Polygamy remains common in many Muslim countries, based on Islamic teachings that allow men to take up to four wives.
In Indonesia, men are allowed to marry a second wife only after the first gives her blessing. Since most women refuse to agree to share their husbands, unregistered ceremonies, or ‘‘nikah siri,’’ are often secretly carried out by an Islamic cleric outside the law.
Some of the marriages are simply a cover for prostitution. A cleric is paid to conduct ‘‘contract marriages’’ as short as one night in some parts of Indonesia, usually for Middle Eastern tourists.
Practices differ slightly elsewhere, with men in places such as Malaysia sometimes marrying outside the country to avoid informing existing spouses and seeking permission from an Islamic court. Ceremonies in Iraq are often held in secret for the same reason. No approval is needed in the Palestinian territories, but contract marriages are banned.
Without a marriage certificate, wives lack legal rights. Children from the marriage are often considered illegitimate and are typically not issued birth certificates, creating a lifetime of obstacles ranging from attending schools to getting a passport.
However, in another sign of Indonesia’s changing attitudes, the Supreme Court this month ordered all judges to obey an earlier Constitutional Court ruling granting rights such as inheritance to children born out of wedlock, and to punish fathers who neglect them.
The women’s commission on violence is now pushing for a revision of Indonesia’s 1974 marriage law to grant more protections to women and children.
‘‘I hope Indonesian women can take a lesson from Fikri’s case,’’ said Ninik Rahayu of the commission. ‘‘At least it has awakened their awareness to not marry in an illegal way.’’
Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad, Iraq and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, also contributed to this story.