*On "KARTINI DAY", 21 APRIL 2010*



April 21, 2010 -- Nurfika Osman & Ismira Lutfia

*As Indonesia Celebrates Kartini Day, Observers Say Women's Rights Lacking*

If Indonesia were to be graded on its efforts to empower women and 
uphold their rights, it would score poorly, according to activists and 
The country today marks Kartini Day, which celebrates the Indonesian 
heroine who led the struggle for women's equality. Indonesia's efforts 
to empower women, however, have been hampered by the weak implementation 
of laws designed to accomplish that goal, and other pieces of 
legislation that are seen to infringe upon the rights of women.

Ida Rowaida, head of the gender studies department at the University of 
Indonesia, told the Jakarta Globe that Indonesia had made progress with 
the passage of the 2007 Law on Trafficking, the 2004 Law on Domestic 
Violence and a new law on gender equality, which is currently being 
drafted. She said the laws should serve as a legal reference to ensure 
that all government policies are gender sensitive.
"However, we have not seen the translation of these laws in the field," 
she said.

Mariana Amiruddin, executive director of Jurnal Perempuan, a women's 
rights magazine, said no significant achievements had resulted from 
these laws, as "many people do not even understand the definition of 
gender and women's empowerment."
There is a severe lack of awareness, Mariana said. In the case of 
trafficking, for example, "how can people implement the law when they do 
not understand what trafficking is? Government programs have not reached 
targets," she said. "Ask people in villages that have many cases of 
trafficking. They do not know anything about it."
The 2008 Anti-Pornography Law, recently upheld by the Constitutional 
Court, the existence of more than 150 discriminative bylaws that still 
have not been annulled despite repeated calls and the proposed law on 
marriage were cited as huge setbacks to women's rights.

The wife of late former President Abdurrahman Wahid, Sinta Nuriyah, said 
legislation such as the Anti-Pornography Law "put barriers on women."

Mariana criticized the government for its failure to annul 154 bylaws 
nationwide that are considered discriminatory, 64 of which discriminate 
against a woman's right to freely express herself and women's right to 
gainful employment.

"This is a reality in our society and this shows backwardness," she said.

Ida said these discriminatory laws "are showing us how the state views 
women. The concept of gender and equality remains a big question mark. 
How can we implement a gender-sensitive budget and so on?" she said, 
referring to the State Ministry for Women's Empowerment and Child 
Protection's push for seven ministries to implement a gender-responsive 
budget system.

Kasmawati, the deputy for public institution empowerment at the 
ministry, acknowledged that women's development in Indonesia was still 
far from satisfactory, based on the United Nations Development Program's 
Gender Development Index. In a report released in March, Indonesia 
ranked 90th out of 156 countries in the index for 2009, down from the 
80th position it held in 2007.

"We are still lagging behind and we still have to work hard to catch up 
because women are still marginalized even though there are laws [on 
women's rights]," she said.
To address the issue of discriminatory laws, she said female lawmakers 
should be empowered by the political parties they represent. "The 
parties have to fully support them so women's rights are upheld," 
Kasmawati said.

She also applauded the House for having some male lawmakers who had good 
gender perspectives, but said that "we need more of them."

Sinta and Ida said the prevailing culture was to blame for many of the 
problems. "Structural intervention such as in law is important, but 
cultural intervention such as education is more important," Ida said. 
"There are people who see gender as a threat."
Sinta said that barriers to proper implementation of the gender laws 
sometimes came from women themselves. "They relish their subordinance 
[to men]."

Maria Farida Indrati says women must lead the fight for their rights.


      Judging by Her Record, Maria Farida is Not Afraid to Stand Out

The no-nonsense, matter-of-fact qualities that impress most who met 
Maria Farida Indrati belie the warmth and friendliness underneath. 
Maria, 60, is not your stereotypical Javanese woman.

Not only is she the country's first woman to sit on the Constitutional 
Court, she has also distinguished herself with dissenting opinions on 
three major verdicts ­--- setting aside a number of seats in the 
legislature for women, the Anti-Pornography Law and on Monday the 
Blasphemy Law. To mark Kartini Day, Maria shares her views on how far 
the country's women have made it with Jakarta Globe reporter Ulma Haryanto.

On gender equality and women empowerment:
I am still optimistic that Indonesian women can achieve progress, but 
this is largely dependent on the women themselves. I don't like it if 
we, as women, want to progress but we always keep asking for things.

We have to show that we can succeed. The problem in Indonesia is 
education. Boys are still given preference over girls in getting education.

On the prevailing patriarchal culture:
Turning a rule or regulation upside down is easy, but that's not so with 
cultural ideas such as not pursuing higher education because it would 
make it difficult to get a husband.
We have to bring an understanding to women that they have to have 
something to hold on to, not just their husband. Women should be 
empowered through education.

On whether there are enough legal means to protect women:

It is not about being sufficient or not, because the Constitution 
already offers protection to everyone, so there is no discrimination. 
But in its application it is something different, such as an employment 
regulation that does not allow someone to marry or have children.
On whether women need to get special rights?
Special rights can be requested but we should not be constantly nagging 
for it. For example, special health rights for pregnancy is okay, but 
don't overdo it.

On the Marriage Law :

We should be careful on things that involve family, such as inheritance 
and marriage, because a law has to be applicable nationally. If we look 
at the Marriage Law, we have to look at religion, morality and custom, 
and these conditions can be very different in each case.

*On her seat at the court: *

I have personal conflicts in my job because I used to be a consultant 
for lawmakers and now I have the power to review the law. Now I am still 
giving advice, not directly but through my writings. I do not want to 
have any conflict of interest when a law involving by input has to 
undergo a judicial review at the Constitutional Court.

*On her dissenting opinions: *

We agree to disagree. At the Constitutional Court I can dissent or 
disagree with the others, and they will accept it. Nobody will try to 
persuade me.
On being the sole woman on the Constitutional Court:
Being a woman does not mean I am treated differently by the other 
judges. We have a great mix in the team, different cultural backgrounds 
and different experience and expertise.

On the reason for keeping her teaching job at the law faculty at 
University of Indonesia:
It's a way to challenge myself .... If I don't teach it would be 
tempting for me not read or not learn anything new.

*On how she came to become a Constitutional Court judge: *
Eight female rights organizations urged me to become a judge but I 
rejected their request because I like teaching. But then the president 
himself asked me. I thought it would be arrogant to deny his request.


      Indonesian Women's Efforts to Protect Planet Overlooked

Saving the environment, as they say, starts in the home, and for some 
women even a small contribution can make a difference.
Ima, a 41-year-old working mother, for instance, has always taught her 
young children not to leave the faucet running or lights on around the 
"Most of the time, I am very, very strict with my kids about saving 
water and saving electricity --- not only to control expenses, but I 
want them to be grateful and appreciate what they have and others 
don't," she said.

"This is also my way of introducing lessons about nature and the 
environment to my kids, because you can't really expect them to grasp 
the idea of saving the environment through sophisticated scientific 
Simple things, Ima said, not only contributed to present conservation 
efforts but also to ensuring the planet's preservation for future 
"I believe that what we're trying to do in our homes will eventually 
have an effect on saving the earth, no matter how little our actions 
are," she said.

This week, as the country marks Earth Day today and Kartini Day on 
Wednesday, in honor of Indonesia's first women's rights advocate, 
environmental activists have been highlighting the crucial role women 
play in protecting Mother Earth.
Rotua Valentina Sagala, a campaigner for both women's rights and the 
environment, said women were often undervalued when it came to 
environmental issues.

"Women's role in protecting the environment is very significant, for the 
fact that, in Indonesia, lots of women are still living in rural areas 
where they are more in touch with nature. They usually also have more 
enthusiasm for environment-related issues, such as reforestation," she 
Women in rural areas, said Valentina, who is the founder of the Women's 
Institute Foundation, were rich in local wisdom that placed women in the 
nurturing role of keeping the balance between human beings and nature.

"One of women's special abilities is to detect early problems. Women 
have more sense for prevention rather than cure," she said. " But this 
has never been noticed by the government, even on an international level."
Puspa Dewi, from the Women's Solidarity organization, said women's 
environmental roles had been marginalized in society, particularly in 
rural areas.

"Women-specific roles have been disappearing with advances in 
technology, especially for rural women, where one of their specific 
tasks was to sort and choose seeds," she said.
"Their job was replaced by tools that are mostly operated by men, such 
as tractors."
Puspa said the government's preoccupation with quantified data meant 
that it had failed to address the growing gender inequality in society.

"For instance, the government only looks at how much land or agriculture 
has been changed into sites for mining, causing women to lose their jobs 
or, additionally, maybe leaving them to face abuse from their husbands 
because they are stressed from losing their jobs as farmers," she said.

"This is not to mention health issues because of these changes. These 
are the indicators and results of environmental destruction, but this is 
never taken into account," she added, saying that many women still faced 
difficulties speaking up on these issues.
Puspa said gender sensitivity was needed at the policy-making level. "It 
means that all of our policies should also need to measure how it 
impacts on women's roles and their livelihood sources," she said.
"We are not talking about having a 50-50 share on places in government 

Meanwhile, Valentina criticized the State Ministry for Women's 
Empowerment and Child Protection for failing to promote women's 
interests in environmental issues.
"There was a movement by Ani Yudhoyono to plant one million trees, but 
unfortunately it just turned out to be a ceremonial activity," she said, 
referring to the first lady. "Women's issues, instead, should have been 
integrated into strategic environmental planning, starting from the 
planning stage to implementation, until evaluation. Women should even be 
involved in discussions at the international level.

"Through gender mainstreaming in this process, we will only then know 
where women stand in these areas."
Valentina said the government should be more proactive in recruiting 
women to help solve lingering development problems, including 
environmental issues.
"On the domestic front, there was a presidential instruction in 2000 to 
promote gender mainstreaming in national development, which should be 
used to reinforce women's involvement in environmental issues," she said.
But she added that women's roles should not be differentiated between 
domestic and global interests. "What those women do in their homes, 
starting with saving electricity or water, is actually to save this 
planet. There's a strong connection between so-called domestic chores 
and global interests," she said.

"But again, leaders and politicians fail to acknowledge these simple 
actions on climate change that are mostly done by women, while they 
continue to pronounce loudly that saving the earth should start in the 

Saskia Eleonora Wieringa: *

*Debunking myths on Indonesian women's movements*

The Jakarta Post   |  Wed, 04/21/2010 3:59 PM  |  People

Dian Kuswandini

Little Saskia Eleonora Wieringa felt tortured every time her parents 
asked her to dress up like a girl.

"I've always been a bit of a tomboy," recalled the 60-year-old professor 
from the University of Amsterdam. "My parents were angry at me. They 
wanted me to dress up like a girl."

So, Wieringa's rejection of gender stereotypes started at an early age.

"The culture in the Netherlands was so patriarchal back then. It was 
torturing me," she confessed. "Women were taught to be housewives. I 
couldn't agree with that. I didn't want to be a housewife.

"I wanted equality; I wanted freedom," she added.

Wieringa then found her freedom during her university years in the mid 
1970s, when she occupied herself with women issues. At that time, she 
founded several women's organizations and published journals 
highlighting women issues.

Her interest in women issues led her to visit Indonesia in 1977. At the 
time, her goal was only to complete her academic research on women batik 
workers in Surakarta, Central Java. The supposedly short-visit, however, 
became a lifetime attachment for her, as Wieringa spent years doing 
research on the outlawed Gerwani (the Indonesian Women's Movement).

"At first, when I started my research on the women batik workers, I 
found out these workers lived in very poor conditions," Wieringa said 
during her recent visit to Jakarta for the Festival April event. "At 
that time, I thought I should share this problem with local women groups.

"I met with women groups like Dharma Wanita, Dharma Pertiwi and PKK 
[Family Empowerment and Welfare Movement], but I was very surprised to 
learn that these groups only carried out activities like cooking and 
costume shows -- things that looked silly to me."

Wieringa had her own reason to feel surprised. Back in the Netherlands, 
she said, she had heard about a very influential wo-men's movement from 
Indonesia, called Gerwani. Gerwani members, she said, were known to be 
smart and prominent in defending women's and workers' rights at many 
international forums.

"So, at that time, I was wondering, what has happened to Gerwani? Where 
are its members?" she said. "I asked many locals about Gerwani, and 
their responses were: 'Ooow, yes we know Gerwani -- they were all 

The responses surprised Wieringa, because she had heard that Gerwani was 
a socialist movement, and that socialism was against prostitution. In 
addition to that, she understood that Gerwani was totally against 
polygamy, making her believe that the rumor that Gerwani's members were 
involved in sex parties must be nothing but slander.

"I sensed something wrong was going on and that was how I started to 
find more information on Gerwani for my research," said Wieringa of the 
movement banned by former president Soeharto following the alleged 1965 
coup attempt by the subsequently outlawed Indonesian Communist Party 
(PKI). In the tragic events that followed, six military generals and an 
officer was killed, and Gerwani -- said to be an affiliate of the PKI -- 
was deemed responsible for torturing them to death.

But the more Wieringa studied Gerwani and the accusations made against 
it, the more she had questions dancing in her mind.

"There's no way girls aged 13 to15 would mutilate the private parts of 
those 60-year-old something generals," she said. "It's illogical. Where 
would those very young girls get such an idea from?"

Such thoughts led her to dig deeper into countless documents to satisfy 
her curiosity. Luckily for Wieringa, she found a very important 
document, containing autopsy reports on the generals. The reports, part 
of scholar Benedict Anderson's papers, clearly stated that there was no 
trace of razors and penknives on the generals' bodies, and that their 
genitals were intact.

"So, those stories about Gerwani were all fabricated by Soeharto. Those 
women never tortured the generals and didn't cut off their genitals," 
Wieringa lamented.

Forensic evidence also confirmed Wieringa's previous interviews with 
some Gerwani members she met in the early 1980s. Under the highly 
traumatic conditions following their arrest by Soeharto's people, these 
women maintained that they were not involved in the massacre.

"At that time, I found many of them were in a traumatic state after 
surviving Soeharto's cruelty," said Wieringa, who co-founded the Kartini 
Asia Network. Following Soeharto's banning of Gerwani, she went on, 
thousands of its members were murdered, while many others were held in 
prison -- tortured and sexually abused.

"It was difficult to talk to Gerwani members at that time," said 
Wieringa, who was once banned by Soeharto from entering Indonesia. 
"There were military officers who were always keeping their eyes on them.

"I secretly and carefully carried out my research because we [my sources 
and I] were in danger," she added.

Being trapped in such a dangerous situation also forced her to halt her 
research. It took years before she could return to Indonesia to continue 
and crosscheck her research in 1995.At that time, although she managed 
to complete the research for her dissertation under the title The 
Aborted Women's Movement in Indonesia, she needed to hide many 
identities of her sources for safety reasons.

However, the research, which was later published in the form of a book, 
has been regarded as the most influential work on the Indonesian women's 
movement and inspired many Indonesian feminists and right activists.

Now, 30 years after she first deconstructed the myths about Gerwani, 
Wieringa took the chance to launch the revised version of her book, 
entitled Penghancuran Gerakan Perempuan: Politik Seksual di Indonesia 
Pasca Kejatuhan PKI (The Destruction of the Women's Movement: Sexual 
Politics in Indonesia after the Downfall of the Indonesian Communist Party).

"It took me a long time to publish this [revised version of my] book 
because my research was considered dangerous and I was blacklisted [by 
Soeharto]," she said. "I had to hide many facts in the previous version, 
but here [in the revised one], I revealed everything."

Although she finally had the chance to share her research with the 
Indonesian public, who has lived with Soeharto's lies about Gerwani for 
years, Wieringa said she wouldn't stop working on women issues in the 

"I've become so attached to Indonesia and these Gerwani women," Wieringa 
said, referring to a number of older women, who attended her book 
launching that day. "I just couldn't come taking facts from them and 
[then simply] say good bye. I don't want to leave them."

That was why, Wieringa went on, she was planning to spend the rest of 
her life in Indonesia.

"My plan is to move to Indonesia after retiring from teaching at the 
University of Amsterdam," she smiled. "I'm also a mualaf [a convert to 
Islam] now. So I feel that Indonesia would be a perfect place for me to 
spend the rest of my life."

* * *

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