Indonesia court rejects bid to make polygamy easier

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JAKARTA, Oct 3 (Reuters) An Indonesian businessman's bid to make polygamy easier was rejected today by the country's constitutional court.

Indonesia allows polygamy, but according to the marriage law, a man can only get court approval to take a second wife if his first wife agrees, or if she is disabled or cannot have children.

Businessman Muhammad Insa, the petitioner in the court case, argued that those conditions effectively prevent polygamy, and this has meant that many men avoid registering their second marriages. As a result, children from unregistered marriages often lose their inheritance rights and other benefits.

The court said in its ruling that the articles were not against the constitution or against the tenets of Islam, which allows multiple marriages on condition that wives are treated fairly.

''These articles ... are intended to protect the basic rights of wives and prospective wives of men who engage in polygamy,'' court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said.

Insa said the decision was unfair.

''I'm not happy. With such conditions, polygamy cannot be practiced,'' he told reporters, adding ''I will continue my struggle with other people or groups.'' The polygamy debate in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, heated up last year after a popular Islamic cleric announced that he had taken a second wife.

Abdullah Gymnastiar, a turban-clad, leather-jacketed preacher, is a household name in Indonesia because of his relaxed sermons on Islam that strike a chord with ordinary people charmed by his chatty, youthful style.

But his popularity declined after his second marriage was made public.

Though not widely practiced among ordinary Indonesians, polygamy has some prominent advocates, including restaurateur Puspo Wardoyo who has four wives, and who has been at the forefront of a campaign to promote multiple marriages.

Wardoyo's popular chain of restaurants is renowned for its ''polygamy juice'', a mixture of four tropical fruits, and ''polygamy vegetables'', a four-vegetable combo.

REUTERS SG BST1252

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