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Indonesian Muslims rethink sex in new book

Publication Date : 05-05-2012

 

The Indonesian Family Planning Association (PKBI) has taken an unusual step to promote population control by releasing a book exploring the Koran’s position on sexual issues.

The book, launched yesterday in Jakarta, was titled Fiqh Seksualitas, (Islamic Sexual Jurisprudence), and was written by Muslim scholars.

The book explores many topics, including the importance of sexual rights, the right to enjoy one’s sexuality and masturbation — all considered taboo topics by conservatives in the nation’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The PKBI’s operations chief, Sarsanto Wibisono Sarwono, said the organisation often faced difficulties in introducing family planning programs to the public due to ignorance and the mistaken perception that family planning contradicted the tenets of Islam.

Sarsanto said that birth-control programs were important, considering that the nation’s population has grown at an alarming rate.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the population of Indonesia was 237 million in 2010.

Only 32 million people had participated in government-sponsored family-planning programs in 2011, according to the latest data from the National Family Planning Board (BKKBN).

Bali, North Sulawesi and Central Kalimantan were the provinces with the highest level of participation in family-planning programs, according to the board.

The population of West Java, the nation’s most populous province, might increase dramatically by 2020, according to one report that said that contraceptive use in West Java had flat lined over the past 10 years, leveling off at 60 per cent of married couples.

Siti Musdah Mulia, one of the book authors, said that Indonesian society had always considered sex a taboo subject.

The Muslim scholar added that prevailing interpretations of Islam in the nation had cemented a popular perception of sexuality as a forbidden subject.

"In the end, we are clueless about the function of our reproductive organs, we can’t enjoy sex as we should and the number of children born every year skyrockets,” she added.

Husein Muhammad, another contributor to the book, said that he often met with women in villages who believed that they could not refuse their husbands’ demands for sex under Islamic teachings.

"These women are afraid of being punished by God. They grew up being taught by society that women must serve their husbands, no matter what” he said.

"But that’s not how it works,” Husein added. “Women have equal rights with men. They can say no to their husbands’ demands.”

According to Husein, Islamic teachings have not developed over the last 10 centuries, which has resulted in old-fashioned, textual-based perceptions of sex that were often wrong.

Many factors, including the current situation in society, had to be considered when interpreting the Koran; the hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad; and other Islamic laws, he added.

Siti and Husein said that they were perplexed by those who equated their support of condoms for contraception with the promotion of free sex.

Regular condom use, the pair agreed, prevented unwanted pregnancies and was essential for limiting the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Contacted separately, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Amidhan criticised publication of the book, saying that the PKBI should focus more on family planning than sex.

"I don’t see how they could come up with this book. If they plan to discuss the book’s contents with people, they must do it very carefully, because those are sensitive issues,” Amidhan said.

 

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