Adat Law in Indonesia Essay examples

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The Indonesian legal system is complex because it is based on a civil law system, intermixed with customary law, Islamic law and the Roman Dutch law1. Indonesia is a country with a very rich and diverse cultural history. The diversity of and between cultures is enhanced because of the physical nature of the Republic – an archipelago with more than 13,000 islands and 300 of different ethnic and sub-ethnic groups, each with their own laws and customs. Prior to the Dutch colonization in the late 16th century, indigenous kingdoms prevailed and a system of customary law, called Adat law (Hukum Adat or “Adatrecht” in Dutch) was applied2. Later, the Dutch colonization during the next 350 years until 1945
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Monetization of Adat sanctions has also led to suggestions that Adat is being ‘commercialized’. Where Adat systems remain influential, the rich can often act as they please and just ‘pay a fine’ for any transgressions where the poor were being forced into the formal system due to their inability to pay the sanctions.

Some decisions of Adat law are also discriminatory against women and fail to take their interests into account. Many of the decisions can largely be attributed to a patriarchal culture that has resulted in women being excluded from village decision-making bodies and informal justice mechanisms. For example, a girl from Watutau Village who called off the engagement to her fiancé before their marriage and pregnant at the time, was fined Rp 250,000 (USD 25) as punishment for having sexual relationships before marriage and additionally fined for breaking off the engagement, order to pay Adat fee and the food consumed at the public meeting11.

In Adat law, sometimes a decision is based on irrelevant consideration, such as test of strength, to be the easiest means of achieving resolution. For example, in Pelauw village, Maluku, a dispute over the ownership of a fruit tree growing