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Title: WOMEN AND HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER ISLAM University of South Carolina

South Carolina
  • IN INDONESIA By Julia Suryakusuma

Lecture 4

The RUU APP origins, rationale aims
  • The Anti-Pornography and Anti-Pornoaction Bill,
    popularly known as the RUU APP, was originally
    proposed in 1999, has gained strongest support
    from orthodox Muslim groups
  • Aim, according to Balkan Kaplale, head of special
    parliamentary committee to formulate the bill to
    prevent moral degradation
  • Din Samsuddin, head of Muhamadiyah (modernist
    Muslim mass organization, 29 million members, 2nd
    largest after Nahdlatul Ulama, traditionalist,
    with 40 million members) the country needs a
    pornography law to "reverse the situation" of an
    increasingly liberal society. We are concerned by
    the moral liberalization that will lead the
    nation to the brink of collapse, unless it is
    stopped as soon as possible.

Problems with RUU APP
  • Ambiguous definition of pornography and
    obscenity, could allow multiple interpretations
    and cause confusion and conflict invites
    arbitrary arrests based on personal or political
  • controversial articles in the law involve
    regulations on public dress and restrictions on
    nudity in the media and art
  • Infringes on personal freedoms, limits freedom of
  • Imperils rights of women
  • Threaten indigenous traditions and culture,
    threatens pluralism
  • Against press freedom
  • Scares tourists away

Effects Reflections
  • Generated a huge controversy with demonstrations
    for and against deepened polarizations within
  • Reflects our social fragmentation, search for
    identity and hypocrisy
  • Reflects persistent debate about the state and
    implementation of Islam. Nothing new, but now
    women are dragged into the argument, and targeted
    in the process
  • Reflects machinations of politics no firm stance
    from government, and politicization of religion
    (nothing new)
  • Reflects weakness and contradictions of legal
  • Wrong end of stick we are an immoral, degenerate
    and hypocritical society, not that pornography,
    never mind the way women dress or behave, cause
    moral degradation

If bill becomes law examples
  • women who bare their shoulders or legs or artists
    who include nudity in their work could be
    prosecuted for indecency and could be jailed or
    fined up to 2 billion rupiah (US217,503)
  • penalties of up to 12 years in prison and fines
    of up to 2 billion rupiah (S350,500) for simple
    acts as kissing in public and baring of legs or
  • Even now artists taken to court for works of art
    recent example of Agus Suwage, depicting a garden
    of Eden scene with live nude models of a well
    known actor and a model Inul dangdut singer
    sensual, girating drill dancing said to be
    pornographic (or porno-action)

Supporters of RUU APP
  • MUI Indonesian Ulama Council
  • ICMI (Association of Muslim Scholars)
  • Some Islamic parties
  • 1. Justice Welfare Party
  • 2.
  • Conservative Muslim groups Front of Islamic
    Defenders, Hisbut Tahrir, etc
  • Proponents of Perda in gthe regions

Protesters of RUU APP
  • From women womens groups
  • Limit womens freedom of expression in public
  • Criminalise womens behaviour define sexual
    expression outside marriage as obscene (no
    kissing in public or PDA)
  • Prohibit exposing sensitive body parts bare
    arms, thighs, breasts, thighs, belly and navel,
    shoulders, legs and hair
  • From arts community (artists, writers, designers,
  • Criminalization of sexuality in the arts,
    literature and media, literature and media
  • Outright prohibition on nudity and ban on
    revealing attire
  • From tourism and entertainment industries
  • Will inhibit tourism and the entertainment sector
    which provides employment for many people

  • From regions
  • Bali nudity in certain contexts is an accepted
    part of the island's art and culture. Balinese
    also worry that tourism could be affected by the
    law -- with holidaymakers forbidden from wearing
    revealing swimming outfits. Balinese protesters
    have threatened to seek independence from
    Indonesia if the bill is passed as is.
  • Papua there are few cultural prohibitions on
    nudity. Men wear penis sheaths, women grass
    skirts and bare breasts
  • Batam tourism plays an important part in the
    island's economy, and the sex industry thrives
    and is mainstay of the economy

Hardline Islam versus the rest of us
  • Others arenas of conflict
  • 1. Polygamy
  • 2. Domestic violence
  • 3. Family values
  • 4. Abortion
  • 5. Gender equality
  • 6. Womens political rights
  • 7. Freedom of expression (in the arts, media)
  • The above are examples of the ongoing tension
    between hardline Islam and the rest of Indonesian
    society which is more tolerant, liberal
    (permissive even!) which can be seen also in the
    world (I.e., tension between conservative and
    liberal, or just normal!)

The bigger picture
  • What is the RUU APP really?
  • 1. An attempt to introduce syariah by stealth
    and reintroduce the Jakarta Charter
  • 2. The Anti-Pornography Bill are the local
    syariah regulations writ large
  • Tightening the ranks on both sides
  • 1. Muslim hardline groups
  • 2. Galvanise other members of Indonesian society
    against Islam hardliners womens groups,
    intellectuals, artists, and ethnic and cultural
    group, and even among more tolerant Islamic
    groups/organisations. Creation of Aliansi
    Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, the Unity in Diversity

State, society, democracy
  • The real battle is among civil society groups,
    state just sitting on the fence (not even
    arbitrating or mediating)
  • Indonesia society really trying to democratise
    rejects authoritarianism, whether from the state
    or extreme, conservative Muslim groups
  • Women targeted, but unwilling to be victims, and
    again become major actors in resisting
    repression from Muslim hardline groups, and of
    claiming their gender and human rights

The Sastrawangi Writers
  • Sastra literature wangi fragrant
  • The women writers, who are they? Young,
    30-something, intelligent, creative and
    imaginative women writers who have spearheaded
    literary development since 1998
  • MTV generation who cross sectors, of class,
    ethnicity and religion do not bear the
    psychological, political and ideological burdens
    of the New Order
  • Explore daring sexual themes (but not just),
    pushing boundaries, questioning, taboo breaking
    even (see Sacred, Mundane, Profane, p. 371 -377)
  • Why literature? Literature reflects life and
    society. In Reform Era increased conservatism,
    but also increased openness reflected in among
    others, literature

Competing Gender Constructions
  • Competing gender constructions, related to
    various ideological and political camps
  • 1. conservative (hardline Muslims and
    traditional conservatives)
  • 2. moderate (mainstream society)
  • 3. liberal (artists, writers, activists,
  • Gender constructions reflected in the variety of
    literatures that exist
  • In Reform Era literature flourishing regional,
    Islamic, community, children, chic-lit, cyber
    literature and more, but spearheaded by young
    women writers

Sastrawangi controversy
  • The sastrawangi writers have grabbed attention
    and generated controversy, even within literary
    circles and other women writers
  • Label controversial and loaded with meaning
  • Some believe it embodies patriarchal values and
    therefore self deprecating, implying the authors
    are secondary and unintellectual, popular because
    of their looks and sensuality
  • Others think they are destroyers of patriarchal
  • Sastrawangi label used to advantage by various
    parties (the publishers, media), and by the women
    authors themselves because its commercially

Women as guardians of morality?
  • The subject matter, writing styles and language
    often employed by the sastrawangi writers is
    sometimes shocking
  • Depart from common view that women are guardians
    of morality and therefore inappropriate for them
    to be writing explicitly about sex
  • Sex considered masculine domain man as subject,
    women as object (to give men pleasure)
  • Sastrawangi works reverses this notion women
    become subjects, and relishing it
  • Construed by women activists and critics as a
    rebellion against hypocrisy and turning the
    prevailing patriarchal construction of womanhood
    on its head
  • Criticism from other women writers excessive and
    self-debasing, indirectly supporting male

Other women writers
  • Linda Christanty author of Kuda Terbang Maria
    Pinto (The Flying Horse of Maria Pinto),
    political novel, set in East Timor. Unique in
    choice of subject matter. Lindas background as
    journalist and activist is related
  • Nukila Amal, Nova Riyanti Yusuf, Hely Tiana Rosa,
    Medy Lukito some of women writers who prefer to
    be just called writer. Still dominated by
    urbanites, with differences based on generation,
    social class, religion and experience
  • Women religious writers usually didactic. Also
    booming but not exposed much by media
  • Others regional, horror mystical, and women
    writers from the 1970s who are still productive

Literature reflects life - but not exactly
  • The expressive space of literature is the realm
    of imagination and creativity, without
    boundaries, unlike mundane real life
  • In theory, literature has a greater democratising
    potential than the political process
  • Human rights and gender equality part-and-parcel
    of democracy, and literature provides greater
    opportunities for its expression than in real
  • Through literature, women can express themselves
    more freely, and have proven to be vanguard of
    recent literary development in Indonesia
  • Detractors many, even among non-Muslim groups,
    but there are no literary police who can put them
    away. The readers (public) vote with their
    wallets, and the sales of the women (sastrawangi)
    writers show clearly they are winning in the race

Reform Era Literature manifests pluralism
  • Indonesian society is pluralist, but gender
    constructions in Indonesia are fragmented
    (reflection of the society), and the Reform
    movement is proceeding at snails pace
  • Literature in Reform Era exhibits a true
    pluralism, the hallmark of democracy
  • Women are resisting having their gender and human
    rights trampled on in all arenas personal,
    political, social, economic, cultural, legal, but
    the resistance of women in the field of
    literature and the arts in general, is clearly
  • Women writers voicing the collective spirit of
    the people our pain, our wounds, our struggle,
    our search
  • Can literature act as vanguard for gender and
    human rights in Indonesia? Not in the short run,
    but acts as a beacon

Conclusion for Lecture 1 - 4
  • Gender (not just women) and human rights under
    Islam in Indonesia is a reflection of the
    political conjuncture the balance of political
    and social forces, and articulated through that
    specific conjuncture
  • In the New Order, the state predominated, and set
    the example of the dispensing and control of
    power, which was centralised, authoritarianism,
    and exercised through coercion and force
  • Patterns of political behaviour (like any other
    kind of behaviour) is learnt. Non-democratic
    behaviour is the only way we know, not just for
    the 32 years of the New Order, but also before

  • State and civil society structures can be
    changed, destroyed created, but mind-sets are
    much harder to change
  • The values and level of civilization of a society
    can be seen by a number of indicators - one of
    them is the status of women and how women are
  • In all political eras/regimes in Indonesia, women
    not accorded their full rights, as guaranteed by
    the Constitution
  • There is also equality for women in Islam, but
    distorted interpretations make it not so (this is
    true for so many other things as well caused by
    misinterpretation of Islam)
  • We create our own reality and history. Empowering
    women (education, political awareness, access to
    resources) will give them the ability to struggle
    for their rights, and by gaining them, create a
    better and more democratic society
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