Indonesian officials ordered to pay for second wife

Indonesian officials ordered to pay for second wife

MATARAM, Indonesia - An Indonesian district has ordered male civil servants to pay US$80 (S$100) to marry a second wife to crack down on polygamy, officials said Wednesday, but activists criticised it as a "crazy" bid to profit from the practice.

Male officials in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country were already required to get written permission from their superiors if they wanted a second wife. Under Islamic law, men can have up to four wives.

But in East Lombok district, they will now also have to pay a one million rupiah fee to the local government under a new regulation introduced last month, officials said.

"The regulation was issued to make polygamy more difficult for those working in the civil service," said Kharul Rizal, head of the local parliament, which passed the law.

Male civil servants are required to pay the fee - a large amount for the average Indonesian - for each new marriage after their first.

Polygamy is technically legal in the country of 250 million people, but only when the husband registers his marriages and receives the consent of his other wives.

However the number of men having secret, second marriages has increased in recent years, leading to a jump in women divorcing polygamous husbands and sparking concern among officials.

Women's rights groups reacted angrily to the law, however, saying it may actually encourage polygamy as it amounted to official approval, and that the local government was seeking to profit from the practice.

"It's crazy polygamy has been turned into a source of government revenue," Baiq Zulhiatina, head of the local branch of the Women's Solidarity group, told AFP.

District head Mochamad Ali bin Dahlan, who pushed the idea, insisted the move would help the local community.

"If a man has to contribute one million rupiah, that's for residents here not for me. It's a donation towards the development of our people," he said.

Power was heavily decentralised across Indonesia from the capital Jakarta after the 1998 downfall of dictator Suharto, meaning local governments can now make their own laws in many areas.

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