Love, Sex and the Spaces In-Between: Kepri Wives and their Cross-Border Husbands

04 January 2017

In the Riau Islands of Indonesia significant numbers of women have entered into marriages with men from the nearby countries of Singapore and Malaysia. In many cases, neither spouse migrates after marriage: instead, husband and wife continue to reside in their country of origin. Their close geographical proximity means that the couples can see each other regularly while at the same time taking advantage of the economic opportunities presented by living on different sides of the border. These cross-border marriages challenge the normative model of the nuclear cohabiting couple/family. Our research into the motivations and desires of these cross-border couples living in the Riau borderlands reveals that space and mobility mediate their interactions with the Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian states, thus producing localized accounts of citizenship in which class mobility (rather than physical mobility) becomes the dominant frame through which they view state regulation of marriage and migration. This research challenges the state-centric tendencies in some of the scholarly literature on international and transnational marriage which places overwhelming emphasis on the ability of states to regulate access to citizenship rights. In presenting a view of inconsistent and sometimes incoherent states, we highlight the significant differences between perceptions of state influence and actual state practices in relation to the regulation of international marriages.