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Jakarta Post

Resilient busybodies

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, February 22, 2020   /   09:12 am
Resilient busybodies Such content may easily draw support from conservative groups that often express the conviction that putting women “in their place” is key to family and national stability. (Shutterstock/File)

The state has long seen it fit to meddle in our private lives. The 1974 Marriage Law ruled that “the husband is the head of the household and the wife is a housewife”.

It also states that the husband must as best as possible provide all the family needs, while “the wife is obliged to manage household affairs as best as possible”. After 45 years, this law remains effective, with the only change coming near the end of 2019 when the legal age for marriage was increased to 19 for both genders, from 16 for females.

The landmark decision followed a long struggle to curb child marriage, while other points of contention remain in the 1974 law, such as legal reasons for polygamy among Muslim men and the aforementioned divisions of household duties between husband and wife. The draft “family resilience” bill echoes parts of the Marriage Law and seeks to allow the state to have greater authority in conjugal affairs.

In the past few years, discussions on a family resilience law have seen support from government institutions dealing with families, notably the Social Affairs Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Board.

However, the board under its new head has warned against excessive state intrusion into private lives. The state should focus on creating “quality families”, Hasto Wardoyo was quoted as saying; thus, the 2009 law on population and family development emphasizes the government’s provision of information and services for families’ wellbeing.

A Social Affairs Ministry official said previously that a family resilience law was urgently needed to prevent family crises, of which children suffer the most.

Yet, despite the good intentions, the bill’s many contentious clauses led to a new online petition on change.org to kill it — an objective that we support. Apart from calling for the reinforcement of rigid divisions between a wife and her husband, which do not represent Indonesia’s widespread reality of households, unimaginable stipulations of the draft bill include a special government body to deal with “family crises due to sexual deviation” such as “homosexuality”.

Such content may easily draw support from conservative groups that often express the conviction that putting women “in their place” is key to family and national stability. Parents who have voiced deep fears of the imagined, deliberate “spread of homosexuality” would also wholeheartedly agree with the bill.

A lawmaker of the Golkar Party was among endorsers of the draft bill, which the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) backs. However, following howls against this, Golkar politicians denounced the member’s endorsement, saying it was her “personal” view.

Too much time has been wasted on vague, contentious bills. The House of Representatives must immediately pass the bill on sexual violence into law, which now risks being sidelined further. Such a law would help prevent and protect victims of all forms of sexual crimes.

Politicians seeking further progress in their populist “constitutional jihad” may win or lose in the latest squabble over what’s best for citizens. We have chosen to join arms with citizens who do not wish to resort to settling all troubles under a nanny state that monopolizes definitions of “deviance”, as in the past.