Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Indonesian divorce rate surges

Indonesian women
Since the post-Suharto reforms, women's attitudes have been changing

The divorce rate in Indonesia has risen dramatically over the past decade, according to official figures.

Women have a greater awareness of their rights and are bringing more cases to court. The number citing polygamy as grounds for divorce is also rising.

The Religious Affairs Ministry said the divorce rate had jumped from an average of 20,000 a year to more than 200,000.

Since the introduction of democratic reforms 10 years ago, authoritarian attitudes to marriage are changing.

The BBC correspondent in Jakarta, Lucy Williamson, says it is mainly women who are driving this.

Some couple decide to divorce because the husband and wife have different takes on political issues. This has never happened before
Nasaruddin Umar, Religious Affairs Ministry
They are becoming more economically independent, and the free flow of information is spreading a greater awareness of their rights, our correspondent says.

One result of this is that - quite apart from infidelity and financial issues - they are refusing to put up with domestic violence or absent husbands.

Domestic strife

But changes in lifestyle are not the only cause of marriage break-up, according to an official at the Religious Affairs Ministry, Nasaruddin Umar.

"Believe it or not," said Mr Umar, "some couples decide to divorce because the husband and wife have different takes on political issues. This has never happened before."

Religious difference can also cause friction.

Indonesia has sizeable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities, and the latest figures show that 90% of Indonesians who marry someone of a different faith end up going through divorce.

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