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Jakarta Post

For some husbands, gender equality starts at home

  • Nurul Fitri Ramadhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, November 14, 2018   /   09:11 am
For some husbands, gender equality starts at home Men had become more open to sharing housekeeping responsibilities with their spouses in recent years. (Shutterstock/File)

During his childhood, 27-year-old Halim Aditya Putra was often told by his mother that being skilled at household chores in the “dapur-sumur-kasur” (kitchen-bathroom-bedroom) was the duty of wives, while husbands needed to earn money.

But Halim chose not to follow his mother’s advice when he married Evia. Instead, the couple share housekeeping duties, with Evia, an English teacher, preparing breakfast for the two every morning and Halim cooking dinner every night.

“They [my friends] say that I am a henpecked husband. I don’t agree,” Halim told The Jakarta Post on Monday. “The dapur-sumur-kasur is a not a woman’s thing, but a human’s thing. Therefore, we should share household chores.”

Halim said he had never wanted his wife to leave her job because he saw her determination to achieve in her professional career.

Like Halim, 32-year-old Mustofa Fajri has shared domestic tasks with his wife since they tied the knot five years ago.

“She cooks and I wash up afterward. She feeds our son while I sweep the floor,” said Mustofa who lives in Bekasi, West Java. “I do the housework because I am part of the house.”

Men had become more open to sharing housekeeping responsibilities with their spouses in recent years, said New Men’s Alliance, a group of fathers, husbands and single men that has been campaigning since 2009 to promote the idea that men can do more housework.

On its Instagram account, the alliance has posted several posters depicting, for instance, a couple cleaning the house together. “Doing [the housework] together is more romantic,” read the caption.

Aquino Hayunta of the alliance said that people should not genderize housework and that sharing the tasks with one’s spouse created a better bond among house members and could prevent divorce.

“Divorces mainly happen because of gender stereotyping. For example, husbands blame their wives if their children get poor grades at school, or wives blame their husbands for not earning enough. Those problems will not emerge if they are aware of gender equality,” he said.

The Supreme Court recorded a total of 415,848 divorces in 2017, an increase from 403,070 in 2016. Most divorces were caused by marital discord.

Initiatives to improve the role of fathers in family development have also emerged, such as the group AyahASI, which was started about seven years ago to unite fathers to support their breastfeeding wives.

Some multinational companies have started to provide around two-months paternity leave for male employees.

The government, on the other hand, has no regulation granting paternity leave for male civil servants, but a heavily restricted National Civil Service Agency (BKN) regulation stipulates that men can take leave for “urgent needs”, including to tend to their wives in hospital during and after a baby’s delivery.

Yet, some men continue to oppose the idea of doing housework.

Hafidz, 27, cited a Quranic verse to support his idea that men and women had different duties. “Men are breadwinners. Women take care of the children and serve their husbands. That is what I call equality.”

Hafidz’s wife resigned from her job two years ago and now runs a small hijab store near their house in Depok, West Java.

For Hafidz, his wife can earn money but should not abandon her homemaking responsibilities.

“She should choose between being a fulltime housewife, or juggling her business with the housework and taking care of the children. I know the second option seems difficult, but that’s the consequence. That’s a form of devotion to a husband,” he said.