No, cheating won’t fix your marriage..Or will it???

Is infidelity a cure for your marriage problems? If you were skimming through headlines about relationship expert Esther Perel’s new book you’d be forgiven for thinking she believes so.

The Independent lead with “Cheating can make your marriage STRONGER”. Health.com and the Daily Mail concurred. Cheating is “GOOD for your marriage” according to The Sun. Even The Guardian played around the edges with “Esther Perel: The relationship guru who thinks infidelity isn’t all bad“.

The thing is, they’re all wrong. Not only does Perel believe affairs are more damaging now than ever before, she says, “I would no more recommend you have an affair than I would recommend you have cancer”.

The State of Affairs – Rethinking Infidelity follows Perel’s hugely popular TED talk on the topic. In both she explains the romantic idealism of marriage, where a spouse is supposed to be the lover, parent, trusted confidant, emotional companion and intellectual equal above all others. Infidelity is not just a betrayal of vows, it is a rejection of everything the betrayed partner believed they were in the marriage, and it can damage their very identity.

Nor is infidelity just sex. Sexting, watching porn, Facebook friendships with old lovers, dating apps, massage with a “happy ending”, desire expressed but never acted upon, all these things can fall into the category of infidelity.

And the effects, Perel says, can be catastrophic. “It is betrayal on so many levels: deceit, abandonment, rejection, humiliation – all the things love promised to protect us from.”

Depending on your definition of infidelity, anywhere from 25 to 75 per cent of people will stray from their relationships. Perel’s definition includes three key elements. One, that it is secret. Whether it’s an anonymous hook-up, an affair lasting decades, or long lunches and endless text messages, it’s secrecy and deception that makes it betrayal.

The second is an emotional element, which can still exist in seemingly emotionless acts. “There may be no feelings attached to a random f—,” she writes, “but there is plenty of meaning to the fact that it happened.” The third element is sexual alchemy, the desire and erotic frisson that commitment promises spouses have only for each other.

It’s interesting that the last two elements are often used to excuse the first. Some cheaters will minimise the emotional involvement of sex – “it meant nothing”, while others will highlight it – “nothing happened”, and both claim there was therefore no reason to disclose.

One of the reasons modern affairs can be so traumatic is our ability to see the relationship in vivid detail. Where affairs would once have been discovered by lipstick on a collar, receipts found in a pocket or information from a third party, we can now go digging and find messages, photos, and emails showing all the expressed desires and daily interactions of a cheater. Did you think of her when you were with me? Did you tell him I could not satisfy you? Did you say the things to her you used to say to me? Did you love her more, desire her more, give her more of yourself than you gave me?

Even when we have the chance to ask those questions, hearing the answers is not the same as watching them play out in real time. This, Perel says, is genuinely traumatic. And can easily be something from which a relationship never recovers.

Staying in a marriage after infidelity can also feel more shameful for the person who did not cheat than the one who did. It isolates the betrayed partner because if they tell people about it they know they will be judged for not leaving.

Many couples do stay together after an affair. Some do not. But staying does not always mean the relationship is healed. Affairs can lock couples into a bond of guilt and fear that never goes away. The cheater may be distraught at the pain they caused their partner and children, and may feel they cannot add to it by abandoning them.

The betrayed partner can become so caught up in humiliation and fear that they cannot let go of the relationship but cannot move beyond the betrayal. Destroyed by the affair but trapped in a never-ending cycle, relationships like this can limp along for decades.

The misleading headlines about infidelity being good for a marriage come from Perel’s discussion of what couples can do to heal from infidelity. She makes it clear it is far from easy. The unfaithful partner must take responsibility for breaking trust and for rebuilding it so the burden of trusting again is not carried by the person betrayed.

It also requires a level of shared honesty and insight that many people find too difficult to manage in the aftermath of an affair.

Perel says when someone cheats on a relationship they value, it is almost never just about sex. There is often a feeling of loss and mortality underlying the need to stray, and many cheaters she talks to say they did it to feel “alive”.

Affairs are common after a bereavement or change that leaves the cheater wondering about the person they used to be before marriage, or the person they could have been without it. Passion and communication, dissipated over years of a long relationship, might feel easier to find outside it. Secrecy, emotional connection and sexual alchemy bring back feelings of vitality – being “alive” – that are too easily lost in the prosaic management of home, children and work.

It’s an explanation but not an excuse. In most cases the betrayed partner will respond with “Do you think I was happy, that I didn’t want more? But I did not cheat, why did you?” Couples who can find the answers to those questions and a way to feel alive with each other may be able to reinvigorate a relationship that was previously unfulfilling for both of them.

Infidelity, however, is not a prerequisite for this change. As Perel says of people who cheat, “if they could bring into their relationships one tenth of the boldness, the imagination and the verve that they put into their affairs, they probably would never need to see me”.

Henry Sapiecha

 

Why Fraser Island Qld Australia is a top location for weddings

FRASER Island’s breathtaking beauty continues to lure loved-up couples to its shores, with the tourist mecca emerging as the region’s top spot to tie the knot.

www.frasercoastcentral.com.au

Queensland Births, Deaths and Marriages records revealed there were 76 weddings at the island destination last year, followed by 70 ceremonies in Maryborough and 67 in Urangan.

Of the 341 weddings across the region, 52 were in Hervey Bay and 37 couples said their vows at Point Vernon.

Fraser Coast region celebrant Christine Smith said Fraser Island was a winner with couples from across Australia and overseas.

www.fcci.com.au

“They turn it into a holiday and it’s a holiday for their family and close friends as well,” she said.

“Just recently I had two weddings where the couples have come from England so they have brought family with them and friends from interstate.”

With the cost of the average Australian wedding climbing past $30,000, she is seeing people opting for weekday weddings to keep costs down.

“Being a destination like Fraser, people tend to go for a few days and they’re from away and flying in, so quite often it works out – also because everybody is budget-conscious it’s appealing to a lot of couples these days.”

Ms Smith said beach weddings were in demand across the Fraser Coast, including the Point Vernon foreshore and seaside locations in Urangan.

“They love the scenery, the sand, the idea of getting married barefoot; they just love it and they love the photos on the beach,” she said.

She said the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens were also popular and some people opted for restaurants in Maryborough for their special day.

Hervey Bay celebrant Carol Gray said Fraser Island and other beach destinations attracted couples looking for locations with photo potential.

“There’s the beautiful backdrop of the ocean and the photography is at its peak in those areas; it’s just beautiful,” she said.

Ms Gray said Maryborough boasted beautiful gardens for weddings and The Esplanade in Hervey Bay was also popular.

“I think it’s the scenery; the best spots for perfect photography.”

An expert reveals: Style sins wedding guests should avoid

DON’T flash too much flesh, avoid cream at all costs and if in doubt, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

Wedding guests can get it horribly wrong, wardrobe-wise – and with spring ceremonies cropping up on social calendars, a manners maven says it pays to avoid standing out for the wrong reasons.

Etiquette expert Anna Musson, of The Good Manners Company, said guests should always dress to impress.

“Dressing down is disrespectful; it says you can’t be bothered,” she said.

Ms Musson said it was essential to observe the dress code and not show too much skin.

“It’s about the bride and groom and everything should be drawing attention to them and not drawing attention away from them,” she said.

“If you’re wearing a backless playsuit, that’s drawing attention to you.”

MIND YOUR MANNERS: An etiquette expert says wedding guests should never ask to swap tables at the reception.

Her style don’ts for guests include denim, black and anything white or cream (strictly reserved for the bride).

She also recommended keeping shoulders covered at a day event and following the guide of the fancier the dress code, the longer the skirt length.

Dress codes can be a minefield, so if you are unsure what footwear is appropriate for a “beach chic” theme, she suggests clarifying beforehand instead of assuming thongs are acceptable.

“Check with the parents or the maid of honour; don’t go to bride and groom as they have a lot on their plate,” she said.

Once you have your attire sorted, she advises guests to avoid tacky behaviour such as asking if you can bring a plus one, getting drunk, complaining or requesting to swap tables at the reception.

It is also preferable to wait for the newlyweds to leave before making an exit.

“It’s bad form to leave before the hosts.” -NewsRegional

WEDDING SEASON

  • The most popular times to get married during the year are spring and autumn – in November and March.
  • June and July are the least popular months for weddings.
  • 56% of weddings take place on Saturdays.
  • 15% of weddings take place on Sundays.

Source: McCrindle 2015 Marriages and Weddings Report

Henry Sapiecha

As an anthropologist, I arranged to conduct a test on my 10-year marriage

It’s been a long time since I’ve conducted a sociological experiment. Trained as an anthropologist, my usual research locations were tropical climes, not my own home.

But this time it’s personal. The subject of this experiment will be Steve, the man who’s been sleeping in my bed for the last 13 years. The one who, maybe, I might take for granted.

Last year, we renewed our 10-year wedding vows and in doing so renewed some long lost romantic spark… but, now, the day-to-day has again started to wear us down.

Within couplehood, how do we ward off the mundane and preserve its romantic core? Will kindness engender kindness? And does investment in the little things keep the most important thing alive?

Experiment Take one grumpy wife plus one long-suffering husband and see what happens when wife performs 10 secret acts of kindness over 10 days. Explore the effects on said relationship. (Caveat: in order to prevent suspicion, acts of kindness will commence in a subtle, low-key manner. Would not want to risk husband having heart attack.)

Day 1: “I love you”

Involves Three seconds. Before hubby goes to work in the morning, I say, “I love you” meaningfully. As opposed to, “Mate, you’re seriously just going to walk out of the house and leave your @#$%^&* everywhere?”

Relationship effects None.

Day 2: “If I were in your shoes…”

Involves Empathy, changing viewpoint. Everybody stars in their own movie. The human mind is preoccupied with the self. But not so when first falling in love. During courtship, the other person is the clear movie star. What would he like? How does he feel? In other words: how can I make him want me more? In long-term relationships, rather than co-starring, over time, we cast our partners in less favourable roles: servant, villain, or even worse, bit character who inspires no intense emotions either way. Today I will be the director and focus my lens on my leading man. I will practise partner empathy and try to see everything from his point of view.

Relationship effects Slightly warmer between us. He calls me “Hun.” Pardon? It’s been ages since he’s used a cutesy name like that.

Day 3: A grand gesture

Involves Thoughtfulness, planning. The romantic pulse is often dulled within the confines of monogamy. To sharpen it, never underestimate the power of a grand gesture, especially if it’s a surprise such as a weekend away or tickets to a favourite band. Hubby’s birthday is tomorrow. (Yes, I know, a convenient time to conduct my “be nice missive”). Anyway, I book a restaurant and conspire with his mother that she fly over and surprise him at his birthday dinner.

Relationship effects Husband effortlessly steps into “starring” role. Whispers to me just before falling asleep, “Thank you so much for my birthday surprise.”

Day 4: Pen a love letter

Involves Gratitude, reflection. Husband is away for work. I write him a love letter about the things I admire and value in him. To throw him off, I get the kids to write him gratitude letters, too. Before kiddies leave for school the next day, we give him our letters.

Relationship effects Underwhelming. He reads them, smiles, and chucks them on the bedside table.

Day 5: Tender touch

Involves Physical love. My plan is to offer husband a massage. “Want a foot rub, honey?” I’m aware that this may cause deep suspicion and blow the experiment. Admission By the time hubby gets home from airport, this is so not going to happen. The next morning, however, I practise, er, “tender touch”.

Relationship effects Husband is happy but very confused.

Day 6: Total loving

Involves Extreme patience. Not one eye roll. Not one huff. I will step over his dirty ice-cream bowl left beside the couch and say nothing. I shall bite my fiery tongue. I will practise love through actions. Is this possible? Seemingly not. I fail the mission before we’ve even had breakfast. We bicker over little things throughout the day. I will try again tomorrow.

Day 7: Day 6, take two

Fail! Again. Urggggghhh! Hypothesis: Even if there is overriding goodwill between a couple, all can be instantly undermined by the murky sea of unresolved issues. Usually, for me, this pertains to gender division; for him, wishing I’d chill out.

Relationship effects Desire within me grows… to end this stupid experiment.

Day 8: Lie in

Involves A small sacrifice. I surprise hubby by not waking him on Saturday morning. Somehow he sleeps through the kids doing Just Dance and singing Despacito on repeat.

Relationship effect He is definitely smiling more.

Day 9: Freedom

Involves Space. I suggest he go out that evening and catch up with some friends.

Relationship effects Who knows? I’m fast asleep by the time he returns home from the bar.

Day 10: The way to a man’s heart

Involves Old-fashioned wisdom. Maybe once a week, I ask the kids in the morning, “What would you like for dinner?” (Son: pizza; daughter: sadly, two-minute noodles.) Around 5pm, miraculously these items appear on the dinner table. When is the last time I asked my husband what he’d like for dinner? Honestly, it was probably BC (before children). You know what my husband gets if he’s lucky enough for me to prepare his evening meal? Salad. Yep. Or, as the more hipster among us call it, a “dragon bowl”. I’m a vegetarian, so that’s usually what I’m eating.

Note My husband has never once complained about his raw vegetable meals. Although once I did catch him emailing a picture of his dinner to his mum. Half an avocado, a small pile of kidney beans and a bouquet of spinach leaves, undressed. Hubby is going to get the shock of his life tonight when I prepare him a steak, mashed potatoes and gravy. I may even light candles. Typical. Although husband said he would be home early, he is not. So dinner ends up being served the way he’s used to getting it – cold.

Relationship effect Despite lack of heat, he appears full and content. Me, as I do the dishes afterwards, not so much.

In conclusion, during this experiment, although there were many wonderful moments, the same unresolved issues kept cropping up. To be really happy, we must dig further, beyond kindness and sweet gestures, and fix the deep underground stuff.

Over the past 10 days, my husband’s perspective and his happiness were at the forefront of my mind. When I was kinder, he was kinder. The mood between us has shifted. It’s now more playful, more patient, more loving. Marriage is not a single experiment but a long-term one that takes continuous effort from both parties.

Dance like no one’s watching? How about, love like you’ve never been married. Why not see what happens if you put your relationship to the same 10-day experiment? Feel free to write in and share your experiences.

Henry Sapiecha

12 Great Handy Tips For an Easy Wedding on the Beach

Imagine a cool breeze, warm water and golden sand. You are walking in the midst of this beauty watching the sunset over the ocean. Beaches seem to be an ideal place to tie the knot, in addition ceremonies there don’t require difficult planning, huge budget and stress.

The decor is already created with the sand, sun and surf. If you want to plan the perfect beach wedding, the following tips are just for you.

1. Choose your beach. Public places are more accessible than private resorts. Choosing the last one you risk to spend a good chunk of change on it. So if you want to save money, pick a public beach, but remember that on a busy holiday weekend there will be prying public eyes or lots of wedding crashers.

2. Don’t forget about a permit. So if you have finally decided to have the ceremony on a public beach, try to make sure whether you need a permit for a wedding-sized gathering. Laws concerning open-containers and noise ordinances must be studied very carefully to avoid any potential trouble.

3. Make it intimate. You can save money on food, drinks and favors as well as increase the likelihood of obtaining a permit from the local authorities, if you keep your ceremony small.

4. Restrooms have to be close. Make sure that bathroom facilities are not far from the place of the ceremony so that your guests do not have to hike several miles in beautiful clothes to use the restroom.

5. Install a good sound system. Undoubtedly ocean is an awesome backdrop for your wedding, but the combination of waves and wind can make the sermon and vows sound too quite. The solution is a great sound system and musicians who play loud instruments like saxophones or guitars.

6. Rent a tent. Tents or canopies may protect your ceremony from possible rain or wind, provide shade and make the wedding more private.

7. Provide practical services. You can never predict Mother Nature, so keep all guests prepared for insects and useful elements of the wedding favors, as fans, bug spray, little bottles of sunscreen, or beach-themed anchor paperweight if you need to hold menus and name tags when wind picks them up.

8. Organize safe seating. It may be a complicated task to choose chairs, as you will place them at sand. So it’s better to pick heavier wooden chairs which won’t blow away.

9. Keep the casual style. Heavy wedding gowns usually cause a lot of troubles at a windy and hot seaside ceremony, so try to dress in a simpler clothes made of a light and comfortable fabric.

10. Control lighting. Choose a time of day with the best photo opportunities and don’t forget about the natural golden-hour gleam during sunset. Setting up cute hurricane lanterns for the evening should be also considered.

11. Forget about the shoes. If you don’t wear shoes, you don’t have problems! Full beach effect is achieved if you are barefoot, furthermore you save money on expensive heels. Perhaps your guests would like to be shoeless as well, so don’t forget about a special basket at the entrance where they can leave their footwear.

12. Consider changing a place for the reception. Having alcohol at a public place may cause unwanted issues so you should consider moving to another place after the ceremony.

www.handyhomehints.com

www.clublibido.com.au

www.celebrantsaustralia.org

Henry Sapiecha

Groom and bride’s mother were warned before 14-year-old’s wedding, court is advised

A man married a 14-year-old girl the day after he and the child’s mother were both warned by authorities that the wedding would be illegal, a court has been told.

The would-be husband sobbed in the County Court on Wednesday as a judge was told the man thought he was “rescuing” the young bride.

The 35-year-old, who was 20 years older than the girl when they were married last year, is the first man to appear before an Australian court prosecuted with marrying a child, an offence that carries a maximum penalty of five years.

He gave the mother a $1480 gold necklace as a dowry the court was told.

The Myanmar national will be sent back into immigration detention once he has completed his sentence, but cannot be deported because he is a Rohingya refugee and effectively stateless, the court heard.

The pair were married at a mosque in Noble Park on September 29 last year when the girl was 14½. The man cannot be named so as not to identify the girl.

The day before the wedding, prosecutor Krista Breckweg told the court, a Department of Health and Human Services official warned the man and the girl’s mother that it was illegal for the girl to be married.

Police had accompanied DHHS staff on previous visits, the court heard.

Ms Breckweg said imam Ibrahim Omerdic conducted the wedding ceremony and at one point said he could not issue a marriage certificate “because of my security”.

“So when you … if you need it later when you be 18 years I give you,” Omerdic told the girl.

Omerdic was this year spared an immediate jail term after he was found guilty of solemnising an invalid marriage, which carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.

Magistrate Phillip Goldberg imposed a two-month jail term but suspended it for two years. Omerdic, who was sacked as an imam after his arrest, is appealing against his conviction.

The man who married the girl was a boarder at her home, Ms Breckweg said, and paid a mahr – similar to a dowry – to the girl’s mother of a gold necklace worth $1480. The mother was at the wedding ceremony.

Defence counsel Sophie Parsons said the mother played a “central role” in the marriage, as she raised the idea of the man marrying her daughter and reassured and encouraged him.

The judge, who cannot be named so not to identify the victim, said the mother was lucky not to be charged as a co-accused.

The mother and daughter weren’t in court on Wednesday.

Ms Parsons said the man was unsure exactly how old the girl was, although he knew she was at school and under 18.

It is understood the mother told police her daughter was 17 at the time and not 14.

Ms Parsons said her client was the girl’s friend before the marriage and wanted to help her through trouble at home.

“[He] saw himself as somewhat rescuing the complainant and becoming that supporting figure in her life,” she said.

But Ms Breckweg said it was “nonsensical” for someone to marry if they didn’t know their partner’s age, and questioned why he needed to marry the girl if he wanted to help her.

“That’s not support, with respect, that’s exploitation,” she said.

The man was arrested five days after the ceremony and has spent 351 days in custody.

He was originally charged with having sex with the girl but that offence was withdrawn by prosecutors earlier this year. The court heard there was a lack of evidence to proceed with that charge.

Ms Breckweg said the man told police they would think about sex when the girl had “grown up”.

Ms Parsons said the man was remorseful and wanted to apologise to the girl and the community, and felt he had ruined his chances of having a good life.

He was also ashamed for the damage he had caused to other Rohingya living in Australia.

The hearing was adjourned for 10 minutes when the man broke down in the dock.

The man now knew it was unacceptable to marry children in Australia, Ms Parsons said.

He will be sentenced on Thursday.

with AAP

Henry Sapiecha

Child brides: Why underage girls are marrying in Indonesia

Aulia* was 15 when she was married. There wasn’t a lot of choice. She had been dating Arief, a sweet-faced boy from the local garage, and the neighbourhood tongues were in overdrive.

“There was all this shaming,” Arief recalls. “I hadn’t actually kissed her and everybody gossiped about her being pregnant.”

Neither were ready for marriage. Aulia had dropped out of school because her stepfather couldn’t afford to send her, but wanted to go back: “My friend was still at school.”

Arief wanted to save for a few years. He dreamed of a big wedding to show off to his motorcycle club.

But Aulia and Arief live in a small, devoutly Muslim village in rural Sukabumi in West Java and the gossip was pernicious.

“It took my mother a month to persuade me to get married,” Aulia says. “She kept saying: ‘Don’t embarrass me’.”

The couple are sitting cross-legged on a rug in their tiny, dark rented home, its walls made of flimsy woven bamboo. They are clearly intimate. While candidly admitting they regret marrying so young, they insist they don’t regret marrying each other.

But at the time Arief did the only thing he could think of to escape his fate: He ran away.

“I went to my grandmother’s house and hid under the bed. My grandfather rooted me out. After that I put up my hands and said ‘I surrender’.” A week later the couple was married.

Indonesia has the seventh highest number of child marriages in the world.

One in six girls – 340,000 a year – marry before they reach the age of 18, the threshold for marriage recommended by international human rights treaty bodies.

Under the 1974 Marriage Law, girls can legally marry at 16, although boys must be at least 19.

This contradicts Indonesia’s own 2002 law on child protection, which defines a child as someone under the age of 18.

And parents can appeal to religious courts for their children to marry when they are even younger.

Many children simply lie about their age on the marriage certificate or hold a religious ceremony at home that is not formally registered.

Shinta and Denny will wait to register their marriage until Denny reaches the proper age. They were persuaded by their parents to be married by an ustadz (religious teacher) when they were 17 and 18 respectively.

Shinta and Denny will wait to register their marriage until they are both of majority age. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

“It was the talk of the town that we were alone together in the house and something bad might happen,” says Denny, a motorcycle taxi driver with a wispy moustache. “Most of the time my mother was here,” Shinta chips in shyly.

Shinta wants to go back to school but most schools in Indonesia actively discourage married or pregnant girls. According to one report, 85 per cent of girls end their education once they marry.

The couple are living in Denny’s parents’ austere, half-built house. It’s empty of furniture except for a broken cupboard and a calendar hanging askew on the wall.

The local midwife offered Shinta birth control but the price – 30,000 rupiah ($3) a month – is unaffordable. A baby seems inevitable.

Indonesia’s first child marriage report, Progress on Pause – published last year by the Indonesian government and UN children’s agency UNICEF – pulls no punches.

The report says child marriage is a “fundamental violation of girls’ human rights”, limiting their education, health, future income and safety.

Disturbingly, it found child marriage prevalence in Indonesia had reached a plateau after three decades of decreasing and was now consistent at the high rate of 17 per cent.

In 2014, child marriage caused a loss of at least 1.7 per cent of GDP.

Fifty thousand girls still marry before the age of 15 each year in Indonesia.

“It is very concerning,” says Indonesian child protection commissioner Sitti Hikmawatty. She believes the reasons are complex and require more analysis.

Rasiana Maharti is an 18-year-old teenage ambassador for Cikidang, a sub-regency of Sukabumi.

She earnestly implores her peers to say no to drugs and “free sex” (sex outside marriage), which is often associated with loose Western morals.

Rasiana Maharti is a teenage ambassador for abstinence from drugs and sex. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

Girls in Sukabumi are haunted by the fear of free sex, both because it is immoral and because it can lead to unplanned pregnancies.

Two of the girls in Rasiana’s class got married. “One married her boyfriend in the second grade of senior high when she was 15 to prevent zina [the Islamic sin of illicit sex],” Rasiana says. “One got married at 16 because she was pregnant.”

This is consistent with research by Mies Grijns, who – together with a team of young Indonesian anthropologists – has spent four years researching child marriage in a village of 8000 people in northern Sukabumi.

“It used to be parents arranging the marriage, but now you have love affairs,” Grijns says.

Adolescents now have more opportunities to meet each other at school or online, they even refer to “Facebook marriages”.

“Young people these days have a much bigger choice in partners but parents decide when they will get married mainly because of the fear of zina or because the girl is pregnant,” Grijns says.

Grijns, an anthropologist from the Netherlands who grew up in Indonesia, has lived in this village on and off since 1981, when she began studying labour and gender relations at a large tea plantation in the mountains.

‘Young people these days have a much bigger choice in partners’: anthropologist Mies Grijns. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

“I would see so many girls walking around with young babies but thought they were the sisters, not the mothers. That is how blind you can be,” she says.

It was not until she began sponsoring children to attend school that she noticed girls were dropping out to get married: “I was thinking ‘this is 2000. What is happening?'”

Today Grijns is in the last stage of her PhD research exploring contemporary child marriage in West Java and how and why it still happens. “I wanted to understand what was happening, what the positives and negatives were, what girls and their husbands thought of it.”

When Grijns began her research not much had been written about child marriage in Indonesia and the prevailing NGO view was that it was akin to slavery.

Her research reveals a more nuanced reality – some pious girls consider it an honour to be married at 13 – and a diversity of reasons for child marriage.

There are two main groups of villagers who marry young. Firstly the sweethearts who tie the knot because of the fear of zina and village gossip or because the girl was pregnant; and secondly those from more orthodox Muslim communities.

Grijns says these more orthodox communities consider primary school sufficient for girls. “There is an expectation girls should be married early and have children early. Usually girls are happy with it because they have internalised their religion and feel good.”

Novita, a vivacious 20-year-old in a sequined T-shirt, pours tea into glass mugs engraved with hearts and proudly shows off the woven bamboo house her husband built.

She left school at 12 because she was teased for developing breasts at a young age. After working as a babysitter for three years she married at 15: “I was ready at the time to get married, my hobby is taking care of children.”

‘If you are not married by the age of 25 you are an old spinster’: Novita, who married at 15, with her son. Photo: Irwin Fedriansyah

A month later Novita was pregnant. Her son, who plays quietly on his mum’s phone on the padded floral quilt, was born five years ago after a seamless pregnancy.

“In this village almost everyone marries young, it’s not a problem,” Novita says. “If you are not married by the age of 25 you are an old spinster.”

A grassroots movement called Koalisi +18 has campaigned throughout Indonesia to increase the minimum age of marriage for girls to 18.

However in June 2015 the Constitutional Court rejected a petition for a judicial review of Indonesia’s marriage law. Eight male judges – interestingly, the only dissenting voice was the one female judge – argued keeping the marriage age low prevented premarital sex and babies born out of wedlock.

“There is no guarantee raising the age limit from 16 to 18 years would reduce the number of divorces, health problems or resolve social problems,” one of the judges said.

But this year female Islamic clerics issued an unprecedented fatwa, or ruling, against child marriage at a congress in West Java that drew participants from Malaysia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The fatwa – which is not legally binding – called underage marriage harmful, pointing to heightened risks of sexual violence, domestic abuse and death in childbirth, and said that it must be prevented.

In the village of Sanetan, in Central Java, there is a saying that it is better to be a divorcee than a spinster.

At the age of 22, Sanita Rini is well and truly considered a spinster. “A neighbour once even visited my mother and said: ‘What’s wrong with your daughter, no one wants her?'”

It wasn’t through a lack of effort on the part of Rini’s parents. They tried to marry her off twice, once when she was 13 and then again when she was 15, to males five years her senior: “Both times my parents said it was to lessen the economic burden on the family.”

Rini promised to pay everything back they had spent on her education if they allowed her to stay at school. “If you marry me off you will get nothing because I will have a new family of my own,” she threatened.

‘What’s wrong with your daughter?’: Sanita Rini with her parents on graduation day. They had pressed her to marry when she was 13. Photo: Supplied

Rini studied economics at university and now works for Plan International, a humanitarian organisation that advances children’s rights and equality for girls. She has even persuaded a number of villages in Central Java – including her own – to pass a regulation raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 for girls.

“Now my parents are proud of me,” Rini says. “When other kids my age are struggling to find a job, I have a job. I am showing my parents that not marrying me off is an investment for our future.

“It took a lot to be where I am. But many girls lack that and it is something I want to change.”

* Some names have been changed at the request of those interviewed. However they have given permission for their photos to be used.

Henry Sapiecha

Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich perhaps up for the world’s costliest divorce

Roman Abramovich ended his second marriage with a reputed settlement of £150 million ($246m) – small change for a multibillionaire.

This time, the Russian oligarch and owner of Chelsea FC may not be so lucky, after announcing that he has separated from his third wife, Dasha Zhukova.

The couple, who married in 2008 and have two children, insisted the split was amicable, but they could get embroiled in the world’s costliest divorce if forced to untangle the tycoon’s £7 billion ($11.5b) fortune.

Mr Abramovich, 50, owns the football club, the second largest yacht in the world and several luxury properties, including a £60 million mansion in New York and a £50 million property in Kensington Palace Gardens.

Among his fleet of supercars is a Ferrari FXX prototype worth around £1.5 million and a Bugatti Veyron, priced at £2 million.

However, Ms Zhukova, an art collector who is 15 years Mr Abramovich’s junior.

In a joint statement, the couple said: “After 10 years together, the two of us have made the difficult decision to separate, but we remain close friends, parents and partners in the projects we developed together.”

Legal experts said they expected Mr Abramovich to have a prenuptial agreement in place and any divorce proceedings would be dealt with by a Russian court in order to protect his assets, much like his previous divorce, when he is understood to have ended his 16-year marriage to second wife Irina Vyacheslavovna Malandina at a cost of £150 million in Moscow in 2007

Details have remained hidden under Russia’s secretive legal system, but it is thought Ms Malandina was given a lump sum as well as four homes and provision for their five children.

Mr Abramovich and Miss Zhukova were first seen together in public in 2005.

The oligarch was still married to Ms Malandina, but their friendship strengthened and Miss Zhukova and her father, Alexander Zhukov, were invited to Mr Abramovich’s New Year party later that year.

Her father is an oil, metals and banking tycoon who owns a mansion block in Kensington, west London, as well as homes in New York and Moscow.

The couple married secretly around nine years ago. Their first child, Mr Abramovich’s sixth, Aaron Alexander, was born in December 2009 and daughter Leah Lou was born in April 2013, both in the US.

Mr Abramovich married his first wife, Olga Yurevna Lysova, in December 1987 but was divorced just three years later. He wed Ms Malandina in 1991, before he made his fortune in the Russian privatisation boom.

Raymond Tooth, a London divorce lawyer, said it was “inconceivable” that Mr Abramovich and Ms Zukhova would not have a pre-nup.

“He will have done a deal and will sort it out in Russia to avoid any claims in an English court,” he said.

The Telegraph, London

Henry Sapiecha

Third marriage lucky for Rupert Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth Happy Fairy Tale Romance

Rupert Murdoch’s second eldest daughter Elisabeth Murdoch married for the third time in a lavish wedding in Oxfordshire, England, on Saturday.

The Sydney-born television executive, 48, who has an estimated worth of $262 million, said “I do” to Turner Prize-winning artist, Keith Tyson, 47, after dating for over two years.

“The happiest of days,” Tyson wrote about the day on Instagram.

“Happily ever after,” he added.

The twice-divorced mother-of-four is known for her love of throwing extravagant soirees, particularly her annual New Year’s Eve party, so her third trip up the aisle was no different.

According to the Daily Mail, a barn at her home in the Cotswolds was transformed into a purpose-built party with flowers adorning the ceilings and walls.

The who’s who on the guestlist included former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, Blur’s Alex James, News UK stalwart Rebekah Brooks, art collector Poju Zabludowicz and her sister-in-law, Sarah Murdoch.

It comes just over a year after Rupert said “I do” for the fourth time to Texan model Jerry Hall, 61, in a low-key marriage ceremony at Fleet Street’s historic ‘Journalists’ Church’ in London. Elisabeth acted as a bridesmaid for her step-mother, former wife of Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger.

Numerous celebrities attended including composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, musician Bob Geldof and actors Richard E. Grant and Michael Cain.

Elisabeth is Rupert’s second eldest daughter, and his first child with his second wife Anna Maria Torv, 73. They also had two sons — Lachlan, 45, and James, 44.

The News Corporation boss is also father to Prudence, 59, with his first wife Patricia Booker, and Grace, 15, and Chloe, 14, with his third wife, Wendi Deng, 48.

Elisabeth’s first husband was Elkin Pianim, a Dutch-Ghanaian economist, whom she married in LA in 1993 and divorced in 1998.

She also married PR guru Matthew Freud, the great-grandson of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and nephew of artist Lucian, in 2001. They split in 2014.

They pair have been together for at least two years. Photo: Sue Webster

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Henry Sapiecha

Bride-to-be turns cancelled wedding event into a night for the homeless Indiana USA

After a number of calls cancelling her $30,000 wedding, Sarah Cummins opened the doors of her reception to the local homeless people of Indiana.

Sarah Cummins, right, hugging one of the many homeless guest that she invited after cancelling the $30,000 event. (AAP)

After two years of planning Sarah Cummins and her fiancé called off their wedding with only a week to go.

The reason for the sudden cancellation is unknown, but the two were left with a non-refundable booking for 170 guests at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, a suburb north of Indiana.

Not wanting the event to go to waste, Cummins’ decided to host a dinner extending an invitation to local shelter residents and families.

The guest list also included a dozen homeless veterans from the Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation.

Cummins’ arranged two buses to pick up the individuals who spent the night being wined and dined. They were treated to a menu including bourbon-glazed meatballs, goat cheese and roasted garlic bruschetta, chicken breast with artichokes and Chardonnay cream sauce and even the wedding cake.

The 25-year-old pharmacy student was determined to make the night a positive experience for herself and her guests.

She told local newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, “I called everyone, cancelled, apologised, cried, called vendors, cried some more and then I started feeling really sick about just throwing all the food I ordered for the reception.”

For Cummins’ this was an opportunity to show her new guests that they deserved to be at a place like the Ritz Charles just as much as anyone else does.

News of Cummins’ act of kindness caused a ripple effect. Indianapolis man, Matt Guanzon was among the many who were inspired, donating suits from his own closet so that attendees could dress up for the event.

Erik Jensen, a guest from Wheeler Mission was grateful to be the recipient of Cummins’ and Araujo’s kindness.

“It’s just a really great opportunity for us… it’s a great opportunity to spread love.”

The Ritz Charles was opened to homeless people after Sarah Cummins cancelled her wedding.

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www.club-libido.com

Henry Sapiecha