The Jakarta Post
Women's groups requested on Wednesday that the House of Representatives refrain from implementing a total ban on alcoholic drinks, arguing that such a ban would go against the pluralistic nature of Indonesia.
Despite strong resistance from industry, legislators are moving forward with the deliberation of a bill that would control the production, distribution and consumption of alcohol.
During a hearing with the House's special committee for deliberation on the bill, several women's organizations recommended that the aim of the bill should be 'to control' alcohol, instead of 'prohibiting' it.
'The word 'prohibition' seems to disregard the country's pluralism. We're not a Muslim country and have to consider human rights,' said Margaret Aliyatul Maimunah, the secretary general for Fatayat NU, the female wing of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
She said, however, that the bill should be passed immediately to impede the negative impact of alcohol on health and society.
The bill, sponsored by the United Development Party (PPP) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), political organizations that are Islamist in their orientation, has become one of priority bills under this year's National Legislation Programs (Prolegnas).
Nationalist parties like the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the Golkar Party and the Democratic Party, have not shown resistance to the bill.
The political deliberation process on the bill has horrified the alcohol industry as it may essentially cripple their industry and livelihood.
The Indonesian Alcoholic Beverage Entrepreneurs Association (APBMI) previously said that it supported a comprehensive law to control the production, importation, distribution and consumption of alcohol drinks, but demanded protection for the right of consumers, including tourists, to enjoy alcohol in a responsible manner.
Chamsiar from the Indonesian Women's Congress (Kowani) demanded that the bill's academic transcript stipulate a clear, specific, and medical explanation about the impact of alcohol, because many consumers believed that the bill was designed solely in the interests of Muslims.
'We want to control the consumption of alcohol due to its dangerous impact on our health, but the academic transcript says nothing about the impact of alcohol from a medical or scientific basis,' Chamsiar said.
If there was a medical explanation, she said, all parties, no matter for what their religion, might consider supporting the bill.
Susanto, a commissioner from the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), wanted the bill to stipulate how to create a society for children free from alcohol.
He also wanted that the bill to prohibit any advertisement promoting alcohol as it could set a bad example for children.
Committee chairman Arwani Thomafi of the PPP said that the committee would consider these recommendations and finish the deliberation by the middle of the year.
'We will discuss these things more deeply and may invite medical experts to answer our questions,' Arwani said.
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