Equality now: Activists from the New Men’s Alliance protest at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. The group strives for women’s rights on the assumption that the patriarchal mentality that supports men’s dominance also harms men. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
On a recent sunny Sunday at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Jakarta, five men in miniskirts displayed posters condemning violence against women.
One of the posters read, “Real Men Don’t Rape”, while another said, “Let’s unite to fight against rape”.
Syaldi Sahude, one of three national coordinators for The New Men’s Alliance (ALLB) said the alliance was created to raise awareness among men about the need to end violence against women.
“We also want men to be more concerned about gender equality, because discrimination leads to violence,” Syaldi said. ALLB was established in response to the increasing violence against women in Indonesia. The Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 4,335 rapes in Indonesia in 2011, of which 2,937 cases happened in public spaces.
Syaldi, who formerly worked for Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal) often met victims of violence, like women who were raped during the May 1998 riots. She said that ALLB came into being on Oct. 8 during a meeting with activists from Women Rights nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), such as Jurnal Perempuan, Pulih Foundation, Cahaya Perempuan Women’s Crisis Center Bengkulu, Rifka Annisa of Yogyakarta, Rumah Perempuan (Women’s Home) Kupang, and Men’s Forum from Aceh. The meeting, facilitated by World Population Foundation Indonesia, decided that ALLB should base its activities in Yogyakarta because its activists were already working closely with Rifka Annisa there.
ALLB sees violence against women as just one of the negative results of a patriarchal system. The alliance believes it causes various kinds of trouble for women and for men too.
“When I was a teenager in Makassar, I bowed to peer pressure and bullied transvestites. I realized that was wrong. So when I moved to Jakarta, I decided to get a closer look at the impact of patriarchy on society by working with women’s organizations. I came to understand, for example, that men should not be afraid to cry; that this would not make them weak,” he said.
Kiki, a female supporter of ALLB, said that she believes that men also want to tell other people about their problems, like women feel free to do. “Most men are reluctant to tell others about their problems, because the patriarchal society expects them to be tough and independent,” she said.
An ALLB supporter, Dylan, said that he never differentiates by gender. “Humans are all equal. I really hate men who violate women. My best friend’s former husband beat her and cracked her back. I dropped out from a band because I found out one of the band members beat his wife,” he said.
Syaldi and the supporters of ALLB believe that there are more men who don’t violate women than ones who do.
Shera, an ALLB supporter and formerly of Jurnal Perempuan, told of how she took the man who raped her to court and saw him go to prison. “The violence traumatized me, and even now, when I remember it, I get really down. So, the nonviolent men, the silent majority, really do need to come forward to help women end the violence,” she said.
Neng Dara Affiah, a commissioner from Komnas Perempuan says, “On behalf of Komnas Perempuan I can say that we support the ALLB, because the eradication of violence against women will never happen if men don’t support that. I hope they can expand their territory to reach more people.”
Wulan Danoekoesoemo, from Lentera Indonesia, a sexual violence survivor circle said, “I’m so happy to know that there are men who also fight for gender equality. It would be good if nonviolent men could do more to protect women from any kind of violence or abuse.”
ALLB takes this mission to heart and cooperates closely to counsel male perpetrators of violence against women with various women’s organizations, including Rifka Annisa and Cahaya Perempuan Bengkulu, which coordinate their activities with law enforcement and correctional institutions.
“We help them mostly by providing capacity sources to counsel perpetrators,” Syaldi said.
“Actually, we have several goals to achieve in gender equality awareness, but this year we are focusing on the campaign to educate more men to end violence against women,” he added.
“We are particularly concerned that the punishment for rape in the criminal code is not harsh enough. Rapists only face 15 years maximum in prison, and most don’t serve that much time, while rape victims suffer for a lifetime,” he said.
The ALLB also has a forum where men can talk about gender equality issues. “If anyone wants to join us, just follow our twitter account @lakilakibaru, like our facebook page, or look for more details on our website http://lakilakibaru.or.id/,” Syaldi said. (ian)