Indonesian soap opera slammed for promoting child marriage

Jakarta – An Indonesian soap opera has sparked an uproar after it cast a 14-year-old as the wife of a man in a polygamous marriage.

The drama, Suara Hati Istri (A Wife’s Innermost Thoughts), featured teen Lea Ciarachel Fourneaux and co-star Panji Saputra in several intimate scenes, including one of the 39-year-old man kissing the girl’s belly when he learns she is pregnant.

The actor portrayed a teenager forced to become the third wife of a wealthy businessman after he paid for her ill father’s medical bills.

Polygamy is not uncommon in the Muslim-majority nation. But the show triggered a widespread backlash this week as critics accused producers of normalising child marriage, which is illegal.

“This is the time to stop normalising and glorifying child marriage,” said advocacy group Jakarta Feminist on its Instagram account.

“A sexual relationship between an adult and a minor is paedophilia.”

Fourneaux said online that she was not uncomfortable starring in the role as a teen wife.

But the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission said it has ordered a halt to the programme until producers change the cast and storyline.

The legal age for marriage in Indonesia is 19. Child marriage remains prevalent in some regions, however, due to poverty and a lack of educational and job opportunities for many women. — AFP

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