountries/countries/indonesia

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Retrieved from cdc.gov: https://www.cdc.gov/std/hiv/stdfact-std-hiv.htm

HIV.gov. (2017). Retrieved from www.hiv.gov: https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/making-a-difference/supporting-someone-living-with-hiv

Blackwell, T. W. (2016). The Encyclopedia of Family Studies . John Wiley & Sons, Inc.