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Indonesia's gender equality bill opposed by women

Publication Date : 19-06-2012


An effort from the Indonesian House of Representatives to come up with a regulation that would guarantee equality between men and women in the country has been met, ironically, with staunch opposition from women’s groups.

Representatives from the women’s groups criticised the bill, saying that it would empower women to the point where it could jeopardise the moral fabric of society.

The women’s groups are particularly concerned about an article of the bill, which carries provisions that would allow members of both genders to freely choose their partners in life.

"The word 'free’ [in the bill] will enable people to have same-sex marriages in Indonesia. Our organisation only acknowledges two sexes and we oppose same-sex marriages. The article must clearly stipulate that a union should only be between a man and woman," chairman of a group called the Indonesian Women’s Congress, Dewi Motik Pramono, said.

Rayhan Putry Ali Muhammad of the Aceh Women’s Empowerment and Children’s Protection Body objected to the bill, saying that the word “free” in the article could also allow adults to marry minors.

She said that the bill made no reference to the 1974 Marriage Law, which stipulates that the minimum age for marriage is 16 for females and 19 for males.

The Assembly of Indonesian Muslim Young Intellectuals (MIUMI) said that the bill, once endorsed, could endanger the traditional division of labour between men and women.

Euis Sunarti, a representative of MIUMI, said that gender equality could compromise the traditional concept of family as it would give a legal basis for women to leave their domestic duties to be more active in public life.

Sunarti, an ecology professor from the Bogor Agricultural University, said that the country could see its rates of divorce skyrocket.

“As more and more women are getting smarter because they have better access to education, they could easily challenge their husbands and look for a divorce,” she said.

The group also feared that as more women were more active in public life, they would abandon their traditional role as mothers and housewives.

"If that happens, we will see an increase in the number of day care facilities in Indonesia because women will be too busy to take care of their children," she said.

Other women’s groups were concerned more about the bill’s technical aspects.

Luluk Hamidah from Fatayat, the women’s wing of the country’s biggest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the bill lacked specifics on how women could be empowered and protected.

"We need to discuss how to deal with gender discrimination in workplaces, women’s exploitation in the media and other issues. For example, how can we prevent schools from expelling female students who get raped and become pregnant?" she added.

Chairun Nisa, a member of the House of Representatives' Commission VIII overseeing religion and social affairs, said the House would take the women’s groups concerns into consideration and it might take some time before the bill could take shape. "We still want to get opinions from 26 additional women’s groups," she said.


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