IBRAHIM ISA'S FOCUS:
On “KARTINI DAY”, 21 APRIL 2010
WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN INDONESIA
April 21, 2010 – Nurfika Osman & Ismira Lutfia
As Indonesia Celebrates Kartini Day, Observers Say Women’s Rights Lacking
If Indonesia were to be graded on its efforts to empower women and uphold their rights, it would score poorly, according to activists and academics.
The country today marks Kartini Day, which celebrates the Indonesian heroine who led the struggle for women’s equality. Indonesia’s efforts to empower women, however, have been hampered by the weak implementation of laws designed to accomplish that goal, and other pieces of legislation that are seen to infringe upon the rights of women.
Ida Rowaida, head of the gender studies department at the University of Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that Indonesia had made progress with the passage of the 2007 Law on Trafficking, the 2004 Law on Domestic Violence and a new law on gender equality, which is currently being drafted. She said the laws should serve as a legal reference to ensure that all government policies are gender sensitive.
“However, we have not seen the translation of these laws in the field,” she said.
Mariana Amiruddin, executive director of Jurnal Perempuan, a women’s rights magazine, said no significant achievements had resulted from these laws, as “many people do not even understand the definition of gender and women’s empowerment.”
There is a severe lack of awareness, Mariana said. In the case of trafficking, for example, “how can people implement the law when they do not understand what trafficking is? Government programs have not reached targets,” she said. “Ask people in villages that have many cases of trafficking. They do not know anything about it.”
The 2008 Anti-Pornography Law, recently upheld by the Constitutional Court, the existence of more than 150 discriminative bylaws that still have not been annulled despite repeated calls and the proposed law on marriage were cited as huge setbacks to women’s rights.
The wife of late former President Abdurrahman Wahid, Sinta Nuriyah, said legislation such as the Anti-Pornography Law “put barriers on women.”
Mariana criticized the government for its failure to annul 154 bylaws nationwide that are considered discriminatory, 64 of which discriminate against a woman’s right to freely express herself and women’s right to gainful employment.
“This is a reality in our society and this shows backwardness,” she said.
Ida said these discriminatory laws “are showing us how the state views women. The concept of gender and equality remains a big question mark. How can we implement a gender-sensitive budget and so on?” she said, referring to the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection’s push for seven ministries to implement a gender-responsive budget system.
Kasmawati, the deputy for public institution empowerment at the ministry, acknowledged that women’s development in Indonesia was still far from satisfactory, based on the United Nations Development Program’s Gender Development Index. In a report released in March, Indonesia ranked 90th out of 156 countries in the index for 2009, down from the 80th position it held in 2007.
“We are still lagging behind and we still have to work hard to catch up because women are still marginalized even though there are laws [on women’s rights],” she said.
To address the issue of discriminatory laws, she said female lawmakers should be empowered by the political parties they represent. “The parties have to fully support them so women’s rights are upheld,” Kasmawati said.
She also applauded the House for having some male lawmakers who had good gender perspectives, but said that “we need more of them.”
Sinta and Ida said the prevailing culture was to blame for many of the problems. “Structural intervention such as in law is important, but cultural intervention such as education is more important,” Ida said. “There are people who see gender as a threat.”
Sinta said that barriers to proper implementation of the gender laws sometimes came from women themselves. “They relish their subordinance [to men].”
Maria Farida Indrati says women must lead the fight for their rights.
Judging by Her Record, Maria Farida is Not Afraid to Stand Out
The no-nonsense, matter-of-fact qualities that impress most who met Maria Farida Indrati belie the warmth and friendliness underneath. Maria, 60, is not your stereotypical Javanese woman.
Not only is she the country’s first woman to sit on the Constitutional Court, she has also distinguished herself with dissenting opinions on three major verdicts — setting aside a number of seats in the legislature for women, the Anti-Pornography Law and on Monday the Blasphemy Law. To mark Kartini Day, Maria shares her views on how far the country’s women have made it with Jakarta Globe reporter Ulma Haryanto.
On gender equality and women empowerment:
I am still optimistic that Indonesian women can achieve progress, but this is largely dependent on the women themselves. I don’t like it if we, as women, want to progress but we always keep asking for things.
We have to show that we can succeed. The problem in Indonesia is education. Boys are still given preference over girls in getting education.
On the prevailing patriarchal culture:
Turning a rule or regulation upside down is easy, but that’s not so with cultural ideas such as not pursuing higher education because it would make it difficult to get a husband.
We have to bring an understanding to women that they have to have something to hold on to, not just their husband. Women should be empowered through education.
On whether there are enough legal means to protect women:
It is not about being sufficient or not, because the Constitution already offers protection to everyone, so there is no discrimination. But in its application it is something different, such as an employment regulation that does not allow someone to marry or have children.
On whether women need to get special rights?
Special rights can be requested but we should not be constantly nagging for it. For example, special health rights for pregnancy is okay, but don’t overdo it.
On the Marriage Law :
We should be careful on things that involve family, such as inheritance and marriage, because a law has to be applicable nationally. If we look at the Marriage Law, we have to look at religion, morality and custom, and these conditions can be very different in each case.
On her seat at the court:
I have personal conflicts in my job because I used to be a consultant for lawmakers and now I have the power to review the law. Now I am still giving advice, not directly but through my writings. I do not want to have any conflict of interest when a law involving by input has to undergo a judicial review at the Constitutional Court.
On her dissenting opinions:
We agree to disagree. At the Constitutional Court I can dissent or disagree with the others, and they will accept it. Nobody will try to persuade me.
On being the sole woman on the Constitutional Court:
Being a woman does not mean I am treated differently by the other judges. We have a great mix in the team, different cultural backgrounds and different experience and expertise.
On the reason for keeping her teaching job at the law faculty at University of Indonesia:
It’s a way to challenge myself .... If I don’t teach it would be tempting for me not read or not learn anything new.
On how she came to become a Constitutional Court judge:
Eight female rights organizations urged me to become a judge but I rejected their request because I like teaching. But then the president himself asked me. I thought it would be arrogant to deny his request.
Indonesian Women’s Efforts to Protect Planet Overlooked
Saving the environment, as they say, starts in the home, and for some women even a small contribution can make a difference.
Ima, a 41-year-old working mother, for instance, has always taught her young children not to leave the faucet running or lights on around the house.
“Most of the time, I am very, very strict with my kids about saving water and saving electricity — not only to control expenses, but I want them to be grateful and appreciate what they have and others don’t,” she said.
“This is also my way of introducing lessons about nature and the environment to my kids, because you can’t really expect them to grasp the idea of saving the environment through sophisticated scientific jargon.”
Simple things, Ima said, not only contributed to present conservation efforts but also to ensuring the planet’s preservation for future generations.
“I believe that what we’re trying to do in our homes will eventually have an effect on saving the earth, no matter how little our actions are,” she said.
This week, as the country marks Earth Day today and Kartini Day on Wednesday, in honor of Indonesia’s first women’s rights advocate, environmental activists have been highlighting the crucial role women play in protecting Mother Earth.
Rotua Valentina Sagala, a campaigner for both women’s rights and the environment, said women were often undervalued when it came to environmental issues.
“Women’s role in protecting the environment is very significant, for the fact that, in Indonesia, lots of women are still living in rural areas where they are more in touch with nature. They usually also have more enthusiasm for environment-related issues, such as reforestation,” she said.
Women in rural areas, said Valentina, who is the founder of the Women’s Institute Foundation, were rich in local wisdom that placed women in the nurturing role of keeping the balance between human beings and nature.
“One of women’s special abilities is to detect early problems. Women have more sense for prevention rather than cure,” she said. “ But this has never been noticed by the government, even on an international level.”
Puspa Dewi, from the Women’s Solidarity organization, said women’s environmental roles had been marginalized in society, particularly in rural areas.
“Women-specific roles have been disappearing with advances in technology, especially for rural women, where one of their specific tasks was to sort and choose seeds,” she said.
“Their job was replaced by tools that are mostly operated by men, such as tractors.”
Puspa said the government’s preoccupation with quantified data meant that it had failed to address the growing gender inequality in society.
“For instance, the government only looks at how much land or agriculture has been changed into sites for mining, causing women to lose their jobs or, additionally, maybe leaving them to face abuse from their husbands because they are stressed from losing their jobs as farmers,” she said.
“This is not to mention health issues because of these changes. These are the indicators and results of environmental destruction, but this is never taken into account,” she added, saying that many women still faced difficulties speaking up on these issues.
Puspa said gender sensitivity was needed at the policy-making level. “It means that all of our policies should also need to measure how it impacts on women’s roles and their livelihood sources,” she said.
“We are not talking about having a 50-50 share on places in government anymore.”
Meanwhile, Valentina criticized the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection for failing to promote women’s interests in environmental issues.
“There was a movement by Ani Yudhoyono to plant one million trees, but unfortunately it just turned out to be a ceremonial activity,” she said, referring to the first lady. “Women’s issues, instead, should have been integrated into strategic environmental planning, starting from the planning stage to implementation, until evaluation. Women should even be involved in discussions at the international level.
“Through gender mainstreaming in this process, we will only then know where women stand in these areas.”
Valentina said the government should be more proactive in recruiting women to help solve lingering development problems, including environmental issues.
“On the domestic front, there was a presidential instruction in 2000 to promote gender mainstreaming in national development, which should be used to reinforce women’s involvement in environmental issues,” she said.
But she added that women’s roles should not be differentiated between domestic and global interests. “What those women do in their homes, starting with saving electricity or water, is actually to save this planet. There’s a strong connection between so-called domestic chores and global interests,” she said.
“But again, leaders and politicians fail to acknowledge these simple actions on climate change that are mostly done by women, while they continue to pronounce loudly that saving the earth should start in the home.”
Saskia Eleonora Wieringa:
Debunking myths on Indonesian women’s movements
The Jakarta Post | Wed, 04/21/2010 3:59 PM | People
Little Saskia Eleonora Wieringa felt tortured every time her parents asked her to dress up like a girl.
“I’ve always been a bit of a tomboy,” recalled the 60-year-old professor from the University of Amsterdam. “My parents were angry at me. They wanted me to dress up like a girl.”
So, Wieringa’s rejection of gender stereotypes started at an early age.
“The culture in the Netherlands was so patriarchal back then. It was torturing me,” she confessed. “Women were taught to be housewives. I couldn’t agree with that. I didn’t want to be a housewife.
“I wanted equality; I wanted freedom,” she added.
Wieringa then found her freedom during her university years in the mid 1970s, when she occupied herself with women issues. At that time, she founded several women’s organizations and published journals highlighting women issues.
Her interest in women issues led her to visit Indonesia in 1977. At the time, her goal was only to complete her academic research on women batik workers in Surakarta, Central Java. The supposedly short-visit, however, became a lifetime attachment for her, as Wieringa spent years doing research on the outlawed Gerwani (the Indonesian Women’s Movement).
“At first, when I started my research on the women batik workers, I found out these workers lived in very poor conditions,” Wieringa said during her recent visit to Jakarta for the Festival April event. “At that time, I thought I should share this problem with local women groups.
“I met with women groups like Dharma Wanita, Dharma Pertiwi and PKK [Family Empowerment and Welfare Movement], but I was very surprised to learn that these groups only carried out activities like cooking and costume shows – things that looked silly to me.”
Wieringa had her own reason to feel surprised. Back in the Netherlands, she said, she had heard about a very influential wo-men’s movement from Indonesia, called Gerwani. Gerwani members, she said, were known to be smart and prominent in defending women’s and workers’ rights at many international forums.
“So, at that time, I was wondering, what has happened to Gerwani? Where are its members?” she said. “I asked many locals about Gerwani, and their responses were: ‘Ooow, yes we know Gerwani – they were all prostitutes.’”
The responses surprised Wieringa, because she had heard that Gerwani was a socialist movement, and that socialism was against prostitution. In addition to that, she understood that Gerwani was totally against polygamy, making her believe that the rumor that Gerwani’s members were involved in sex parties must be nothing but slander.
“I sensed something wrong was going on and that was how I started to find more information on Gerwani for my research,” said Wieringa of the movement banned by former president Soeharto following the alleged 1965 coup attempt by the subsequently outlawed Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). In the tragic events that followed, six military generals and an officer was killed, and Gerwani – said to be an affiliate of the PKI – was deemed responsible for torturing them to death.
But the more Wieringa studied Gerwani and the accusations made against it, the more she had questions dancing in her mind.
“There’s no way girls aged 13 to15 would mutilate the private parts of those 60-year-old something generals,” she said. “It’s illogical. Where would those very young girls get such an idea from?”
Such thoughts led her to dig deeper into countless documents to satisfy her curiosity. Luckily for Wieringa, she found a very important document, containing autopsy reports on the generals. The reports, part of scholar Benedict Anderson’s papers, clearly stated that there was no trace of razors and penknives on the generals’ bodies, and that their genitals were intact.
“So, those stories about Gerwani were all fabricated by Soeharto. Those women never tortured the generals and didn’t cut off their genitals,” Wieringa lamented.
Forensic evidence also confirmed Wieringa’s previous interviews with some Gerwani members she met in the early 1980s. Under the highly traumatic conditions following their arrest by Soeharto’s people, these women maintained that they were not involved in the massacre.
“At that time, I found many of them were in a traumatic state after surviving Soeharto’s cruelty,” said Wieringa, who co-founded the Kartini Asia Network. Following Soeharto’s banning of Gerwani, she went on, thousands of its members were murdered, while many others were held in prison – tortured and sexually abused.
“It was difficult to talk to Gerwani members at that time,” said Wieringa, who was once banned by Soeharto from entering Indonesia. “There were military officers who were always keeping their eyes on them.
“I secretly and carefully carried out my research because we [my sources and I] were in danger,” she added.
Being trapped in such a dangerous situation also forced her to halt her research. It took years before she could return to Indonesia to continue and crosscheck her research in 1995.At that time, although she managed to complete the research for her dissertation under the title The Aborted Women’s Movement in Indonesia, she needed to hide many identities of her sources for safety reasons.
However, the research, which was later published in the form of a book, has been regarded as the most influential work on the Indonesian women’s movement and inspired many Indonesian feminists and right activists.
Now, 30 years after she first deconstructed the myths about Gerwani, Wieringa took the chance to launch the revised version of her book, entitled Penghancuran Gerakan Perempuan: Politik Seksual di Indonesia Pasca Kejatuhan PKI (The Destruction of the Women’s Movement: Sexual Politics in Indonesia after the Downfall of the Indonesian Communist Party).
“It took me a long time to publish this [revised version of my] book because my research was considered dangerous and I was blacklisted [by Soeharto],” she said. “I had to hide many facts in the previous version, but here [in the revised one], I revealed everything.”
Although she finally had the chance to share her research with the Indonesian public, who has lived with Soeharto’s lies about Gerwani for years, Wieringa said she wouldn’t stop working on women issues in the country.
“I’ve become so attached to Indonesia and these Gerwani women,” Wieringa said, referring to a number of older women, who attended her book launching that day. “I just couldn’t come taking facts from them and [then simply] say good bye. I don’t want to leave them.”
That was why, Wieringa went on, she was planning to spend the rest of her life in Indonesia.
“My plan is to move to Indonesia after retiring from teaching at the University of Amsterdam,” she smiled. “I’m also a mualaf [a convert to Islam] now. So I feel that Indonesia would be a perfect place for me to spend the rest of my life.”
* * *