Online Dating App developed in Indonesia for married men who would want upto 4 wives.

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A new Tinder-like dating app for wannabe polygamists is courting controversy in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, where such unions are legal but largely seen as taboo.

The application, which has been downloaded 50,000 times since its release this May, is marketed as an online platform to match male and female users ready to be part of a “big family”.

Ironically, says the app’s creator, 35-year-old Lindu Cipta Pranayama, it was the growing rate of divorce that inspired his creation.

“In Islam, polygamy is permitted,” he says, “But what happens in Indonesia, if the wife isn’t willing to share her husband with another woman is eventually they’ll get divorced.”

With a homepage featuring an illustration of a bearded man in between four women in Islamic headscarves, the site, argues its creator, has been designed to help smooth the process for men seeking more than one wife.

Upon registration to male users have the option of ticking a box claiming they have obtained permission from their first wife to enter a polygamous relationship – although men without that permission can also join.

Under Indonesia’s 1974 marriage law polygamy is conditionally permitted, allowing a man to have up to four wives.

Codified in law but ultimately decided by the religious courts, to marry a second wife a man must obtain written permission from his first wife, and prove that he can financially support his burgeoning family, as well as treat his wives “justly,” among other requirements. 

Given the stringent conditions, in reality most polygamous unions in Indonesia are carried out unofficially, and not always harmoniously.

In late August a second wife in the sharia-ruled province of Aceh fatally stabbed a first wife, who police said had approached her husband to ask him for money. 

People that have downloaded the polygamy dating app are predominately from Indonesia, but also neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore.

Pranayama is targeting his app to lead to 50 marriages this year, but so far the ratio of users – 80 percent male, 20 percent female – isn’t entirely favourable.

Ayopoligami, which is also open to widows, widowers and singles, and is linked to a dating group on the encrypted app Telegram, has received mixed reviews from users.

Women’s rights activists have criticised the new innovation, with one Islamic professor, Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, telling the Guardian that men in Indonesia only use polygamy to “justify their immoral practices”.

Despite the absence of reliable data, Nina Nurmila, author of the 2009 book “Women, Islam, and Everyday Life, Renegotiating Polygamy in Indonesia,” estimates that about five percent of Indonesia’s population is engaged in polygamous unions.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but Indonesia is huge,” she says, of the country’s population of more than 250 million, “Even 2-3 percent is a lot!”

The social stigma around polygamy in Indonesia means that such unions are normally hidden from the public eye. But Nurmila says the practise appears to be making a bit of a comeback, at least online, where she has noticed a wave of conservative blowback.

“In the last five months I have started to regularly receive memes and pictures promoting polygamy,” she says, “These fundamentalist groups are responding to what many feminists have done in the country, trying to counter what we do.”

In the face of mixed reviews, including that his app might be part of a growing tide of fundamentalism, or a technological tool that helps excuse adultery, Pranayama isn’t too fazed. 

It’s not polygamy that is wrong, he argues, but the deception that often surrounds it.

“I want polygamy to be accepted in society but what makes polygamy controversial and frowned upon?” he says, “Because some people get married discreetly, without the first wife knowing.”


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