Govt Mulls Expanding Polygamy Ban

JAKARTA ~ The government is considering extending a ban on civil servants practicing polygamy to cover all officials working for the state, including legislators and soldiers, a minister said.

“The president has great concern for women and he wants tranquility in society,” Minister for Women’s Empowerment Mutia Hatta said at the presidential palace after meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday.

Hatta said Yudhoyono had issued instructions to study extending the law to cover all those working for the state.

Current government regulations ban polygamy among civil servants but do not cover lawmakers, political appointees such as cabinet ministers, governors and heads of districts or soldiers and police, she said.

Cabinet secretary Sudi Silalahi said polygamy was only allowed among the general public if the wife could no longer perform her duties, was an invalid, suffered from an incurable disease or was infertile.

Approval to take another wife also had to be obtained from a religious court and from the first wife.

The move to amend the law was prompted by a controversy over polygamy after a popular Muslim preacher was recently found to have taken a second wife in secret.

Hatta said revision of the law would be started as soon as possible but gave no timeframe.

The director general for Islamic guidance at the ministry for religious affairs, Nazzarudin Umar, said Islam allowed polygamy but only if the man could be “just and fair” towards all his wives.

“Can one be really just? Men would say yes, but God, in the holy Koran, says it is impossible for men to be just,” Umar said, calling on Muslims not to use religion as a means to legitimize their wishes to have more than one spouse.

Islam permits up to four wives but some mostly Muslim nations such as Tunisia have banned polygamy.

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