The Jakarta Post
Our newsroom is delighted when we receive lots of clicks. Ahead of Wednesday’s holiday, the “most viewed” item on our website was a report on a movement called “Indonesia Without Feminists” — and we were not so delighted.
The comments were not surprising, as feminism has had its fill of resistance everywhere. However, its social media campaign with Islamic tones started last month, giving clearer voices and faces of those who think feminism is, at best, annoying nonsense, and at worst, an evil western imposition on a beautiful “eastern” culture, and even constitutes sacrilege to Muslim beliefs.
Such a campaign raises our concern as we believe feminism is for humanity; it is one part of the struggle to improve the well-being of all humans. Yes, it is annoying as the movement to end discrimination against and oppression of women and girls, and also feminine males and masculine females — disrupts relations between spouses, families, communities and entire societies. In diverse corners of the globe, we have seen the preference for women to stay home and take care of the family for free, conveniently relieving the state budget of huge child care costs.
Raised in beliefs honoring the role of the mother, with nagging thoughts of their children’s welfare, many Indonesian women have voluntarily resigned from work, struggling to resume careers if they do, amid little government incentive to pull them back in, regardless of endless lamenting over the persistent loss of some 50 percent of the workforce.
In Indonesia, the feminist discourse since the 1980s has led to accusations that feminism degrades stay-athome women, dismissing the struggle for a more equal division of labor. Abundant cheap female labor toned down feminism here as Indonesian women were considered “blessed” to have much help at home. Witness the lagging bill on domestic workers — even women lawmakers have not shown enthusiasm to bestow formal workers’ rights on their maids.
In today’s controversy over the sexual violence bill, the campaign rejecting it states “My body is not mine, but rather Allah’s” — as if the feminist assertion that women have autonomy over their bodies is against Islam. Of course, such campaigns would not elaborate why it is urgent to fill the legal gap on sexual violence.
In 2017, the Conference of Indonesian Women’s Ulema (KUPI) issued a fatwa that sexual violence within and outside marriage was haram, based on their study of women’s experiences, including that of women clerics and clerics’ wives.
But of course, the noise here is not merely about bashing feminists. It is part of the conservative movement to gain a stronger cultural and political ground, ahead of the 2019 general election and beyond. Street rallies, “constitutional jihad” to pass and reject laws, and intensive social media campaigns, all with no qualms about abusing religious teachings if needs be, are part of the movement. “The shrill religious tones regretfully do not carry the spirit of religion,” KUPI chairperson Umi Badriyah said, while stating women clerics’ support for the sexual violence bill.
In our contribution to the struggle for humanity, The Jakarta Post stands by feminism.