Dating app exhorting polygamy ignites debate in Indonesia

The AyoPoligami dating app on a download screen on an Android phone in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 14, 2017.
The AyoPoligami dating app on a download screen on an Android phone in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept 14, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

BOGOR (Java) • Scrolling through dating websites a year ago, Indonesian app developer Lindu Pranayama realised there were a lot of married men looking for another wife - but few online services to meet their needs.

"When they go to regular dating sites, they don't see options for polygamy. They don't see options for finding second, third or fourth wives," he said.

Enter "AyoPoligami" - a new smartphone app developed by Mr Lindu, which aims to "bring together male users with women who are willing to make 'big families'."

Loosely translated as "Let's do polygamy", the Tinder-style dating app has been stirring up controversy since its April launch in Indonesia, where over 80 per cent of the 250 million population are Muslim and polygamy is legal.

Muslim men can take up to four wives in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, if permission is granted by a court and the first wife gives her consent.

Court officials could not say how many people in Indonesia are polygamous, but activists note that cases of men giving false information to gain permission to have another wife are common.

The app was downloaded over 10,000 times before it stopped registering new members following concerns of fake accounts, and men using the site without the knowledge of their first wives.

A new version to be launched on Thursday will impose stricter rules on users, including requiring them to provide an identification card, marital status and a letter of permission from their first wives.

Mr Iyus Yusuf Fasyiya, a 37-year old factory worker who has two wives and five children, 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.

Most of the app users are men, but there are also about 4,000 women who have registered, the app developer said.

Marriage lawyer Rachmat Dwi Putranto said polygamy is "not that easily achieved" as Indonesian courts will only give permission if the first wife is disabled, ill or cannot bear children.

Ms Indriyati Suparno, a commissioner from the 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.

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. "What is important is whether the women and children are protected in polygamous marriages," said the ministry's spokesman Hasan, who uses one name.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2017, with the headline 'Dating app exhorting polygamy ignites debate in Indonesia'. Print Edition | Subscribe