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The Jakarta Post
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An uphill battle to end discriminatory laws

  • The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Mon, September 17 2012 | 09:34 am

The number of discriminatory bylaws are constantly on the rise despite efforts to repeal them, according to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

“Removing discriminatory policies against women is a slow process. Let’s say we’re currently trying to repeal one bylaw. While we’re doing that, several other new anti-women bylaws spring up. So it’s really an uphill battle,” Komnas Perempuan commissioner Andy Yentriyani said on Friday.

The organization’s research shows that there were 154 bylaws across the country in 2009 that negatively affected the constitutional rights of women, a number which jumped to 189 in 2010 and 207 in 2011.

As of August of 2012, there were 282 of these discriminatory bylaws.

“Of these bylaws, 96 criminalize women through regulations surrounding prostitution and pornography. Another 60 impose dress codes and religious standards. Some 38 restrict a woman’s mobility,” a Komnas Perempuan press release said.

These policies are scattered across hundreds of regencies in 28 provinces. West Java, West Sumatra, South Kalimantan, South Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara and East Java are the six provinces that have the highest tally of sexist regulations.

Aceh is one particular province that is under Komnas Perempuan scrutiny. The area is notorious for its use of sharia law, with 15 gender-discriminatory policies that are enforced through violent and coercive methods.

“They include punching, being bathed with sewage water, public parading, destruction of property, evictions and cases in which couples, regardless of age, were forced into marriage for public displays of affection” Andy said.

Her office recorded 46 of these types of punishments in 2011. Acehnese leaders justify their use of these measures by invoking regional autonomy in their defense.

Komnas Perempuan’s Saur Tumiur Situmorang would have none of that.

“Sharia law is no reason to ignore the 1945 Constitution. Aceh cannot use these reasons to override these basic pillars of Indonesia,” Saur said.

She cited Article 27 as guaranteeing persons equal standing before the law regardless of gender. She also pointed out that articles 28D, 28G, 28I and 28B ensured that women, as citizens, were protected from the harmful effects of the hundreds of discriminatory policies her office listed.

According to Saur, to ensure that it stays true to these constitutional foundations, the government has to repeal these gender-discriminatory policies. She added that these regulations
disproportionately affected women.

“Women in society are seen as symbols of purity and viewed as objects to control,” Saur said. “When women are accused of violating these discriminatory laws, they have to suffer prolonged shame and stigma.”

Some of the effects of these public shamings can be fatal. A recent case involved P.E., a 16-year-old girl in Aceh who sharia police accused of being a prostitute on Sept. 3. Collapsing under the psychological stress of these allegations, she committed suicide three days later. (png)


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