We’ve spent the last week in Bali, Indonesia. It’s one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Asia, and also where my brother recently got married. One of the things we’ve enjoyed during our stay here was having conversations with the local Balinese people. What we’ve discovered is that the marriage rules in Indonesia are quite different from what we are familiar with in North America.
We were told that in Indonesia, the government will only give you a marriage certificate if you marry someone from the same religion. Debbie, the manager of our villa, said she switched from being a Catholic to being a Hindu to marry her husband. It took her 3 years to learn all the rituals and get used to her new religion.
Also, in Indonesia, you can only get a legal birth certificate for your child if you are married. If you are unmarried and have a child, you have very limited options. One of the mornings while we were here, Olive and I got massages. Olive’s masseuse, Suti, told her about her son who’s the same age as our daughter. Suti adopted her son from the local hospital. He was born prematurely to an unwed teenage mother. Weighing a mere 2.2 lbs at birth, he spent two months in an incubator before going home with Suti and her husband. Still, he was only around 4 lbs.
Suti and her husband paid for the baby’s hospital stay, as well as the mother’s delivery since the young mom couldn’t afford it. It currently costs the couple $100USD/month to raise the child (who has additional expenses because of his being a premature baby.) But since Suti’s husband only makes $150USD/month as a gardener, she had to go back to work as a masseuse to make ends meet. Had Suti and her husband not adopted this child, he would not have had an official birth certificate.
Suti also told Olive that most women in Bali will convert to their husband’s religion, not the other way around. But the three main religions of Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam co-exist in relative harmony and people switch around without giving it much thought.
My first response to hearing these “marriage rules” were that they were backward. But after giving it more thought, I realize that I have “first-world” syndrome, where I incorrectly believe that everything in North America is better and superior to so called “developing” countries, including these marriage rules. Without understanding the culture and history here in Indonesia, I have no way of knowing that the North American way of doing marriage is a “better” way or not.
Do you know of different “marriage rules” from other countries or cultures?