“Let’s do polygamy“: New dating app stirs debate in Indonesia

Women shop for headscarves, or hijab, at a traditional retail market in Jakarta, Indonesia, in this May 5, 2015 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 02 October 2017

“Let’s do polygamy“: New dating app stirs debate in Indonesia

BOGOR, Indonesia: Scrolling through dating websites a year ago, Indonesian app developer Lindu Pranayama realized 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 Pranayama, 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 already stirred up controversy since its April launch in Indonesia, where over 80 percent 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 provide figures of how many people in Indonesia are polygamous, but activists say cases of men giving false information to gain permission and manipulation of women are common.
The app has been downloaded over 10,000 times before it stopped registering new members following concerns of fake accounts were being set up, and men using the site without the knowledge of their first wives.
A new version is set to be launched on Oct. 5, and 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.

’THIS IS WHAT GOD PLANNED FOR ME’
Iyus Yusuf Fasyiya, an Indonesian factory worker who has two wives, 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.
The 37-year-old dodged questions about whether he was using the app to look for another wife but said he continues to learn about polygamy, after he took on his second wife six years following his first marriage in 2000.
“It just happened, this is what God planned for me,” said Fasyiya, who takes turns to see his two wives and five children who live in nearby villages.
The majority of the app users were men, but there were also about 4,000 women who have registered, the app developer said.
Lawyer Rachmat Dwi Putranto, who deals with marriage matters, 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.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
But Indriyati Suparno, a commissioner from the government-backed National Commission on Violence Against Women, said the app was trying to “normalize 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.
“For us what is important is whether the women and children are protected in polygamous marriages,” the ministry’s spokesman Hasan, who uses one name, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
User Fasyiya said he will continue to refer to the app to learn how to juggle his two families.
“Me and my wives, we’re committed to showing people that polygamy isn’t as scary as they think,” he said.
“We’re trying to make it work.”


Highway-side eatery in UAE feeds hungry one meal at a time

Updated 19 November 2020

Highway-side eatery in UAE feeds hungry one meal at a time

  • The cooks collect leftover food and repurpose it into free, hot meals for underpaid or out-of-work migrants

SHARJAH: At a highway-side restaurant in the industrial outskirts of Dubai, workers methodically assemble packaged takeout meals of biryani rice, dal and brightly colored chicken curry for people in poverty and desperate to eat.
It’s not a soup kitchen or charity drive, but an ordinary hole-in-the-wall Indian restaurant alongside a busy motorway in Sharjah, one of the seven desert sheikhdoms in the United Arab Emirates.
When other kitchens close for the night, Biryani Spot springs into action. The cooks collect leftover food and repurpose it into free, hot meals for underpaid or out-of-work migrants, largely from Southeast Asia. Those in need filter through the cramped restaurant at 10 p.m. to receive dinner — no questions asked.
“The current situation is you have a lot of jobless people, a lot of people who are struggling here because of their low salary,” restaurant co-founder Mohammed Shujath Ali said. “We don’t want to waste our food, ... we want to give it to people in need.”
As small businesses across the UAE shut down this spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ali and his wife were getting ready to open up theirs. A former mechanical engineer, Ali long dreamed of running his own restaurant, a place where the migrant workers who power the plastic and fabric factories of Sharjah’s dusty Industrial Area 13 could savor familiar Indian, Pakistani and Bengali food at an exceptionally inexpensive price.
Instead of thwarting his plans, the pandemic-induced economic collapse created an opportunity. Tens of thousands of people working in the shadows of Dubai’s economy lost their jobs overnight, as hotels, restaurants and families fired their low-wage service workers in response to the lockdown.
Unable to draw on state support in a country that links their residency status to their jobs, many turned to charity to survive.
Over its two months of existence, Biryani Spot has mobilized to meet the area’s growing need for food aid. The place serves griddled paratha bread and a range of spiced meat and rice dishes for less than five dirhams (around $1.50) during the day, and for nothing late at night.
Those cheap or free meals go a long way in the UAE, a nation of some 9 million people with only about 1 million Emiratis. Southeast Asian laborers, taxi drivers, cleaners, cooks and office workers power businesses across the emirates, home to skyscraper-studded Dubai and oil-rich Abu Dhabi. While many have returned home during the pandemic, others remained, hoping to find work to support loved ones back home.
Taj Al-Islam, a 50-year-old Bangladeshi carwash worker, long has struggled to make ends meet, earning about $270 a month, barely enough to feed his five children back home. He said the free takeout helps him stretch his budget a little longer.
Mohammed Shakeel, a 38-year-old from Pakistan, arrived at night’s end to take the remaining meals back to his mosque about 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) away in Dubai. After 19 years as a service manager at a luxury car dealership, he was fired in March when the virus struck. Now he fruitlessly knocks on company doors in search of work, feeling tired and lightheaded without food.
“In any other country I’d be supported if I lost a job like this, but here there’s no help,” Shakeel said as he piled up the food parcels.
So far, Biryani Spot’s biggest challenge is getting the word out. The sprawling neighborhood doesn’t have much foot traffic. Hidden from the street, the restaurant’s small yellow sign is easily missed among rows of ramshackle shops and abandoned buildings.
Ali promotes the free food through regular posts in Facebook groups for residents. When people don’t turn up, he packs dozens of meals and drives them directly to denser areas, taxi stands or offices where he knows cleaners on their night shifts go hungry.
He described the handouts as a “small contribution” to people in need, something that’s built into his faith as a Muslim.
“We are just a small-scale business, doing our job, like every human does in his own way,” Ali said.