I love women, but some of them occasionally confuse me. Yesterday this truth confronted me once more when I read that Indonesian women oppose an imminent gender equality bill.
Till yesterday I thought everybody in his right mind would agree it’s about time to do something about women’s emancipation. Recently a trustworthy organization for women’s rights reported Indonesia has the worst conditions for women of all G20 countries apart from India and Saudi Arabia. The criteria used in this specific research project involved work place opportunities, access to resources, participation in politics, quality of health, freedom from violence and freedom of trafficking and slavery. The report indicates Indonesian women on average are second rate citizens in the archipelago. It summarizes it’s findings as violence, child marriage, sexual trafficking, harassment and exploitation make Indonesia dangerous for women while health services are poor. Frightening and familiar. And that also goes for TrustLaw’s conclusions that 90% of the women claim to have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, that one women dies every hour in childbirth and that women’s share of earned income is only 38%.
The position of women in Indonesia is not up to the country’s status in the world.
Indonesia is one of the G20 countries. A great and growing economy. One that boasts to be a modern society taking it’s responsibilities. And actually it every now and then shows it’s good intentions (which according to some proverb may pave the way to hell unfortunately). The initiative in the House of Representatives to guarantee gender equality looks like such an example of good will. I guess. Taking the worrying background into account, it would stand to reason if all organizations claiming to act on behalf of the interests and rights of women, would support and applaud the plans in the House of Representatives.
There always have been opposing forces whenever and wherever the process of women’s emancipation, women’s empowerment and gender equality makes progress. No surprise here. Of course Islamists are upset as they by definition define the relation between men and women by over millennium old concepts. And conservative forces of male domination always try to slow down or stop any change of the status quo. In their perception the burden of household, looking after children and tending sick family members are natural female tasks. Some of them even consider women as weaker, inferior to men and therefore fear that granting women free choices only men traditionally had, will cause irresponsible and immoral behaviour. It will disrupt traditional stable family life and cause significantly higher rates of divorce.
Now actually the bill deserves a critical approach. It may make sense when Luluk Hamidah (Fatayat) says the bill still lacks substantial empowerment and protection of women.
However what stuns me is that apparently women themselves object to the bill using typical reactionary male arguments. The promised right of “free” choice of a partner in article 12 of the draft, causes a lot of nervousness. Dewi Motik (Kowani) shudders at the possible prospect of women choosing another woman as partner. And the possibility women may prefer career over household scares Euis Sunarti (MIUMI). She is afraid women will neglect their domestic duties if they become active citizens. She also warns that better educated women will grow independent and feel much more comfortable to opt for divorce.
What are they doing? To me it seems to be a very, very peculiar way to further the interests of women. With friends like that you need no foes.
Dewi and Euis are a mystery to me.