Thursday, September 21, 2006

Fundamentalism strikes at women's rights: Activists

National News - August 29, 2006

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

As Islamic fundamentalism spreads in Indonesia, the tendency to control women has become so pronounced that even those who have embraced a conservative creed must break the silence and demand gender equality, activists say.

"Fundamentalism is the men's key to imprisoning women in patriarchal domination. They want only to keep women at home as reproduction machines and to take care of their children," said activist Farha Ciciek during one of the seminar sessions at the National Meeting of Women Activists in Pondok Gede, East Jakarta.

The meeting, attended by more than 200 women activists from across the country, has been organized to refocus the national women's movement.

Fundamentalism and globalization are seen as the most prominent problems hindering women's welfare.

Farha, who is also director of Rahima, a women's organization affiliated to Nadhatul Ulama, said that fundamentalism has influenced regional administrations in areas like Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam; Tangerang, Banten; and Makassar, South Sulawesi.

On the national scene, some central government officials and the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) are urging the House of Representatives to pass a pornography bill to regulate what women should wear, she said.

Meanwhile, various regions have implemented conservative, sharia-style bylaws despite the controversy and problems they are causing.

The Aceh administration now requires girls and women to wear headscarves in public places, while the Tangerang administration prohibits women from being on the streets after dark. The Makassar government, meanwhile, makes high school students wear long skirts at school, she said.

Women factory workers in Tangerang have complained about the bylaws, and some have slept at their workplaces overnight to avoid being arrested by police.

Farha said women, especially working women, should have the right to dress as they pleased and go wherever they needed to, as long as it was good for their children.

The Asia Foundation's program officer for women and politics, Ani Sutjipto, said that emerging fundamentalism in Indonesia was partially the result of the mismanagement of the women's movement here.

She said this was partly the fault of women representatives at the national and regional levels, who had yet to voice women's needs for gender equality.

"The women's movement has to focus on several issues and needs to be organized from the elite to the grassroots level," she said.

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