A DATING app that encourages men and women interested in polygamous marriages in Indonesia has courted controversy in the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Under traditional Islamic law, men are allowed to take on a maximum of four wives. Although polygamy is legal in Indonesia, the practice is uncommon – and frowned upon – in most parts of the country.
Women’s rights activist Zakia Tunisa said the app was “upsetting and shocking”.
“The app gives a stimulus for polygamy to be accepted in society and maybe even compelling women to accept it,” said Tunisa, an activist at Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights.
Indriyati Suparno, a commissioner from the government-backed National Commission on Violence Against Women, said the app was trying to “normalise polygamy”.
“The reality is women tend to be the victims of domestic violence in a polygamous marriage – polygamy is a form of violence against women,” she said.
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Indonesia‘s Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry said it was up to individuals if they wanted to use the app because polygamy is legal as long as it can be done in a fair manner.
“For us what is important is whether the women and children are protected in polygamous marriages,” the ministry’s spokesman Hasan, who uses one name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
‘This is what God planned for me’
Iyus Yusuf Fasyiya, an Indonesian factory worker who has two wives, said he used the app to share tips with other users on how to maintain a polygamous marriage.
“Many members are looking for wives – they ask about how to start, how to maintain polygamous marriages, and also government regulations,” he said from his home village in Bogor, about 90-minute drive from the capital Jakarta.
The 37-year-old dodged questions about whether he was using the app to look for another wife but said he continues to learn about polygamy, after he took on his second wife six years following his first marriage in 2000.
“It just happened, this is what God planned for me,” said Iyus, who takes turns to see his two wives and five children who live in nearby villages.
Most of the app users were men, but there were also about 4,000 women who have registered, the app developer said.
Lawyer Rachmat Dwi Putranto, who deals with marriage matters, said polygamy was “not that easily achieved” as Indonesian courts will only give permission if the first wife is disabled, ill or cannot bear children.
Iyus said he uses the app to discuss with other members the experience of being in a polygamous marriage and learn how to juggle his two families.
“Me and my wives, we’re committed to showing people that polygamy isn’t as scary as they think,” he said. His wives declined to comment.
‘Regular dating apps did not have polygamy options’
Lindu Pranayama, the 35-year-old developer of the app called AyoPoligami, said the idea came to him a year ago when he was scrolling through a dating app.
“A lot of men are looking to engage in polygamous marriages but when they go to regular dating sites or apps they don’t see options that cater for polygamy,” Lindu told Reuters.
The app, which has registered 10,000 users since its launch in April – around 60 percent of whom are men – has gender-specific chatrooms for users to discuss their experiences in polygamy or ask for advice.
It allows users to swipe left or right on a person’s profile to signal their willingness – or not – to meet them, much like the popular mobile dating app Tinder.
Under Indonesian law, a man needs formal consent from his first wife and approval by a religious court to enter into a polygamous marriage. Legal experts say some men try to avoid the approval process.
Pranayama said security on the app was tightened after fake accounts started to appear. The app will resume accepting new members on Thursday, he said.
Three female users who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity said they were open to entering into polygamous marriages. One said she was more “open-minded” than her parents who oppose such relationships.
Additional reporting by Thomson Reuters Foundation