The Village Regulation on Marriage Verification: Strengthening Women’s Claims to Civil Rights and Increasing Access to Social Protection

Indah Surya Wardhani
Anastasia Imelda Cahyaningrum

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This case study examines changes in a village in Bangkalan that led to and resulted from the enactment of the Village Regulation (Perdes) on Marriage Verification in 2017. This village regulation responded to the challenges for residents, particularly women, in acquiring civil administration documents, especially government-recognised marriage certificates. It is common for the people in the village to have religious-based marriages that are not formalised by the government. The geography of the Bangkalan research village and its lack of access to transport services has encouraged a brokerage industry charging exorbitant prices for vital identity documents. The Bangkalan district is also characterised by strong Islamic values and Madurese traditional norms. These social and religious norms limit women’s mobility in public spaces and allow practices of informal and underage marriage, both of which further limit women’s ability to access government social protection programs. In response to these challenges, since 2015 members of the village’s Pekka Union have collectively advocated for the fulfilment of women’s civil rights. These unions are by local women cadres of PEKKA (the Female-Headed Families Empowerment Program/Foundation). PEKKA and the Pekka union group endeavours to build awareness in the village about the importance of legal identity documents to access social protection programs, primarily through PEKKA’s Information and Consultation Services Clinic Klinik Layanan Informasi dan Konsultasi – KLIK). Pekka union cadres also collected data through the KLIK to map the priority needs of the community, particularly marriage certificates.

The Pekka union women’s group, together with the PEKKA National Secretariat, then advocated for and provided support to the village government to issue the 2017 Village Regulation on Marriage Verification.

This regulation enabled the village government to conduct marriage verification meetings in the village hall rather than exclusively at the Office of the Religious Court in central Bangkalan which was far from the village. The Regulation also allocated Rp. 28 million per year of Village Budget (APBDes) funds to conduct such activities.

This village regulation has produced three major changes in the Bangkalan research village. First, particularly for poor women, the village regulation provides certainty in acquiring marriage certificates and other legal identity documents, which are required to process other identity documents, so they can then access social protection programs. Second, for this regulation has created opportunities for women’s collective action and capacity improvement to support the processing of legal identity documents. Third, in terms of village governance, the village regulation has helped to improve population data, and succeeded in reducing the use of brokers to process these vital documents. The regulation also provides a legal basis for the village government to allocate budget from the Village Fund for marriage verification processes.

The women’s groups’ success in shaping this village regulation was supported through PEKKA assistance. Between 2016 and 2017, PEKKA adopted a dual approach to encourage the formulation and enactment of the village regulation: supporting the grassroots empowerment of village women and direct advocacy to the village government about the importance of social protection policies. By first mapping social structures in the village, PEKKA identified key village leaders who were approached formally and informally. This initial step was crucial in facilitating the acceptance of PEKKA’s work in the village. PEKKA’s approach worked through the existing social and patriarchal structure in the Bangkalan research village by empowering female cadres who are closely related to traditional, government, and religious leaders. These cadres played important roles in extending networks of influence and convincing community leaders to support the village regulation. Even so, this village regulation has not been able to entirely reshape the existing structures of power in the village. Conservative social norms have begun to change incrementally. Women have become involved in the public sphere but in ways which still revolve around their domestic duties and position, whereas decision-making processes are still dominated by senior men. However, this case study in Bangkalan demonstrates how by utilising multilayered strategies and approaches, women’s collective action through groups and networks can shift community leaders from being resistant to supportive of policies to fulfil women’s rights.

In this video, we discuss the trajectory of change in Bangkalan, where the conduciveness to gender inclusiveness at the outset was relatively limited. We discuss specific contextual factors and how they changed through collective action including the formation of women’s groups that worked to improve access to official documentation and influenced the enactment of a 2017 Village Regulation on marriage administration.

Read other case studies in the same sectoral focus area of social protection.