And so begins a happy life.

Yanti greeted her future husband with a handshake and the merest flicker of a smile as he arrived with relatives. He gave a nod and quickly moved on to the next person in line…They were disinclined to cuddle up, even when cajoled by the photographer. The truth behind the frostiness is a sinister and sad indictment of the traditions that persist in many parts of Indonesia. Not only had Yanti, 22, a restaurant cook, and Tri, 24, a maize and sweet potato farmer, just met, they barely knew anything about each other.

Oh well – what’s to know? What need is there to know something about someone you sign up to live with and have sex with and probably have children with and go on living with for the rest of your life? One person is much like another, surely; what difference can it make?

It is impossible to know how many Indonesians end up in such marriages. Saman, the cleric who married Yanti and Tri, said ‘extreme’ stories such as theirs, where the couple had not even met, accounted for perhaps 1 per cent of marriages. ‘But there are many marriages organised by the parents where the children do what they’re told,’ he said. Tini, a maid in Jakarta who ran away for three days after her parents tried to force her, at the age of 15, to marry a 28-year-old, reckons about a third of all unions in her district are undertaken without the participants’ full consent. ‘It’s not as bad as it was but from what I hear it is still very prevalent in rural areas,’ she said. World Vision, an international aid agency, describes the practice as ‘still common’ and experts say it is unlikely to die out soon. ‘It’s the tradition and it’s hard to go against traditions,’ said Gadis Arivia, the executive director of the women’s group Jurnal Perempuan…A significant contributing factor is that in many communities traditions and religious leaders are more highly respected than national legislation.

It’s hard to go against traditions. Yes. So the world is full of lives that are a lot worse than they might be. That’s too bad.

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