Propounding Human Development Through Marriage Certification

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  • By: Mireza Fitriadi An analyst at the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs. The views expressed are his own do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any institutions of the Indonesian government. 

    Recent times before New Year's Eve, Coordinating Minister of Human Development and Culture (Kemenko PMK), Muhadjir Effendy announced a discourse regarding marriage certification in 2020. It triggered public denial due to a lack of understanding behind the idea that was addressed to resolve basic human development issues such as health, domestic violence, education quality, divorce, and poverty rate. In the era of disruption and industrial revolution 4.0, human development is critical and it has to be a primary concern for stakeholders to reckon from the early stage of the human life cycle: family environment.

    Discussion on the relation between family and human development issues has been accrued since the 1990s. United Nations through Department of Economic and Social Affairs described that changes in family structure have been a major force behind poverty because family is an essential stimulant for the well-being of people and the sustenance of society through its provision of emotional and material support for its members (Mokomane, 2012; Bernard, 2003; African Union, 2004). United Nations highlighted the ultimate finding that family shares resources, care for the elderly, the sick, and the disabled, and socialize children in ways that no other institution can do more successfully.

    So how marriage affects human development? Under Indonesian's convention, family and marriage are interrelated and inseparable; it's even formalized in regulations. For example, based on Law No. 1 of 1974 Concerning Marriage, marriage is defined as a relationship of body and soul between a man and a woman as husband and wife to establish a happy and lasting family (household) founded on the belief in God Almighty. Another clause is enacted in Law No. 52 of 2009 Concerning Demography and Family Development where a valued family is defined as a family molded by legal marriage and characterized by being prosperous, healthy, progressive, independent, having an ideal number of children, visionary, responsible, harmonious and devoted to God Almighty. So essentially, marriage is the doorstep to create a family, and family is the tool to mold the quality of human beings.

    The objectives, as mentioned in both laws above, are highly dependent on other entities in society. The government's policy, for example, will: influence the family's ability to enter and participate in the labor market, derive livelihoods from decent work opportunities, earn a living wage to have acceptable standards of living, and access to quality health care, quality education and decent employment (United Nations-DESA, Mokomane, 2012). That is why it has to be prepared from upstream, and the government must put it into action, preparing marriage means anticipating future generation to deal with any possible socioeconomic issues.

    Marriage and well-being

    Marriage certification or in several kinds of literature, also known as premarital education, couple relationship education or relationship enhancement, is a program or training designated for couples to learn skills and gain the knowledge necessary to maintain a healthy marriage and ultimately helps to craft a family to magnify human quality from birth.

    Correlation between premarital education and relationship quality with family well-being is highly important. The research found that premarital/relationship education is statistically significant in improving relationship quality, relationship satisfaction, conflict resolution skills, wellbeing and mental health with the scale of 0.85/1 or 85% (Department for Education of United Kingdom, Spielhofer, T. et al, 2014).  The numbers are solid, a review of previous meta-analyses comparing couple therapy with a certain group of people, found people in therapy were better off than 80% of those who don't (Shadish and Baldwin, 2003). Based on researches above, we can conclude the impact of relationship education may reduce distress and can improve mental health.

    Not only for adults, it also works for the well-being of children. One of the purposes of premarital/relationship education is preventing relationship breakdown. Strengthening a couple's relationship has profound benefits for the child's well-being and the parenting ability of the couple (Coleman and Glenn, 2009). Moreover, children whose parents were stably married achieved better cognitive and social outcomes, on average, than children born into other family types. Relationship stability can be explained by higher levels of education and higher socioeconomic status. Other explanatory factors included some aspects of family structure, for example, if the mother was young or whether her pregnancy was planned (Goodman and Greaves, 2010).

    Marriage certification can also affect the health of couples and families. Good marriage life is directly proportional to family's good health because over 60% of those with depression consider relationship problems to be the main cause of their illness (O'Leary, K., et al, 1990). That means, if we can make this program works properly, it will help millions of couples who struggle with depression and misery in their household. It will also help many side effects of relationship distress such as alcohol misuse and poor health in general, as well as an association with more specific conditions such as coronary heart disease and raised blood pressure.

    Marriage Certification in 2020 

    Currently, the government had implemented this program with various objectives and led by diverse institutions, i.e., BKKBN, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Religious Affairs dan Ministry of Internal Affairs. It focuses on adolescents or adolescents at married age and bridegroom-to-be. Participants got a one-lifetime session and learn about marriage purpose, conjugal rights and obligations, reproductive health, disease prevention (prophylaxis), and household economy, with the duration around up to two hours. I believe the program has positive impact no matter how small it is because several studies have found that programs of a few hours' duration can improve communication skills and relationship quality, thereby strengthening relationships throughout one to five years (Carroll and Doherty, 2003; Stanley et al., 2006, Hawkins et al., 2012). Imagine if the program is done with more serious touch, we can save and strengthening at least one generation.

    Those programs, however, have a downside. Since it led by diverse institutions, it tends to be sporadic, unconsolidated and insufficient success measurement. As the guardian of RPJMN 2020-2024, especially on human development, in 2020, the government, through Kemenko PMK as coordinating ministry, has prepared at least two stages to overcome marriage certification. First, forming a task force concerning Acceleration on Premarital Education Quality Enhancement. The task force's main job is to coordinate and synchronize policy regarding premarital education to create an effective single policy for all state institutions, including the program duration, terms and conditions, methods and expected results.

    Second, revamping regulation concerning premarital education. At the moment, only MoRA regulates premarital education under one of its Directorate-General. Considering on prevailing regulation, relying on one single Directorate General Decree is not sufficient to control all states policy regarding premarital education. It has to be upgraded to the higher level, e.g. laws, government regulations or presidential regulations. The new regulation is not only expected to cover all government bodies but also shall improve basic policy on economic and health enhancement after marriage through its content e.g. entrepreneurship coaching, soft loan, access to supplier's network and mental health problem reduction.

    Eventually, among many ways to strengthening human development, marriage certification is the unassailable one. It’s scientifically proven and has a lot of opportunities since marriage grows inevitably in Indonesia.

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