COVID-19 kills as stigma harms families and society

On June 17, Kompas TV reported that hundreds of people had intercepted an ambulance and threatened to set it on fire and forcibly remove the remains of a person who had died after being exposed to COVID-19. It seems they thought they would suffer major problems if the body was buried under COVID-19 protocols. They would, perhaps, be under constant observation by public health personnel and the COVID-19 task force, and their village might be locked down. They might be prohibited from leaving their homes or their neighborhood. They felt they might be shunned by residents of other villages and not even allowed on the roads passing through other villages. Not only might they be ostracized, but the acknowledgement that one of their residents had died of COVID-19 could lead to restrictions on their access to normal activities, including earning a living.

Elsewhere, in a separate report, a COVID-19 victim’s family forcibly brought the remains home from the hospital and prepared the body for burial in accordance with their religious beliefs. They feared that the treatment of the body at the hospital had not followed the procedures required by their religion since the family had not been allowed to witness the process. They could not accept the fact that the body had been placed in a coffin, which they associated with the burial traditions of another religion. The family worried that they would be ostracized because the body had not been prepared according to religious tenets.

Such incidents as these, I believe, require a solution, because seizing mortal remains in this way is extremely dangerous. It was reported that 15 of the people involved in the process of bathing and wrapping the body later tested positive for COVID-19, and their village did, in fact, become a cluster under observation.

During my studies of Medical Anthropology in Amsterdam, we discussed topics such as these in our epidemiology class, viewing them as a cultural issue. “Illness” is actually more than merely the physical condition of a person who is unhealthy. It also involves traditional and cultural values and ways of thinking, which cause the illness to carry a range of other problems, such as prejudice and stigma.

One of the most ancient stigmas was that associated with leprosy. Historically, leprosy originated in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia, particularly India, and then spread throughout the world, including to Indonesia. This disease arrived with the era of colonialism in the 19th century. The bacterium responsible for the disease was first identified by a Swedish scientist in 1837. The traffic of persons between continents in the context of colonialism brought a variety of diseases with it caused by bacteria such as leprosy. The response required not just addressing the disease caused by the “leprae” bacteria but also addressing the additional disasters caused by fear and stigma. To address the spread of the disease and also to stop the “hunting” of lepers, the colonial government built special leprosy hospitals. This followed the model set by a Catholic order that built leper colonies on isolated islands. To reduce stigma and ostracism, these special leprosy hospitals were sometimes called “Lazarus Homes”, taking the name of Saint Lazarus, the patron saint of lepers.

Going beyond the issue of disease, leprosy later became a term to convey racial hatred. Leprosy was used as a metaphor to justify the ostracism or eradication of groups seen as belonging to the “other” on the basis of race, ethnicity or other distinguishing features. Even though leprosy can now be controlled with treatment and quarantine, this metaphor for hatred is still used as an excuse for eliminating others.

In the history of communicable diseases, the stigma is often more malevolent than the disease itself. People living with HIV provide a good example. The legendary singer Freddie Mercury had to keep his illness a secret until just before he died. Although the stigma of persons with HIV is not quite as severe as that of leprosy, a person still needs to think very thoroughly before publicly declaring they have HIV or even a disease considered more common, such as tuberculosis. The “informed consent ” procedure is therefore applied to protect a person’s confidentiality.

Stigma arises along with myth and prejudice. Stigma can be so strong that the patient’s family may also suffer from it. They may repeatedly deny or cover up the fact that someone in their family suffers from a disease that is stigmatized. Experience teaches us that the impact of stigma is often more severe than the disease itself. The sick person will be isolated, shunned or treated as an enemy. The family also suffers shame and humiliation because of the origin or cause of the disease. The custom of pillorying persons with mental problems is one such form of hiding shame. Similar things are often done when a family member has a physical or mental disability.

This sense of shame associated with illness is predictable given the social pressures that are experienced, even though it is not justified. Such feelings are often a form of cowardice of the healthy when they are around someone who is ill. It seems they are unable to imagine the multiple layers of consequences they would face if they did not cover it up. I remember when I was young and living in a village, there was a commotion over the death of a man who died in a firewood storage shed in the middle of a field. It seems the family was trying to hide this old man, a distant relative who was staying with them, because he suffered from acute tuberculosis. The family was afraid they would not be allowed to use the village well. In addition, they were embarrassed that a family member had TB, a “poor people’s disease”. When I was in junior high school, a student below me died from bleeding when her parents tried to perform an abortion because she was pregnant out of wedlock. She was only 13 at the time. The family concealed the pregnancy and did not take her to a doctor when she suffered severe bleeding – all out of a sense of shame.

Feelings of shame or a fear of stigmatization and its consequences, are not only experienced by patients and their families. In the case of COVID-19, fear of being isolated spreads to the wider community, giving rise to collective denial. In other cases, this is done by the authorities in the name of political and economic stability. So, in this situation, the handling of COVID-19 requires not just information about how to combat the spread of the disease but also honesty.

Explanations are needed that will change people’s attitude about COVID-19 so it does not lead to stigma and ostracism. In this regard, the handling of COVID-19 must not only be done by the Ministry of Health but also by institutions that deal directly with the public, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Here, the methods of NGOs that work to combat discrimination and hate speech can also be employed. Cultural experts must join the struggle! Distancing, yes; ostracism, no!

***

Lies Marcoes is a researcher at Rumah Kitab, Jakarta. The original Indonesian version was published on the Rumah Kitab website on June 18.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

 

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/06/19/covid-19-kills-as-stigma-harms-families-and-society.html?fbclid=IwAR1rVhvaM9sbLOQiJ6UpBe-uWxN76qbXgYT2Rtsw3C9oMUWweHQEESdL-uY

What the Pandemic Reveals About the Male Ego

Why are the rates of coronavirus deaths far lower in many female-led countries?

By 

Opinion Columnist

President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan at a military base this spring amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Credit…Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA, via Shutterstock

 

Are female leaders better at fighting a pandemic?

I compiled death rates from the coronavirus for 21 countries around the world, 13 led by men and eight by women. The male-led countries suffered an average of 214 coronavirus-related deaths per million inhabitants. Those led by women lost only one-fifth as many, 36 per million.

If the United States had the coronavirus death rate of the average female-led country, 102,000 American lives would have been saved out of the 114,000 lost.

“Countries led by women do seem to be particularly successful in fighting the coronavirus,” noted Anne W. Rimoin, an epidemiologist at U.C.L.A. “New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Norway have done so well perhaps due to the leadership and management styles attributed to their female leaders.”

Let’s start by acknowledging that there have been plenty of wretched female leaders over the years. Indeed, according to research I once did for a book, female leaders around the world haven’t been clearly better than male counterparts even at improving girls’ education or reducing maternal mortality.

There has been solid research that it makes a difference to have more women on boards and in grass-roots positions, but evidence that they make better presidents or prime ministers has been lacking — until Covid-19 came along.

It’s not that the leaders who best managed the virus were all women. But those who bungled the response were all men, and mostly a particular type: authoritarian, vainglorious and blustering. Think of Boris Johnson in Britain, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Iran and Donald Trump in the United States.

Virtually every country that has experienced coronavirus mortality at a rate of more than 150 per million inhabitants is male-led.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that some of the best-run places have been run by women: New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan,” mused Susan Rice, who was national security adviser under President Barack Obama. “And where we’ve seen things go most badly wrong — the U.S., Brazil, Russia, the U.K. — it’s a lot of male ego and bluster.”

I think the divergence has a great deal to do with that ego and bluster.

“We often joke that men drivers never ask for directions,” observed Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of the University of Pennsylvania. “I actually think there’s something to that also in terms of women’s leadership, in terms of recognizing expertise and asking experts for advice, and men sort of barreling ahead like they got it.”

He has a point. Those leaders who handled the virus best were those who humbly consulted public health experts and acted quickly, and many were women; in contrast, male authoritarians who botched the response were suspicious of experts and too full of themselves.

“I really get it,” Trump said when he visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March. Surrounded by medical experts, he added, “Maybe I have natural ability,” and he wondered aloud if he should have become a scientist.

(Given that Trump said in January that Covid-19 was “totally under control,” he has his answer. And peer review might not have been kind to his ideas about bleach.)

Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand.

Credit…Pool photo by Mark Mitchell

Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor.

Credit…Pool photo by Andreas Gora

While women have generally outshone men as international leaders, that does not seem true within the United States. Some female governors have done better, others worse, so there isn’t an obvious gender gap at home.

It’s also possible that this isn’t about female leaders but about the kind of country that chooses a woman to lead it.

Companies with more female executives on average perform better than those with fewer women, but analysts think that the reason isn’t just the brilliance of women leaders. Rather, companies that are culturally open to having senior women are also more willing to embrace other innovations, and it may be this innovative spirit that leads to higher profitability. Likewise, countries willing to elect female prime ministers may be those more inclined to listen to epidemiologists.

Yet I think that there’s also a difference in the leadership itself.

“Women lead often in a very different style from men,” said Margot Wallstrom, a former Swedish foreign minister, citing examples from Norway, Germany and New Zealand of women with low-key, inclusive and evidence-based leadership.

Wallstrom also noted that public health is a traditional “home turf” concern for many women leaders. Grant Miller, an expert in health economics at Stanford University, found that as states, one by one, granted the vote to women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, those states then also invested more in sanitation and public health — saving some 20,000 children’s lives a year. Boys were thus huge beneficiaries of women’s suffrage.

One trap for female politicians is that brashness can be effective for male candidates, but researchers find that male and female voters alike are turned off by women who seem self-promotional. That forces women in politics to master the art of communicating effectively in a low-key way — just what’s needed in a pandemic.

“Perhaps the skills that have led them to reach the top,” said Rimoin, the U.C.L.A. epidemiologist, “are the same skills that are currently needed to bring a country together.”

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Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The Times since 2001. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes, for his coverage of China and of the genocide in Darfur. You can sign up for his free, twice-weekly email newsletter and follow him on InstagramHis latest book is “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope.” @NickKristofFacebook

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/13/opinion/sunday/women-leaders-coronavirus.html

The personal price of lockdown

By NIKEN KUSUMAWARDHANI

Indonesia must strengthen its anti-domestic-violence services during the coronavirus crisis

 

Widespread restriction of mobility has been required to deal with the spread of COVID-19, including stay at home orders, but not all homes are safe, Niken Kusumawardhani writes.

The chance to be able to stay at home in safety during lockdown is truly a privilege. The fact is, under quarantines women carry the burden of caregiving, both for children and the elderly, and face a higher risk of unintended pregnancies and domestic violence. Without well-established emergency services and shelter systems, women locked up with abusive husbands are becoming unwitting victims of the pandemic.

COVID-19 has brought a lot of uncertainty, and has placed limits on choices that people can make. During this time, perpetrators can be triggered to try and regain sense of control and power over their lives, and this can manifest itself in abuse.

A combination of distress, both economic, from lost work or higher costs, and emotional, from increased isolation and confinement, the risk of domestic violence has risen considerably during the pandemic crisis.

Over the years, domestic violence has been the most prevalent type of violence against women in Indonesia, and a recent report shows that during the first month of limited mobility in Jakarta, numbers of reported cases of domestic violence, rape, and sexual assaults have dramatically increased compared to the usual figures.

The cultural taboo against revealing marital problems has become the main barrier in Indonesia for filing reports of violence, causing domestic violence to be severely underreported. Even among victims who come forward, only a handful report to police. Research has found that one of the main barriers preventing women from reporting to police is unfamiliarity with the procedure.

Another barrier for women is financial dependence. There are fears that reporting abuse may land their husband in jail, and the victim will be left with limited resources to survive. This situation will only get worse as the pandemic progresses, as some women who become unable to work will be even more financially dependent on men, and find it even more difficult to leave if their home becomes a toxic environment.

Failure to deliver services for domestic violence survivors during the pandemic may increase the severity of violence cases, and eventually put more burden on the already-strained national health system. As large-scale social restrictions have been imposed in several major cities in Indonesia, it is imperative that governments categorise services for domestic violence victims as essential.

The availability of emergency safe houses and psychological services that are easily accessible by women impacted by domestic violence must be considered a priority for Indonesian policymakers during the coronavirus crisis.

The government must also allocate extra spending to deal with the domestic violence wave that will accompany the rest of the crisis. Unfortunately, none of the 405 trillion rupiah spending for the COVID-19 pandemic is dedicated to anti-domestic violence initiatives.

Before the pandemic, safe houses were only available in some districts, with varying quality and capacity. As construction of new safe houses will take a long time, transforming hotels into a potential safe house for survivors fleeing domestic violence is a more feasible option for the duration of the pandemic.

The government could also use the extra spending to pay for accommodation, food, and other essential needs for women who are forced to leave their homes due to domestic violence.

Recently, the Indonesian government launched a hotline service to connect psychologists with people who need mental health support during the pandemic, including those impacted by domestic violence. This is a great step, but it will still be difficult for victims to call the number while locked up at home with their abusers.

Features such as online chat services, texting, or the usage of secret code words during a call to discreetly seek help would make it easier for victims to reach out, and simple to implement. In addition to psychologists, the hotline service should also be backed up by a team of police and health workers who are well-trained in responding to domestic violence. Formation of this team may require additional economic resources but is surely important enough to be funded using the extra spending set aside for the pandemic.

Initiatives at the grassroots level can help strengthen existing anti-domestic violence measures during the coronavirus crisis. Steps taken by civil society groups, rather than government, to help survivors of domestic violence have started to flourish, especially in Greater Jakarta, the epicenter of the pandemic in the country.

As  some villages already implement their own measures to ensure distancing and caring for infected neighbours, they should also incorporate anti-domestic violence initiatives into their activism in the community.

For example, village volunteers and neighbourhood watch members could be educated, empowered to detect signs of violence, and then maintain regular communication with the neighbours. Village chiefs and community leaders should also increase their readiness in providing safe houses and receiving report from survivors.

More than just a global health issue, the COVID-19 pandemic has created serious disruption for so many aspects of everyday life. In the middle of high death tolls from the disease itself, it is easy to overlook the scale of what COVID-19 is doing to those who do not contract it.

Policies designed to limit mobility in the pandemic should not come at the expense of the safety of women, and Indonesia must use this hard time as an opportunity to strengthen its domestic violence services. A failure to provide comprehensive domestic violence services will create greater loss for Indonesia, both to its health care system, and society, and amount to an act negligence toward its own people.

If you or someone you know are experiencing domestic violence in Indonesia and require support, you can contact P2TP2A or Unit Pelayanan Perempuan dan Anak (PPA) Polda for help. In Australia, you can find resources to get support here or dial 1800 RESPECT.

Source: https://www.policyforum.net/the-personal-price-of-lockdown/?fbclid=IwAR0atPWbATut3NEH_Gsr3f1smWlq_0DWujoUNqAlpBh9Oqw7WX90XoEm9tU

Why Are Women (Still) Comfortable in Islam?

By Lies Marcoes (Researcher, Rumah KitaB)

Please show where and how women are placed with dignity in the conceptual framework (epistemology) of Islam? This question resounded in my mind following the discussion of Dr. Zahra Ayubi’s book Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family and Society, (Columbia University, July 2019). This is not some strange or eccentric query, but rather an accusation that demands an honest answer. Where?The virtual discussion was held on the morning of 20 May 2020 by WE LEAD, an empowerment network of seven feminist NGOs, three of which are Islam-based. We all perceive the strong rising tide of fundamentalism that threatens women’s bodies and existence as well as the diversity of Indonesia. This was truly a very special discussion, in terms of the quality of the book, the discussants, and the dialogue. Dr. Ayubi herself participated throughout the discussion, even though it was before dawn in California. The discussion was led and notes were provided by Ulil Abshar Abdalla, M.A., who has for the past several years been an expert on Imam Ghazali’s work Ngaji Ihlya. It was important to have kyai Ulil involved, because one of the texts discussed in Gendered Morality is the works of Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, better known as Imam Ghazali. Meanwhile, Dr. amina wadud (who officially prefers her name written without capital letters), serving as one of the discussants, led the discussion straight to the heart of the problem. She asked Dr. Ayubi to explain about her motivation, the basis of her arguments, and her analysis of the three texts of tasawuf (mysticism) she explored: Kimiya’i Sa’adat by Imam Ghazali, Akhlaaq-i Nasiri by Nasiruddin Tusi, and Akhlaaq-i Jalali by Jalaluddin Davani. These last two books are more popular in Iran.In his introduction to the discussion, kyai Ulil- and I concurred,  explained that mysticism has long been considered a discipline that is friendly toward women – for example, by presenting the “feminine side” of God. For many Muslim feminists, tasawuf is a branch of knowledge that can help to console them in their frustration with the teachings of Islam in other areas, which are often misogynistic and patriarchal. For example, in fiqh or dogma, women are discussed by first of all positioning them as subordinate to men. A woman is the property of her father or of some other man in his line of descent, or of her husband. Women are deemed to be only half the equal of men, and this assumption pervades practical matters such as giving testimony, inheritance rights, polygamy, and not being allowed to lead communal prayers. Sachiko Murata’s book The Tao of Islam is a study on Islamic spirituality that explores the balance of Yin and Yang and the masculine and feminine aspects in the characteristics of God. Other books, such as My Soul is a Woman by Annemarie Schimmel, also explore the feminine aspect in Islamic spirituality. But Dr. Zahra’s study and analysis leads to a very different conclusion. The construction of the teachings on akhlak (ethics), as explored in these three mystical works, is full of male-centered bias. The entire conceptual framework of thinking in mysticism about ethics solely discusses how men should behave and achieve superior moral character. In her book, she presents evidence of how these medieval Islamic intellectuals created a system of ethical philosophy that inherently has gender implications by ignoring the experience of women as subjects.

Ayubi’s study is very important and counts as new because until now, scholars of Islam who explore the issues of gender have generally criticized the patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an, the hadith, or traditions of fiqh. In the Sufi teachings as portrayed in the three works she studied, the ideal concept of a human is a man who is able to control his passions. Such an attribute can only be achieved by the elite (the nobility, higher social classes), because only these upper classes are considered intellectually capable to grasp the concepts of philosophy and to achieve realization as persons of noble character.

 

Methodologically, what Ayubi has done is to “interrogate” the text. To be able to analyze how gender is understood in the texts, she first examined the masculinity and the class bias contained in the texts, particularly how men – and specifically, men from the elite class, in terms of wealth, education, and power – are conditioned from birth to become patriarchs/ leaders in society. It is important to recognize here that the issue is not simply that women are not included in a given text, but rather how, overall, the texts on ethical behavior require a certain form of relationship that is based on the subordination of others (for example, wives or slaves) to men in the effort to become more ethical.

 

According to Ayubi, in the understanding of mysticism, the studies of akhlak and fiqh occupy different “strata”. Fiqh is seen as discourse on ethics for the common people, who do not need heavy ideas but just require practical guidelines on what is and is not permitted; in contrast, akhlak is seen as discourse on ethics that is formulated by philosophical thinking, and therefore is intended only for the upper classes/ nobles. In her research, Ayubi concluded that the discourse on ethics in tasawuf suffers not only from male gender bias but also from class bias, because it is oriented toward the male elite. Obviously, the discussion of akhlak does include some discussion of women, and also of slaves. But the main thrust of these studies is on how a man should act ethically when facing (the temptations of) women or slaves. Hence, women are discussed in their role as the touchstone to test the quality of a man’s ethics, as a direct object to test the purity of men’s souls.

 

The concept of akhlak in mysticism is “refinement of nafs” (purification of the heart). Kyai Ulil added that the process of purification of the heart in tasawuf consists of three concepts: takholi (cleansing the heart of negative characteristics), takhali (filling it with good characteristics), and tajali (the peak of human endeavor, becoming a person who always acts ethically). amina wadud explained how this relates to the concept of Insaan Kamil, the ideal person, which revolves around purification of the hearts of men. According to Zahra, this “refinement of nafs” is in fact a concept that is solely for cleansing the hearts of men. In this way, no different from the epistemology in the fields of fiqh and tafsir, the texts on akhlak in tasawuf are full of misogyny and gender bias.

 

According to Dr. Ayubi, essentially the discipline of ethics (akhlak) offers a basic perspective on the meaning of being human, especially in the concept of dien according to Islam, which offers a way and a path of life for all humans. But apart from this rich discourse on ethics, there are still many other assumptions that need to be unpacked so that the humanity of every person can be fully recognized, so that this discourse can contribute to answering how to achieve the superiority and nobility of humankind in the perspective of Islam, i.e. as insaan kamil as mentioned by amina wadud.

 

Dr. Ayubi notes that in these texts, the question of gender can be raised not only in those matters that often discuss women, such as marriage, but in fact in all aspects discussed in the texts. Everything includes the issue of gender. She sees that, first, although the texts she studied were written in Persian, in which the pronouns do not literally distinguish between masculine and feminine, when we read them in context it is evident that these texts specifically refer only to males. For example, when discussing how to be a better person and Muslim, or when discussing the concept of nafs (the psyche) and how to control it, what is actually meant by the text is how to become a better Muslim male and be able to control one’s nafs. As another example, in the discussion on society, such as how to be a good leader and how to deal with opponents, the entire context is men’s leadership in society.

 

Second, the construction of akhlak in Islamic tradition as a way of life has to date been an exclusive effort. The ethical discourse aimed at purifying and upgrading oneself continues to exclude other groups based on gender, ability, rationality, social class, and race.

 

Rationality is one aspect that causes women to be treated unequally in the epistemological constructs of tasawuf, as in the other epistemologies (Fiqh, Aqidah, Philosophy, Politics). In fact, all these epistemological constructs focus on rationality. Perhaps this is why women are excluded in the texts. In fact, rationality should have no gender and need not always follow the same path.

 

But women’s reproductive capabilities, such as menstruation, pregnancy, giving birth, postnatal confinement, which are recognized in the text of the Qur’an as extremely burdensome events, “wahnan ‘ala wahnin”, have been used as a unilateral argument that women’s rationality is lower. This also relates to the ways in which women are obstructed in performing worship. The reproductive events that women experience have been used as a judgement on their inequality with men. Their essential ability has become a stigma implying that women are less rational than men, as well as further implications departing from the same prejudice – doubting their rationality.

 

For Dr. Nur Rofiah, one of the initiators of KUPI (Congress of Indonesian Women Ulama), Zahra’s book further reinforces her view that there are problems within Islam’s system of knowledge, including in mysticism, which has until now been considered neutral. It turns out that tasawuf is also characterized by a masculine awareness (using males as the standard). For many centuries, the experience of women with their bodies and their reproductive capability has not been taken into account in the system of teachings/ knowledge of Islam. The long history of human civilization, including Islamic civilization, is characterized by a tradition that “does not treat women as human”. This gives rise to a collective view (including in women’s own thinking) that men are considered the standard for women’s humanity.

 

Yet women’s biological and social experiences, such as giving birth and nursing their children, as well as their social implications, are never experienced by men. Women’s experience with reproduction seldom even enters into men’s awareness. Meanwhile, men hold strategic positions, including in constructing the concepts of knowledge. It is this situation that creates the gaps and differences in determining the standards of benefit in gender relations. The concept of “maslahat” (benefit, advantage) relies entirely on the standard of males. The most obvious example is that when determining permission for polygamy, in terms of both ethics/ fiqih and akhlak, polygamy is justified because women have certain time restrictions for engaging in sexual relations. Rather than having some empathy for women who are menstruating, pregnant, or in post-partum seclusion, men perceive that these obstacles interfere with their own benefit, and they therefore formulate their rights themselves so that they can continue to enjoy having sex whenever they feel they need it. On this basis, they formulate polygamy as a right that is permitted for men. Another example is marriages between young girls and adult men. This practice, which creates suffering and trauma for the girls, is considered beneficial because such marriages bring benefit to men, who feel they have the right to repeatedly deflower virgins by marrying young girls!

The importance of reproduction for the survival of living creatures, which brings with it many biological experiences for women, will never be compatible with the concepts of akhlak according to masculine bodies and experience. For amina wadud, a rereading of this issue requires us to radically integrate the bodily experiences of all humankind (not just women) in constructing an understanding of humankind, insaan kamil, and then enhancing it so that spiritual refinement is not allocated only to formal rituals of worship.

 

Returning to the question I raised earlier, if women are treated so badly in the epistemology of Islam, why are women (still) comfortable being in Islam?

Dr. Zahra Ayubi stated that texts such as the ones she explored should not automatically be ignored. An effort is needed to reexamine them critically and in depth, and to raise critical questions at a more philosophical and cosmic level. We can ask what the ethical basis is in interpreting the meaning of being a Muslim, what is the purpose of human existence, and what it means to surrender oneself to Allah. She recommends that Muslim intellectuals should collectively and sincerely think about a more inclusive philosophy of ethics that does not merely construct happiness based on the concept of use of reason (such that rationality holds the most important position and neglects other kinds of experience). The current definition of akhlak is problematic, because it excludes the experience of women.

 

Ideally, the texts on akhlak should be able to acknowledge the diversity of humankind – not just in terms of gender, but also race, ability, and class. The recognition of this diversity could give rise to a diversity of standards – not just a single standard for achieving “refinement”. And this would be more appropriate, because the various differences, social constructs, and structural challenges will lead to differences in defining the obstacles each individual faces in achieving the potential of their nafs.

 

I held a virtual discussion with several of my feminist colleagues. They provided some answers that seem quite reasonable to me. The most common answer was that women lack the courage or willingness to leave Islam, because the ties that bind them are so tight and strong. Imagine: from the day she is born, the first stones are laid in the walls that guard her; she is the daughter (binti) of a particular father, and the entire family line of the patriarchal hierarchy feels they have rights over her. Starting even as a baby, she is told of her obligation to maintain the dignity of the family, and then of ever-widening circles, until she must protect the reputation of the entire “Muslim community”. If she chooses to become an apostate, for example, how many people will feel they have the right to punish her? In this sense, the question of “comfortable or not” becomes irrelevant.

Second was an answer which asserts that within religion there are in fact aspects of affection, warmth, a feeling of peace, a devout relationship between individual women and their God. This experience is not codified as a discipline of knowledge, nor is it institutionalized. This is because women’s experience is not known by the men who have for so long constructed the epistemology of Islam. These aspects of warmth in religion live and are passed on as a secret among women from generation to generation. The experience of reproduction is something only they experience, which they do not share with those who will never be able to understand it (men) and who consider it a taboo subject. They choose to maintain an internal love, with their Creator, whom they treat as their beloved.

Another option is to leave Islam and take up some other religion or ideology that defends women, such as secular philosophy and thinking that is based on the legal system. But such an option does not necessarily provide space for women. And finally, and I think this is the path that is now being pursued by feminist Muslims, including Dr. Zahra Ayubi: seize the tafsir (interpretation)! The epistemology of Islam already offers a wealth of methodologies that can be criticized and reused to provide a critique that presents the experiences of women as valid truth. In this way, the epistemology of Islam can be reexamined and reconstructed! []

 

NU Must be Present for Urban Working Class

“In the old days, as far as you could see the rice fields, that area was all ‘NU [Nahdlatul Ulama] territory’. But now, along with the shrinking rice fields, the only ones who study and worship in NU style are in the outlying areas, or those that are well established and want to preserve the memories of their home villages. Meanwhile, most workers follow the Salafi style in Quran studies and worship.”

This hypothesis of one of our fellow researchers clearly needs to be tested, but recent research findings by Rumah KitaB that women laborers in Karawang and Bekasi in West Java are very active in Salafi pengajian (religious study groups) seem to confirm this statement. NU is Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, known for its moderate teachings and practices, while Salafi is known for a more rigid understanding of Islam.

Three Rumah KitaB researchers have been observing industrial areas since January, taking the daily pulse of women working in local large factories. They observed how these women workers or former workers defined their lives: the effect of the industrial era and industrial area on their socioeconomic life and their existence as women; and whether any sense of restriction is caused by increasingly rigid religious views, or by attitudes that are more intolerant of women. The researchers are still exploring the answers, but there are some intriguing indications.

One researcher reported that almost all the religious study groups attended by the women workers were “kajian sunnah Salafi”. This refers to study groups following the Salafi belief that the only authentic Islamic teachings are those derived from the Salafi era — the time closest to the life of the Prophet Muhammad. We therefore refer to them as fundamentalists.

On Mondays through Sundays, dozens of these kajian sunnah are found in mosques in housing complexes and in company mosques. In the areas studied, the busiest time for these sessions is Saturday, when 17 groups meet in one industrial area.

Our researchers collect posters of the sessions which listed the topics under study. Most discuss tauhid, the principles of strict monotheism. Various terms translate these principles considered as central to pure tauhid. Phrases such as “fear of bid’ah” or heretical practices and rituals, “never be a musyrik” or someone who worships anything other than God, or “must use a clear reference”, signal their utmost caution and rigidity in practicing Islam. As Salafis, they clearly believe the most correct religious teachings are the ones they consider most authentic. And this is where their intolerance shows.

Their sessions are deadly serious; with almost no joking around, unlike scenes in women’s religious study groups often shown on television, which are full of joyous laughter, typical of cultural religious study sessions in NU circles.

Another theme of the Salafi study groups relates to “correct” practices of daily worship: the right way to perform ablutions, the right way to pray, to dress, to raise a family, and so on. Naturally, it is studies on women that are presented most often, including the obligation to wear a full body covering (jilbab syar’i) plus hijab.

Through their mobile phones, the women can access and select various study themes. And in every study activity, they diligently pay attention, take notes, and ask questions on slips of paper.

So why is the NU style of study and worship no longer suitable for the urban working class in these former NU strongholds? Why has the NU model of pengajian been pushed into the outlying areas? The working class seems very keen on the sunna style of study because it gives them definite answers: lawful or unlawful, you may do this, you must not do that.

Their lives as workers follow the rhythm of working life, measured in minutes and hours. This “instant” type of study seems to fit with their rhythm as urban dwellers with drained energy. They are only interested in definite answers and no longer have time to follow the NU model of study, which provides alternatives. As newcomers from villages, not all of whom are familiar with the pesantren (Islamic boarding school) tradition, they are uninterested in a traditional model of study that discusses the classical texts word by word. They need answers directly relevant to their current lives as city dwellers who need something to hold onto in a life full of gray areas.

This situation is clearly different from when they lived in the villages, where life is regulated by the farming seasons, the rhythms of the five daily prayers, and participation in pengajian as a customary communal activity.

Historically, the NU founders aimed to maintain the traditions upheld by the rural agrarian poor. But these poor people have now moved to the cities, following the loss of their rice fields and economic resources in the villages. They have become the urban poor who no longer depend on agriculture but instead on industry.

Has this change been captured not by NU but instead by proponents of the Salafi? Some Salafi consider politics as bid’ah (heresy); consequently workers are forbidden to rally even for their own rights and interests. And this is perhaps why business owners cultivate them, or at least tolerate them.

The hardships faced by poor families and women workers in urban areas mean they seek a way out to improve their lives. The working class struggle cannot be constantly denied in the name of maintaining stability. And just like in the villages when the poor had to face landlords or high prices of production inputs, NU should be present among the urban working class and defend them when they face disadvantageous labor regulations.

The shift of the interest of many workers, especially women, to Salafi-style pengajian should not be seen as a simple individual preference of any available stream of Islam; since the nature of Salafi teachings, which emphasize the superiority of their group and their sense of being the most authentic in practicing Islam, is the root of intolerant religious attitudes.

And everyone knows that intolerance never leads to anything good in the life of a pluralistic society like Indonesia’s.

 

Lies Marcoes

 

Sumber : https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/03/14/nu-must-be-present-for-urban-working-class.html

Kindergarten contest behind promotion of intolerance

In addition to the severe New Year floods, we were also shocked by a viral video of girl and boy scouts. Their yells included: “Islam-Islam yes, kafir-kafir no”. For Jakartans, the scene from Yogyakarta harked back to the 2017 gubernatorial election, in which incumbent and candidate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was denounced as a kafir (infidel).

Yet such expressions and teaching of intolerance have entered the core of disciplinary education starting at preschool level. This article departs from research on religious disciplinary education at the level of early childhood education (PAUD), which includes kindergarten (TK), PAUD equivalent units (SPS), Raudhatul Athfal (Islamic kindergarten under the Religious Affairs Ministry), and Islamic integrated kindergarten, conducted on and off from 2013 to 2019. This study shows how the imposition of religious discipline leads to education that promotes intolerance.

Although preschool education has not always aimed to instill religious discipline, this research finds a strong tendency that preschool institutions are being relied on as a place to instill religious teachings or worship and also as a means to exercise moral control. The scope of religious discipline and moral control in these preschool institutions is very broad, from introducing basic skills, such as reciting short daily prayers before eating or sleeping, memorizing short Quranic verses, to other basic teachings on Muslims’ obligations including emphasis on the values of monotheism (tauhid).

In the teaching of tauhid we found content with teachings and expressions of intolerance, exclusiveness and even hints of violence against groups with other beliefs or kafir.

Discipline is instilled through routine learning and motoric activities in movement, songs or the introduction of vocabulary. For example, the song “Aku Anak Soleh” (I am a pious child) contains the phrase “Cinta Islam sampai mati” (Love Islam until death), accompanied by crossing one’s arm at the neck — imitating a knife or a sword cutting one’s throat.

Compared with studies on the encroachment of radicalism in junior and high schools and universities, little attention has been paid to teaching with intolerant or violent content in preschool educational institutions. Generally it is assumed that radicalization is a process of instilling an ideology, which requires a process of thinking and awareness raising, while preschool instills discipline through habit formation.

Michel Foucault, in his famous book Discipline and Punishment, observed that discipline is closely associated with power which controls its objects through an all-seeing telescope, the “panopticon”, and by normalizing moral evaluations. In preschool education, religious discipline and moral control are not done through military-style hierarchical observation as per Foucault’s theory, but rather through a collective will to strengthen the “fortress of faith” in children starting at an early age.

In our case this collective will is based on the belief that the Muslim community faces moral threats that would even impact the community’s economy, threats caused by “social deviations” such as juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, drugs and “deviating” sexual and gender expressions.

The cause of these deviations is considered to be weakening of belief and lack of religious teaching. The solution is “social renovation”, starting as early as possible, through preschool education and religious discipline with various teaching methods, ranging from playing to memorizing.

This collective will now function as a giant panopticon, in which society becomes an engine for control through religious and moral discipline in preschool educational institutions.

The most obvious forms of moral discipline are the ways girls are taught to dress and to behave, as well as threats related to unbelievers.

The mechanism of this disciplinary control is very simple: using financial threats. The survival of a preschool educational institution depends entirely on community funding. And the more students, the larger state subsidy received.

Actually preschool educational institutions are businesses. The competition for students encourages their operators to follow parents’ desires and expectations, including to strengthen the “fortress of faith”, as well as children’s readiness to start primary school with basic reading, writing and arithmetic abilities.

Religious discipline, as Foucault conveys, is used as a community’s means of surveillance and control to monitor the extent to which religious teachings are applied in an educational institution.

Thus teachings of intolerance easily enter the class, no longer through a side door as in high school, or through extracurricular activities such as Islamic spirituality sessions, but directly through the front door.

This is because control by parents who want their children to master basic religious learning can be fulfilled by groups promoting anti-tolerance, which offer religious discipline in teaching material. This encourages preschool educational institutions — even those not under religious auspices — to adopt learning material developed by intolerant educational institutions, so that their schools do not lose students.

The development of social/political Islam and the growth of religious identity politics in Indonesia has significant influence on teaching material content in Islamic preschools. This can be seen from the themes of the learning material, as reflected for instance in the songs and motoric activities of the children. Changing trends in religious life at the family level, along with parents’ expectations regarding religious education in preschool institutions, have led to more intensive religious educational content in preschools.

Meanwhile, the state’s policy which places preschool as educational institutions established on the community’s initiative, plus the limited knowledge of most preschool operators and teachers — who were largely born since the Reform Era and thus grew up in an atmosphere of Islam as identity politics — have contributed to a steady rise in intolerance in the country’s preschool religious education.

As intolerance today is found even in Indonesia’s educational institutions, solutions must go beyond penalties or guidance to the troubled institutions.

Mainstreaming tolerance must be the solution but not by imposing the Pancasila state ideology as in the past. Forcing an ideology may have closed opportunities for genuine, open discussions in which differences are accepted without friction and conflict. We have instead become more intolerant because the state had forced its view on what tolerance is and how to express it.

Today we’re seeing the fruit of settling past differences through banning all expressions regarding ethnicity, religion, race and other group characteristics for the sake of stability, without instilling in people how to healthily nurse differences, by fostering many safe spaces that reflect our plurality.

***

Director of Rumah KitaB, a research institute for policy advocacy for the rights of the marginalized.

 

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/01/31/kindergarten-contest-behind-promotion-of-intolerance.html?fbclid=IwAR1RgbMPynaPWYyrNgLbo51v470FpD7CglPU3V2fJ2imIyA4OptUtWNb9Io#_=_

End shadows of intolerance post elections

Achmat Hilmi

TheJakartaPost

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 26, 2019   /  09:06 am

The simultaneous elections have ended, but they have left a frenzy and disputes. A group that claims to be the most moderate in the country is no longer able to display the tenderness and progressive spirit of Islam; it is trapped in political barriers and becoming intolerant. Many seem to be fighting for their spirit of primordialism based on political factions, rather than the spirit of nationalism.

During the presidential and legislative campaign period until polling day on April 17, security forces had managed to secure physical space but they never succeeded in reconciling virtual space.

These simultaneous elections have not managed to assert the next president, the votes for whom are still being tallied by the General Elections Commission (KPU). Whoever wins the presidential seat seems to be a vague figure amid truth claims of “quick counts” of pollsters and “internal counts” of the camps of the presidential contenders.

The elections have instead succeeded in blurring the spirit of diversity. The presidential election, in particular, has considerably affected family relations, friendship and national unity. One camp trumps up the threat of communism while the other raises threats of Indonesia turning into a caliphate, each claim intending to sink the electability of the incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and his challenger Prabowo Subianto.

 

Social space actually reinforces differences, blurs unity.

 

Social space actually reinforces differences, blurs unity and increasingly converges to the bipolarization of political space with two extreme camps charging the other of being “infidels”. Political camps thus become increasingly exclusive.

It seems public space today, particularly as echoed in cyberspace, allows less discourse for equality and justice, and instead extends the space for discrimination against those who succumb to the rallying cries of each camp.

Many voices of devotees of tolerance and diversity have become silent, turned off by the dominance of partisanship.

Religious conservativism has merged into political ideological conservativism. Religious fanaticism has reached a universal definition; what it preaches is not a religion that many people understand.

Ideological space is now shifting; from religious ideology; moderate-conservative, transforming into a numerical ideology with symbols and political ideology jargon.

Digital space should contribute to expanding social space that we cannot immediately reach, so we could meet amid differences. But this cannot happen when the other is accused of being an infidel and not having common sense.

Intolerance and exclusivism are being increasingly crystallized to be more extreme than any ideology. There must be a way out.

The epidemic of political extremism must be stopped through the instilling, again, of noble values of tolerance and inclusiveness that depart from our ancestral heritage, progressive understanding of religion and based on the philosophy of the Pancasila.

***

The writer is program and advocacy manager at Rumah Kita Bersama.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.

Link:

https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2019/04/26/end-shadows-of-intolerance-post-elections.html

Rumah KitaB and the Campaign Against Child Marriage

Kathryn Robinson
Emeritus professor in Anthropology, Australian National Univerisity

Rights in marriage have been a key issue for women’s rights activists all over the world. Age at marriage is perhaps the most significant issue, even more than the free choice of a spouse. Child marriage has been a focus for Indonesian women for nearly a century. In the colonial era, family law was left to the Islamic courts, but the women’s congresses that were held regularly from 1928 argued for secular laws that would protect women’s rights in marriage, including a ban on child marriage and the necessity of a woman’s consent. This emphasis on secular regulation as the way to protect women’s rights bore fruit in the independence period with the passage of the 1974 marriage law which, amongst other things, set a minimum age of marriage, of 16 for females (19 for males) and required that the marriage officiant ensure the woman’s consent.

As education becomes more readily available and more young women are going on to finish high school, and even tertiary education there has been a movement upwards in average age at marriage but as the work of Rumah Kitab shows us, child marriage persists. What are the strategies to address this? The session organized by Rumah KitaB at the Kongres Ulama Perempuan in April 2017 focused on the religious basis of arguments about age at marriage. The kiyai focused on textual analysis of the Qur’an and hadith to show the complexity of the definition of baliq, and the difference between a purely biological concept and a notion of aqil baligh, an idea of adult personhood. This interesting return to religious argumentation was a response to the intervention of MUI in a 2015 constitutional court court judicial review of the marriage law, in particular the regulation of age at marriage. The review had been requested by activists (including Rumah Kitab) on the basis of an argument that Indonesian law should be  harmonized with 2002 Law on Child Protection , which set 18 as the age of adulthood.. The weight given to the MUI submission by the secular court is an interesting cross over between religious and secular courts, which were unified into a single system in Indonesia during the Suharto regime. Rumah KitaB were developing a textually based  argument that could challenge the interpretation offered by MUI, which relied on a single text. Law reform is always an important part of social change. Legal reforms provide venues where people can argue for rights, but also are an important part of raising awareness and changing attitudes. For example, in a case of forced marriage that occurred in the community where I was doing research in the late 1970s, not long after the passage of the marriage law, a local official said to me that if the girl had come to him, he would have stopped the marriage. Talk is cheap’ and he was not put to the test but his comment shows the way in which changes on law begin to circulate and be spoken about, and so potentially impact on people’s behavior. What other ways can child marriage be challenged, and social practices changed? Marriage (and the subsequent state of parenthood) is in most communities the path out of a state of childhood to adulthood. Marriage resulted in the formation of a new conjugal unit and household. For those fortunate enough to pursue schooling, educational success and employment are also ‘building blocks’ of adulthood, and delayed age at marriage has no doubt contributed to the decline of marriages arranged by parents, as young people meet prospective spouses during education and in their work place.

Kathryn Robinson at KUPI

But these opportunities are unevenly spread throughout the archipelago. Especially in eastern Indonesia, schools beyond SD level can be a long way from home. And employment can be even harder to find. In such situations, marriage is the only avenue available young women to achieve adulthood, independence from their families of origin, and they often willingly enter into marriage at a young age . In such contexts, educational and employment opportunities are a critical part of solutions to early marriage. The globalized world we now live in is highly sexualized. Mass media exposes us all to narratives and images that challenge customary forms of morality. I have been shocked at the ready availability, indeed the difficulty of avoiding pornographic content in Indonesia, on social and other forms of media. There is a ‘moral panic’ in Indonesia about ‘pergaulan bebas’. In some research I  conducted few years ago, young people who themselves led innocent lives almost universally identified ‘pergaulan bebas’ as the biggest threat confronting Indonesia’s youth. In addition, prolonged education means many young people live away from home and outside the every day ‘control’ of parents, which can be of concern to parents and children alike. In this context, I understand that recent research by Rumah KitaB has shown that some parents see early marriage as the way to address this perceived risk. But it could also be argued that good sex education on schools and religious institutions, including empowering young people to make informed choices and evaluate risks associated with sexual activity—including health, emotional, social and economic risks— could counter this perceived threat in a more effective way than early marriage. But all of these strands are important legal reform and the empowerment of young women, in terms of their knowledge base but also the practical issues around alternative paths put of childhood. [Kathryn]

 

Gender-based Violence and Gender Knowledge: How Evidence-informed Policy Can Improve Justice for Women

By Mirisa Hasfaria

Violence against women is one of the most pervasive violations of human rights in the world, one of the least prosecuted crimes, and one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development.”

(Speech by the Acting Head of UN Women, Lakshmi Puri, on Ending Violence against Women and Children, at the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly on 18 June 2013 in Brussels)

 

Gender-based violence[1] is violence against women that occurs due to women’s subordinate social status. It includes any act or threat by men or male-dominated institutions that inflicts physical, sexual or psychological harm on a woman or girl because of her gender. In most cultures, traditional beliefs, norms and social institutions legitimize and therefore perpetuate violence against women.[2] Violence against women impacts on and impedes progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security.

The Codification of Women’ Rights

For a long time, international human rights law did not recognize gender-based violence as a problem. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, but the international bill of rights for women, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), was not adopted until 31 years later. In the 1980s, violence against women was still considered a private, domestic matter not requiring state intervention, so it was unsurprising that CEDAW contained no provision on violence against women. The gap was closed in 1992 when the CEDAW Committee adopted General Recommendation No. 19 (CEDAW GR 19) on violence against women, which clarified that gender-based violence against women was a form of discrimination and therefore covered by the scope of CEDAW.

The women’s movement made another remarkable achievement during the Second World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna on 14 to 25 June 1993, which culminated in the concept of violence against women and girls as a violation of human rights (see Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action). The two events led to the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW)[3] in 1993. Both CEDAW GR 19 and DEVAW explicitly encompassed violence perpetrated by either state officials or private persons such as family members, acquaintances or employers. Furthermore, they closed an important gap under international human rights law that originally excluded the private sphere from the human rights agenda, the sphere in which many women’s rights violations occur. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was adopted in 1995 and further expanded the definition of DEVAW to include violations of the rights of women in situations of: armed conflict; forced sterilization, forced abortion, coerced or forced use of contraceptives; prenatal sex selection; and female infanticide. The inclusion of gender equality as Goal 5 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made ending violence against women and girls a part of the global development agenda.

The State of Gender-Based Violence in Indonesia

The Government of Indonesia ratified CEDAW through Law No. 7 1984. The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) was established in 1998 as a mechanism for the protection and promotion of women’s human rights and was recognized by the CEDAW Committee[4]. Concerns about gender-based violence in the private sphere were addressed in the Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence in 2004. As part of its reporting tasks, Komnas Perempuan produces an annual report (commonly referred to as Catatan Tahunan or CATAHU) every March 8 to commemorate International Women’s Day. The report is a compilation of data on cases of violence against women handled by civil society and state agencies around the country, including women’s crisis centers, hospitals, police stations and courts. CATAHU 2016 reported 321,752 cases of violence against women. Over the years of national data compilation, domestic violence[5] is consistently the most-frequently occurring form of violence against women. This evidence highlights the urgent need for action as well as legislation if it is to achieve any real effect.

Child marriage is another form of violence that remains prevalent in Indonesia. Indonesia is among the ten countries with the highest absolute numbers of child brides – 14 percent of women aged between 20 and 24 years are married before they were 18 years old. In figures, this equates to 1,408,000 child brides annually.[6] Child marriage is a harmful practice and a fundamental violation of human rights. It limits girls’ opportunities for education and development and exposes them to greater risk of domestic violence and social isolation. Research confirms that girls who marry in childhood are at greater risk of intimate partner violence than girls of the same age who marry later.[7]

Nevertheless, Indonesia has made some progress towards reducing gender inequality. It was ranked 88 out of 144 in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report.[8] The report examined four areas of inequality between women and men, namely economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.

 

The Availability of Data

 

Levels of violence against women are not the same in all places and at all times. By identifying the social, cultural, legal and economic factors that influence such violence, it is possible to predict its occurrence and to understand how to prevent it. Equally important are relevant, reliable and timely gender statistics to understand the differences between women and men in a given society. Such information is critical to policy and decision makers and to advancing progress towards gender equality.

However, the use of disaggregated gender and social inclusion data and analyses is not commonplace in Indonesia. This is due to the fact that the prevailing development ideology in Indonesia is economic growth, in which equity is enforced as a form of security control, not in the context of the fulfillments of equal rights among citizens. Researchers, policy analysts and policy makers therefore tend to focus on economic issues rather than those which impact on equality and inclusion. This further limits the type of knowledge available to other policy stakeholders (such as civil society organizations and various media outlets) who rely on robust knowledge to lobby for change and to inform the broader community.

 

Proposed Actions

 

Three things are required to ensure that gender equality and gender-based violence are addressed when designing and implementing policies. First, the availability of gender, and gender-based violence knowledge should be improved. It can be in the form of research results, quantitative and qualitative data (including sex-disaggregated data), analysis and reflection of research/studies related to gender inequality, gender-based violence, development of gender mainstreaming and other relevant policies.

 

Secondly, the effectiveness of gender knowledge for policy making also requires intermediaries to carry out intensive communication and advocacy. Activists, NGOs, gender focal points at government institutions, and centers for women’s studies at universities can manage data in a way that can provide practical recommendations.

 

And finally, for gender equality to be improved and gender-based violence to be reduced, these ideas need to be embedded in the ethical principles of legislation and justice. This is unlikely to be fulfilled unless there is equal participation of women and men in politics, and these politicians have a deep understanding of the importance of gender knowledge. The World’s Women 2015: Trends and Statistics cited a study conducted between 2006 and 2008 among parliamentarians from 110 countries and reported that women in parliament were more likely than men to prioritize gender and social issues such as childcare, equal pay, parental leave, pensions, reproductive rights, and protection against gender-based violence. Thus, equal participation of women and men in politics is central to more inclusive and democratic governance. [Mirisa Hasfaria]

 

 

[1] The term, along with violence against women, is often used interchangeably, as most violence against women is gender-based, and most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women and girls.

[2] Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (2003), Handout of What is Gender-based Violence, accessible through https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.stopvaw.org/sites/3f6d15f4-c12d-4515-8544-26b7a3a5a41e/uploads/what_is_GBV_5-19-2003.doc&sa=U&ved=0ahUKEwiR75HK8aHVAhWETrwKHeBKAns4ChAWCAwwBA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNG8iJ1uTXyirV1E1XTfPRkyGC6l9w

[3] DEVAW is currently the main international document addressing the problem of gender-based violence. Each year, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women–which is on 25 November–marks the start of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence, calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls, and promoting the rights and principles of the declaration.

[4] Article 18 of CEDAW required national reports to the CEDAW Committee, stating that: “1. State parties undertake to submit to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, for consideration by the Committee, a report on the legislative, judicial, administrative or other measures which they have adopted to give effect to the provisions of the present Convention and on the progress made in this respect: (a) within one year after the entry into force for the State concerned; (b) thereafter at least every four years and further whenever the Committee so requests. 2. Reports may indicate factors and difficulties affecting the degree of fulfillment of obligations under the present Convention.” The existence of Komnas Perempuan is in accordance with Article 2c of the Convention.

[5] Domestic violence, also known as domestic abuse, spousal abuse, battering, family violence, dating abuse, and intimate partner violence (IPV), is a pattern of behavior which involves the abuse by one partner against another in an intimate relationship such as marriage, cohabitation, dating or within the family. Domestic violence can take many forms, including physical aggression or assault (hitting, kicking, biting, shoving, restraining, slapping, throwing objects, battery), or threats thereof; sexual abuse; emotional abuse; controlling or domineering; intimidation; stalking; passive/covert abuse (e.g., neglect); and economic deprivation (TEARS Foundation, accessible through: http://www.tears.co.za/)

[6] UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2016: A Fair Chance for Every Child, accessible through: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_SOWC_2016.pdf

[7] Gene B. Sperling, Rebecca Winthrop and Christina Kwauk (2016), What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the World’ Best Investment, accessible through: https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/whatworksingirlseducation1.pdf

[8] Compare this to the previous rankings: 97 out of 142 in 2014 and 92 out of 145 in 2015.

 

Mirisa is a social scientist with 11 years working experience in evidence informed policy making, good governance, political education and conflict resolution; 3 years of which in post-disaster rehabilitation and reconstruction. Area of expertise includes management and support to policy research and communication, knowledge production and publication, policy research and analysis, human development and gender equality, good governance and advocacy, international relations/political science with a focus on human rights as it relates to gender, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution.

 

Has Indonesia forgotten contraception?

Contraception is not simply a method to prevent pregnancy. Given the suspicion – if not outright hostility – toward contraception that is common to most religions, debates over its regulation are often deeply political and value-laden.

 

The problem is that suspicion does not solve problems. In Indonesia, adolescents cannot legally access birth control unless they are married. Yet many adolescents are sexually active, whatever their marital status. In fact, according to Unicef, one in nine Indonesian adolescents are sexually active. The Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey (SDKI) puts the figure even higher, at one in four. They have an urgent need for contraception.

 

There are more than 45 million 10-19 year olds in Indonesia. In 2017, the Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey (SDKI) found that only 45 per cent of married or sexually active adolescents aged 15 to 19 said they used contraception. This means the other 55 per cent either had no plans to use contraception or had limited exposure to knowledge about their bodies, sexuality, reproductive health, and contraceptives. These are concerning findings.

 

A 2016 study by Rumah KitaB found that from 52 female adolescents who married in childhood, 36 (about 70 per cent) got married because of unwanted pregnancies. Nearly all admitted that they never used contraception when they had sex, either because they didn’t know how to obtain the pill or didn’t have the courage to ask their partners to use a condom.

 

Only one tenth of the child brides surveyed had access to contraception. They usually acquired it from private midwives, not state-run community health centres (puskesmas), with the help of their mothers or mothers-in-law.

 

On World Contraception Day on 26 September, Indonesia received the distinction of being the country with the greatest unmet need for contraception. Lack of legally available contraception for adolescents contributed to this result. Indonesia was once a leader in family planning but it is fast becoming one of the worst performers in the region.

 

How did we get to this point? The main problem lies in flawed population policies. Grounded in the ideology of “developmentalism”, which held that the nation would become prosperous if population growth could be controlled, the New Order regime strictly applied a Family Planning project called Keluarga Berencana, or KB.

 

Using a wide range of methods and approaches, Indonesia’s population policy was deemed successful. But the program’s occasionally coercive methods, in which those who did not practice KB were treated as “the other”, alienated many. This included sections of the Muslim community, which was under the most suspicion when the program was first applied. Any effort to question, let alone oppose, the assertion that families would become prosperous through the KB program was simply crushed by the state.

 

Islamic mass-based organisations – first Nahdlatul Ulama, and later Muhammadiyah – tried to assuage Muslim anxieties about New Order enforcement of the KB policy. These two organisations agreed to support the New Order government’s population program, relying on interpretation and exploration of Islamic arguments. They justified support for KB in the name of both darurat (emergency) and maslahat (the greater good) to avoid even greater mudharat (harm) if the size of the population were not controlled.

 

However, this theological discourse from NU and Muhammadiyah certainly did not comfort everyone in the Muslim community. Even today, many Muslims are suspicious of family planning as a “western project” to reduce the size of the Muslim population.

 

This is not simply because the religious arguments are insufficient to convince them, for example because of differences in interpretation or exploration of Islamic law. Rather, narratives about “genocide of the Islamic community” have taken root, and are now considered truth by many people.

 

Those who reject family planning point to the fact that promises about family planning delivering prosperity were never truly realised, but it did reduce the size of many Muslim families.

 

Another problem is that there was never any theological debate or discussion of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) on the use of contraception by young people during the New Order era. The state seemingly sought to increase the moral acceptance of the KB program by guaranteeing that it would not be accessed by adolescents.

 

The Criminal Code (KUHP) (under Article 283) and the 2009 Population Growth and Family Development Law (under Article 26) still explicitly prohibit provision of contraception services to adolescents and unmarried couples, apart from information, and even that is restricted, with punishments of fines and imprisonment if violated. These prohibitions on serving the needs of adolescents were clearly a “band-aid” strategy to contain the anxiety and suspicions of the religious community.

 

Ignoring adolescents’ need for contraception has created a huge gap in addressing the problems of reproductive health in Indonesia. Adolescents are now a quarter of the population and among those who most need information on reproductive health and contraception services.

 

Indonesians cannot simply shut their eyes to the reality that the age at which girls are menstruating and becoming sexually active is steadily decreasing. At the same time, underage marriage is also becoming more common – on the grounds of fear of committing the “sin of premarital sex”, or if pregnancy has already occurred.

 

As long as the government remains closed to discussion on reproductive health education for adolescents, and the law remains unchanged, young people will remain shut off from accurate information.

 

The government’s reluctance to address adolescent sexual and reproductive health also provides room for conservative religious groups to push their position. And their solution is worryingly simplistic: Just marry them off!

 

Now is the time for the state, assisted by NU and Muhammadiyah, to come down from the mountaintop, and take a frank and pragmatic look at adolescent sexuality. Gaps in information and reproductive health services, including contraception services for adolescents, must be addressed.

 

If not, Indonesia can look forward to a grim future of more and more child brides and unwanted pregnancies.

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/has-indonesia-forgotten-contraception/