Campaign addressing problems of women and nikah sirri in Indonesia's Muslim community AND sexuality and reproductive rights campaign, projects of The Institute for Women and Children's Studies and Development (LSPPA), Indonesia

LSPPA’s organisational goal is to create a democratic society which values gender equity and diversity in its citizens from an early age. LSPPA works to promote awareness and understanding of values of gender equity in the learning environment of children,  and to influence relevant policies by  introducing  perspectives  of women and child right.

LSPPA’s organisational objectives are:
1. Community education and services
2. Assistance for communities in areas around schools and for girls who could end up on the streets
3. Advocacy through an advocacy network that works to promote democratisation of society, in particular, in terms of gender.


LSPPA implemented 2 projects under WRRC.


1. Campaign to Address problems of women in Nikah Sirri (NS)

Nikah Sirri is unregistered marriage, which sometimes is used to legitimise an unplanned pregnancy or a relationship.  Men and women have different reasons for agreeing (women) or initiating (usually men) NS.


  • raise consciousness about NS among women involved and their communities
  • support  action to reject NS


  • research to learn more about the issues – through FGDs and deep interviews
  • produce a film documentary about NS
  • undertake a “road show” –showing the film to communities

The general  strategy was to create a ‘culture advocacy’ so that the community can urge the government to make policy or to evaluate existing policies (i.e. Marriage Law and Sirri Act Draft) and to introduce a women and children’s rights perspective.  Culture Advocacy wasdone by documenting the problems faced by women and children who were victimized under the Sirri marriages, using film as the advocacy media. 


This project had direct impacts on women, youth, women organization and women activists in NGOs.  The results of the research were shared to fellow activists in Jakarta and the National Commission for Women:   1) LBH-APIK, a women’s legal aid agency which conducts judicialsreview on Laws of Marriage,  and  2) the National Commission for Women to give inputs,especially on the factors of women’s reasons to accept nikah sirri,to the government particularly to influence the draft of Laws on Nikah Sirri.

Road Showswere done in 5 areas, which had different results.If it were to be combined, it would  become a women’s movement forrejecting nikah sirri. In Yogyakarta, the women’sorganizationshave commitment to socialize the impacts of nikah sirri to their constituenciesand they are ready to facilitate the discussion on the nikah sirri film.  In Gunung Kidul, where there were many underaged girls in nikah sirri, the young women’s  group members have agreed to refuse nikah sirri.

In LSPPA’s opinion, the participants of the different discussionscould be brought together to form one big movement to refuse nikah sirri and push the government to review their draft of Laws on Nikah Sirri,  through campaign and advocacy to the government.

Project 2: Sexuality and Reproductive Rights Campaign

This was a follow-up of the first project, and was intended to work directly with some of the women participants  in the first project and their communities,  in order to resolve the issues that had been  identified as the causes and consequences of Nikah Sirri in the first project.

The 4 objectives lay out a process to be achieved through a well thought-out , creative and very contextual methodology:

  1. From individual  self-awareness of own rights, through monthly meetings and discussions to
  2. assertive action to help themselves (e.g.through starting income-generating activities, but with a ‘message’ on the packaging) to
  3. more conceptual gender awareness, through deeper and regular discussions to
  4. rapport with the community, to raise awareness and demand respect.

Activities and results:  

LSPPA worked with 3 different groups, each of which went through its own process:

1. Cokrodirjan Women Group –  Cokrodirjan Kampong is located in the slum area of Yogyakarta.  Members experience high degree of violence,  youth were vulnerable to trafficking and forced to live in the streets, and there were many cases of nikah sirri. 


Most participants of this workshop shared their problems and open their mind to our suggestions to support each other especially when others decided to do what they think is the best in sexuality and reproduction, even if it was considered negative by the society. Thus, this group called itself “Cokrodirjan Women Care”  

2. Women workers group

This group was chosen because the majority came from single parents, practised nikah sirri, /or had polygamous husbands. And all of them were not supported economically by their partners, so they joined forces to produce and sell products to help themselves.


Understanding about sexuality and reproduction related to sexual encounters and births. The workshop was a space for women to share their experiences, especially of domestic violence;  After that, they were sure that they also have their rights and can be protected by law, and they now support each other and discuss solutions for others who also experience sexual violence.

3. Saptosari Youth Group

The reason this village was chosen was because many early marriage and nikah sirri cases were discovered here during the roadshow of the nikah sirri film, (in the first project).  There were also requests from the youth group to form forums for Saptosari children.


After the workshop, they understood the impact of nikah sirri and early marriage. They decided to share this information with their friends.

Interesting finding in this workshop was the tradition of “ramban” where husbands who cannot have children (fertile) will search for other men to have sex with their wives as ‘sperm donors’.

The Saptosari Youth Forum subsequently held their own campaign “Stop early marriage” in 7 Junior High Schools and reached out to +/- 500 students, all by themselves. 

Main Strategies:

All programs are being done continuously. In our first program, we tried to raise women’s awareness about their sexual and reproductive rights that often being severely neglected by discriminative religious values and traditions using film and discussion. Then we continued our effort in raising awareness by creating a second program, a sexuality-based income generating workshop and build support groups. Participants who are engaged in film discussions were offered to get involved in the sexuality workshop. It is expected that participants are able to identify that the tradition is one of the causing factor of discrimination and neglect of women's rights so that they would begin to re-negotiate any discriminative tradition in their environment (family and community).


Long term impacts can be seen in:

  • Women participated in this program are beginning to dare to talk to their surrounding (customers), partners, children (sexuality discussion), and friends. For the Muslim Java women, this is one step of progress. Hopefully, it becomes a new habit in the society, making sexuality discussion a non taboo topic. For example: one of the women tells about her menopause and to have sex she has to buy pelican medicine. The medicine is too expensive for her, and she asks her friends for solutions.
  • Women aware about their rights. For instance, one of the children of Saptosari joins her school activities and media exposes her. She is introduced to a reporter. After, the reporter asks her for a date and harasses her through short messages. Then, she reports to one of the NGOs at Kab. Gunung Kidul that there is a reporter dating an underage girl (14 year old).
  • With the majority of women at Cokrodirjan interested in becoming the member of Cokrodirjan Women Care is a very positive thing because there will be a safe room for women to share their stories especially ones related to sexuality and reproduction and there are possibilities they could move together to reject unfair treatment on women, for instance: one of the single parent women is breastfeeding her child and her partner is asking for sex. Then she rejects. She then tells this to her group and a campaign message emerges of “Kalau bukan kita siapa lagi, berikan ASI-mu tuk masa depan anankku. Ibu Cokro Peduli” in the shirts they produce.
  • The forum of Saptosari children can be a place to prevent early marriage and trafficking, because in this forum children can share what they problems, to look information about sexuality. 
  • Dare to talk about their rights in the society. Example: in the women worker group there are those who produce meatballs and mushrooms and sell them to the market. In the packaging, it is written: “respect me as women worker and stop domestic violence”. They dare to answer the questions about these writings and with no embarrassment. This shows their feeling on the society. This may looks small to women who used to discuss sexuality and express themselves. But for women from Java and Muslim background, this is a big step forward.

Apart from the growth of self-confidence and awareness of their capacities,  the forming of joint business and “saving-lending circles” helped these groups to sustain and if their economic efforts  continue, it means that their campaign on sexuality and reproduction also continues. This is the case  in Cokrodirjan Women Care and the Women Workers groups, which still continue their monthly meetings.

The Saptosari Youth Forum uses the fund to create merchandises which can be used for the activities of the forum.

Below see the documentary produced as part of the Nikah Sirri Campaign.

Nikah Sirri Documentary