How Stigma Links to COVID-19 in Indonesia

Sadly, discrimination against groups, including religious communities, that become scapegoats was widely predicted as a likely response to COVID-19 in many settings. Specific instances are indeed emerging.

Worrying examples are reported in Indonesia. In one case a large crowd intercepted an ambulance carrying a body, threatening to set both ambulance and body on fire. In another, a family brought home, with force, a body for burial because they feared that the hospital had not followed religiously appropriate procedures and, significantly, the family had not been able to witness what was done. Both cases involve dangerous actions because they risked spreading the disease. And in both cases the community was concerned in large part about the stigma they would suffer. Such stigma has material consequences such as shunning by neighbors and strict government surveillance, including blocking the people involved from leaving their village.

Anthropologist Lies Marcos highlights the tight links between culture and religion drawing on these examples. Illness carries harms that range well beyond disease. In the history of communicable diseases, with leprosy and HIV/AIDS prominent examples, stigma associated with a disease is often more malevolent than the disease itself. Stigma arises for many reasons, drawing on enduring myths and prejudices. It often extends far beyond the person who is ill to their family and even ethnic or religious group. Stigma links to shame and cowardice. Marcos cites the example of a fellow student in her high school who bled to death after a botched abortion, concealed because her family feared stigma. Collective denial of disease at a national level is another example of how shame and fear translate into denial.

Responding to COVID-19 requires not just information about how to combat the spread of the disease but also honesty that can be difficult to achieve. Communications and messages to inform people and encourage behavior change need to be carefully honed so that they avoid the risks of stigma and ostracism. Ministries of health and other public authorities cannot achieve this alone. Institutions with strong relationships with communities need to play their part. That includes NGOs and religious communities.

Distancing, yes; ostracism, no!

(Based on: June 19, 2020, Jakarta Post article)

Source: https://mailchi.mp/111b2e37d9b7/covid-19-june-23-highlight-4534?fbclid=IwAR3pw7ttfDIyTeV3oIQCGUajloUSAP_sfnNNXT0Bp9bu2_qxdRw4ecKG2Yc

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

Meet Amina Wadud, The Rock Star of Islamic Feminist

The Lady Imam talks to Managing Editor Hera Diani about her endless spiritual journey, Feminism in Islam, and how she enjoys taking off her hijab in her new home in Indonesia.

 

by Hera Diani, Managing Editor

 

amina wadud distributed the copies of the Quranic verses related to Islam and feminism during a class in Jakarta last year. It was held during Ramadan by Rumah KitaB, a non-governmental research organization focusing on the rights marginalized groups facing discrimination against socio-religious perspective.

There were 35 participants from different professional backgrounds, including public figures like women activist Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, as well as Muslim scholars Ulil Abshar Abdalla and Nur Rofiah. But all of us share the same interest in Islam and gender and we were all star-struck by the presence of the Lady Imam in front of our very eyes.

My introduction to the 68 years old American Muslim philosopher was in 2005, when she created a controversy by leading Friday prayers for a congregation in the United States, going against the general rule that allows only male imam in mixed gender congregations. For someone who had been questioning the very rule and had been asked by non-Muslims about it, I became an instant fan and follower after that.

Getting her PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Michigan in 1988, wadud (who prefers her name in lower case as Arabic alphabets do not recognize capital letters), has focused on relation of gender and Islam. She wrote the quintessential Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective, which has since become a seminal work on the topic. She has been part of several civil society organizations and movements that promote principles of equality for women under the principles of Islam, such as Sisters in Islam and Musawah.

As an Islamic scholar, she has a progressive focus on Quran exegesis, or the interpretation of the holy text. That was what she tried to teach us last year in the class, to read the holy text using contextual methods.

wadud said we need to ask the following questions in seeing gender discrepancies in the Quran. Is it a reflection of the historical context? Is it the shortcoming of Arabic language? Is it a reflection of patriarchy? Or a matter of divine intent? How do we know?

We were divided into groups of 2-3, and each group read different verses. My group got Surah Al-Ankabut 28-35, about the Prophet Lot’s people and their abomination, which have been used by many Muslims to reject homosexuality.

“Check the verse. Who is the speaker? Is it God? Is it the prophet? Who or what is this statement made about? Is the message clear? If there is a woman, does she speak?” said wadud.

As we dissect the verses word by word to answer these questions, it became clear that the verses were not crystal clear about homosexuality. There are mentions about “obscenity” and “people of corruption”, as well as “wrongdoers” and “lewdness”. The narrators alternate between God and Prophet Abraham telling the story of Prophet Lot, and other unclear narrator(s). There are a few mentions about Lot’s wife, such as “We will save you and your family, except for your wife, who will remain behind.” But it was not clear what vice she does, and does she speak for her own? Never.

It was such a mind-blowing exercise.

“Compare each verse to other verses. If we find contradictory passages or ideas in the text, choose on the side of equality and justice. If other people can read in patriarchy, you can read in equality and justice. The only way to resolve contradiction is to think,” said wadud.

“No need to be scared of people. You don’t have to be a scholar to interpret the text, it’s your right to do so.”

As she talked about hegemonic binaries in Islamic context, wadud also made a reference Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, a 1992 work of literary criticism by Toni Morrison, which made her class even more exciting.

In between the classes, I had the opportunity to sit and talk with amina wadud and the excerpt is as follows.

Magdalene: So you are now moving to Indonesia. May I know why?

amina wadud: I love this part of the world; I love the weather. I have arthritis, it fits me better. I’m very happy here. My kids, the youngest one is turning 30 today. They have a life of their own and they’re living their lives, and I can always visit them. Because it’s cheaper to live here and visit them there. So I’m hoping to find a place that I can either purchase or, you know, move to.

How did you begin to be interested in Islam, being a daughter of a Methodist priest?

I think being raised in a God-centered household, it was fairly early on that I was clear that there was more to it than just one way. And at that time I just was interested in looking into various Christian denominations to see what’s the same, what’s different. When I was in high school, I lived with families, some were Jewish, Unitarian Universalists…so again, there was this idea that religion is not just one.

By the time I got into the university, I really was interested in Eastern spiritualist tradition and I became a Buddhist and lived in Ashram for a year and practiced meditation and textual practice. And the next year, when I was like 18 or 19, I started reading about Islam. There was a very strong movement in the U.S., so anybody who expressed any interest, they converted them. So I actually went to the mosque to get information and they said, “Oh, you should just take your shahadat (the Muslim profession of faith).” Five months later, I was given a copy of the Quran, which in my mind should’ve come way earlier but nevertheless by that time, I kind of committed myself to some level of practice, to some kind of community. But one time I read the Quran, I really fell in love and that’s really when it made a profound difference.

Did you face resistance from your family?

No, because I was always the odd person out. I was the only one who had ever went to university. I was vegetarian. They were, like, “Ok what else she is bringing home today?” (laugh). And I was already in the university, I wasn’t living at home, so there wasn’t any major issue. My father also had an illness that took his life, and his health deteriorated over the first two years that I was a Muslim until he passed away. So there was never really an opportunity to have any frank theological discussions.

I think my father also never knew about any other version of Islam except for the Black Muslim movement in the United States. At that time the Black Muslim movement was a non-esoteric movement. They didn’t believe in heaven and hell; they didn’t believe in white Jesus. And I’m sure that that seemed like it was a problem even though that wasn’t what the doorway was for me. I did not enter into the doorway, many Muslims did. They also, in a way, had internal movement until they became religious Sunni Muslim. But in the beginning it was a different kind of movement but I didn’t enter into that. But I think my father might’ve thought that, but as I said, I was living away from home, so if I came to see him and visited him at the hospital up until he died, we never really had time to talk about, “what is it you’re doing – do I agree, do I disagree”.

Being a Muslim back then in the U.S. must be very different from now in Trump’s U.S.

I’m sure because that was like over 40 years ago. I’ve been a Muslim for 46 years now. At that time actually there was a very strong movement in the African-American community towards Islam. In the 1930s to 70s, there was a very strong movement of conversion in the African-American community. And being an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, I was right in the heart of Philadelphia. And even today, of all the cities that you might visit in the United States, if you’re in the city of Philadelphia, Islam is very noticeable. It’s got a very strong presence and it is predominantly African-American even though there are Muslims from everywhere. So it was not as strange, but it still was rare.

But Islamophobia wasn’t as apparent as it is today?

No, there was a real lack of knowledge and people were pretty much stuck with that. With Islamophobia, there was a kind of consolidated profiling of types. The Muslims already figured out what was the “type” at that time and Muslims already knew what our type was. So we didn’t really have that palpable quality of hate and prejudice discrimination that goes on profiling everyone now.

So, how did you start focusing on feminism in Islam?

I never studied feminism in Islam. I actually distinguished myself from feminism for 35 years of being a Muslim. I studied Quran because I was interested in the Quran, and when I studied the Quran at my undergraduate university, I was mostly on my own because there wasn’t a really advance level. I started learning Arabic in the early 70s, then I lived in Libya and my Arabic fluency increased. I went to work, just teaching and tutoring in Islamic private schools, then I went to graduate school for Islamic Studies and Arabic. And by that time, I was clear that I really wanted to understand the role of women as promoted by the Quran.

 

Participants of Islam and Feminism class with amina wadud. (Courtesy of Rumah KitaB) 

 

I had lived abroad; I’d lived in a Muslim majority country. I’ve been around in the communities in the US, which are eclectic, with Muslims from all over the world, as well as home-grown, what you’d call indigenous Muslims. I had already absorbed that there were discrepancies between the ideas about what rights belong to men as Muslims and what rights belong to women as Muslims. I was very curious about where these differences had come from. And so my first question was, is this what Allah intends? And if this is what Allah intends, where would be the source of getting that information that I would best to be able to access? And that was the Quran.

So it worked out well because I was already in love with the Quran, and so I was clear that I wanted to look at that… Even then I didn’t even call it gender. My first book is called Quran and Women, it should be called Quran and Gender. But I didn’t take Feminist Studies, which was just evolving. I took a few random courses at Women’s Studies, but I took all these courses that say Islam is the best way. Here, look at all these researches that say why Islam is the best way, and they always gave me an A but it wasn’t really critical.

I think after I finished my master’s and PhD, and I wrote my dissertation, which became the book Quran and Women…I think it was then that it became clear to me that if you actually, methodically demonstrate discrepancies between certain cultural practices throughout the history of Islam and Muslims, from the Quranic trajectory based on knowledge of the Quran, it was so challenging to the comfort zone and authority given to men, that they resisted.

So I already became controversial when I really was not by personality very controversial. I was actually very conservative. Even Quran and Women as a book, it’s conservative, but in terms of scholarship it’s very rigorous. And, unfortunately, for the patriarchal projection of Islam, it does not support that projection. So it already began to create some problems. But I wasn’t interested in creating problems; I’m just interested in the truth.

 

It was much more challenging to the mainstream when the basis for your resistance to unequal treatment of women and men was not secular liberal feminism, but it was Quranic.

 

After I did my dissertation and got my PhD, I came to Malaysia and joined the International Islamic University to teach Quran and Quranic Studies to undergraduates. I began to have a relationship with the women in the communities and the beginning of Sisters in Islam. And that really shifted my thinking from just theory and theology to the level of activism and realities. When both thinking align with that trajectory that I understood from the Quran, it was much more challenging to the mainstream when the basis for your resistance to unequal treatment of women and men was not secular liberal feminism, but it was Quranic. That was even more powerful.

As a consequence, I actually began to experience some relevance in my work. Because before, it was all utopic, like Islam is the best religion in the world, and it does only wonderful things and the Quran says all these wonderful things, but the lived reality is something else. When you start having conversation between these two cosmologies, for me it’s the easy answer that the Quran will come first but how come we’re not living it? And trying to figure out not only how come we’re not living it, but how to live it. What were the steps needed to be put into place to follow that, putting it on the trajectory was actually revolutionary?

I left Malaysia in 1992 and Sisters in Islam started in 1987 but I didn’t join until 1989. And Musawah was launched in 2009 and by that time I identified as an Islamic feminist. I actually wrote critically about the … shaping of feminism, which was very secular, very white, and very class-elitist in its origin for it to relate to me as an African-American woman and a Muslim. There are a lot of things that need to be looked into.

Actually in 1995, at the Beijing World Conference of Women, it became clear that Muslim women’s issues were being put into a kind of battleground between the secular feminist and the Islamist. And the Islamists were a hundred percent patriarchal interpretations of Islam and that was fine because Islam is perfect, and the secular had a hundred percent “we don’t know religion” and they were in an agreement that you can’t have Islam and feminism. It wasn’t until those who were in the middle said, “who is defining Islam and how are they defining it? And who is defining feminism or human rights? How are they defining it? And when will the authority be given to us who are also living as Muslims and women to be able to define feminism, Islam and human rights all for ourselves?” And that’s when the shift came in terms of even the work that Sisters in Islam, the right to exert the authority to define not just feminism, but also to define Islam and that’s been the cornerstone of our work.

Because before people just say, “Oh you know what, that’s just Islam.” It’s like whose Islam? How is it defined? And where do they get their authority?” Those are the three questions that you need to ask continually because people are very strategically asserting limits for Islam in accordance to the agenda that they have and patriarchy was one such agenda that has a long history. So people just started taking it for granted. And when we challenge even that history to say, “That was one way of doing it, but there are other ways to do it” and here are the source stacks, here’s the methodology to support the idea that there are other trajectories of Islam, then we became a lot more empowered, but also a lot more controversial.

I can relate with what you call the battleground because Magdalene often talks about that trajectory and redefining Islam, like, is feminism in Islam oxymoronic or is there actually an intersection. And we are being attacked by both the right who say we’re liberal, and the left who say we are Islam apologists.

Yeah, that was what happened to us in the 90s, and it turned out also to strategically be a very good turning point, because then we had to figure out what is our identity. Because the Islamists said that we were secular feminist and the secular feminists said that we were Islamist. We were not either one of them. So, technically, not having an identity, and so clarifying both for ourselves and for the projection of our work and our relationship to larger communities took the next 10-15 years. By the time the launching of Musawah took place and we became a part of the global movements.

So now we teach the methodology of combining Islam and human rights for the dignity of women. It’s a lovely journey for me because everything just opened itself up to the next thing in a way that I was allowed to grow and change and learn and teach, and at the same time being a part of movements to implement what was being grown and what was being taught. So yeah, it’s a great blessing. But I didn’t know about it when I got into it, I only know that the dissertation I wrote that I became the book. I just get my royalty payment, twice a year from Quran and Women, it’s still making money. You know it’s like 27-something years old… so I mean it’s a blessing, really, to think about it.

Musawah focuses on family law, why is that?

Yes, the reason is that we have to work within an instrument, implement it within the context of the nation state. Many Muslim countries or non-Muslim countries with a large Muslim population that are minority will establish courts to adjudicate the matters that most relate to women and women’s well-being. They are family law courts, or personal status law courts. The fundamental understanding of those courts is that men are in charge. To dismantle the rubric of men’s superiority at a pragmatic level means challenging the established means of laws that support certain notions that actually violate in many ways the constitutional equality that is guaranteed to the same women in the context of direct nation-state. So strategically it’s a very powerful tool, otherwise it’s just too big.

We get to align with very specific kind of projects. For example, each country must give a report to CEDAW for the documents that they have become signature forms and each country is also permitted a shadow report. The shadow report is the unofficial report by women’s activists on the ground to say they’re telling you that they’ve been handling this and this is what is really happening on the ground.

It became a very powerful tool because it puts the nation state under its international connection empowering women on the ground to talk back to the state. But that also took time because CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women) was not in the UN and all its bodies was not qualified to interrogate the interpretation of Islam that came down the road. They were also believing that their job was to be hands off.

One of the ways that Musawah has worked with CEDAW and nation state to nation state’s agendas for women is to actually teach people in the UN about definitions of Islam. Like, who defines it and how, and we say if it’s defined by these things, how come these things are not put into these principles of Islam or these reservations on these international document and everything, so that took a lot of time and it’s not a hundred percent replaced, but it’s becoming more and more effective as we just keep on doing it.

Eventually, even in the UN, they said, “You know what? You defining Islam, what about these ways based on these principles” and all of a sudden we can no longer come to this body and say “Well you can’t do anything about it cause it’s Islam” because that body is also asking “whose interpretation of Islam are you using?”. It’s slow, but it’s happening.

One of the thorniest issues among Muslim women is hijab. What is actually said in the Quran about hijab?

First of all, there’s nothing said in the Quran about the hijab. There are some statements in the Quran about women’s dress, they’re taken one hundred percent from the style of the dress that existed at that time and place, and I used those based on things I presented in the first two sessions here. I use those as reflections of a general principle, and that general principle is modesty. But you cannot restrict modesty to only one form.

I don’t believe that hijab is a requirement of the religion. But it is personally my preference for my public work. I don’t wear it at home, I don’t wear it in my neighborhood, I don’t wear it when I go for some shopping, but when I were in public I do and it’s because I have a different relationship with symbols. This is one of the clearest, symbolic representations of Islam. And in that way, I identify this as a public performance. But I don’t see it as a requirement and I don’t see it as the only expression of modesty.

But because hijab is so politicized in a negative way, under the roof of Islamophobia, I am implying even more incline to assert it. So, for example, after 9/11, I was always subject to additional screening because I wore hijab at the time and I wear long dreadlocks as well, so it was like a nightmare. Because I would choose not to wear it, people were saying “why don’t you just go through the thing and not wear it?” I was, like, “No, no, why would I not identify with the people being the most oppressed?”

 

Compare each verse to other verses. If we find contradictory passages or ideas in the text, choose on the side of equality and justice. If other people can read in patriarchy, you can read in equality and justice. The only way to resolve contradiction is to think.

 

You know, I do also identify with wearing hijab, and recently when I went to Bali or something like that, I realized, “Oh, I’m in a Muslim majority country, they would let me wear if I have to they won’t pass at me, and if I don’t, they won’t pass on me either.” So, for the first time in 18 years, I went through security without having on hijab. That was, like, huge for me, because we have to see that there are politics related to it as well, and I don’t feel like my dress should be subject to the convenience of Islamophobes. Like, you don’t get to determine for me how I dress. Even your hate and your laws say that you don’t get to determine it for me. So obviously I believe in the wearing of choice and I believe in the taking off of choice. Because I both wear it and don’t wear it, I live in one hundred percent a place of choice, and that’s where I am.

What about niqab or burqa?

Well first of all, I chose to wear niqab myself for four years. I was in the United States and then I moved to Libya and I was still wearing it. And when I was in Libya, I stopped wearing it. But it was possible to wear the niqab by choice as well. Unfortunately, because of the politicization of the discussion, it is a long way before we know what would a person do if they were totally free. That is, if they were free to wear whatever they wanted, nobody said anything, would that be as big a deal? Even for the wearer? As it is to those who are resisting it? I don’t know.

So, until we actually accept people in the full range of their choices, we can’t know about what is the full spectrum or full range of women Muslim and their dress. We can’t know. So I support this movement going on terribly in Iran just as much as I support the burqini protest that is going on in France. They emphasize on two different things, but they’re all about women saying we give the same, that’s my body my choice. And that’s hard to do with the (unintelligible)

Now that you’re living here, how do you see the increased conservatism?

Yes, it’s interesting because many people have been pointing this out to me. I’m a little bit insulated living in Bogor and not speaking fluent bahasa. But also because I lived in Malaysia and actually it is way worse in Malaysia. Malaysia goes under the guise of a little bit more modern, a little bit more economic prosperity, but extreme Islamists is a really more rampant.

So, I’ve lived around it, so it still seems to be less in Indonesia but it is growing. It is in the favor of the Indonesian people to arrest the force of it by promotion of all kinds of tolerant, diverse representation of Islam. You just have to load the ways with more of the history of the tolerant nature that is typical of Indonesians. We have to make that the loudest part of the public.

The thing is we give more attention to the extreme voices and because we do, it seems as if they’re greater in number than they really are. Or that they have greater favor. They’re fighters, they make people afraid, so we really need to flood the waves with more conversation about just generic Indonesian Islam. And then it won’t seem so overwhelming. Because it is. It’s negatively overwhelming, and that’s part of the effect. We shouldn’t want that effect, and I think that they don’t have as much clout as they pretend they do. But they have enough to make other people afraid and so that’s the clout. That’s why we have to proliferate the friendlier messages.

But it’s worrying, like public schools are getting more conservative. And everywhere we go, more and more women are wearing hijab. My friend said when she was going to the church, she was genuinely taken aback, “Wow, it’s odd that nobody’s wearing hijab. Oh, wait a minute. I’m in a church.”

(Laugh) That’s right, you don’t go somewhere without seeing…. It does proliferate. It’s funny because I have to walk my neighborhood every morning, I tried to walk every morning because of my age and my arthritis and all that stuff, and I mostly go with a T-shirt, sometimes gym pants. And sometimes I think to myself, because everybody in the neighborhood wears hijab, “Are you showing off?” And actually, at the time that I go there are so few people that are out and about, and I always say, “Pagi, Bu/Pak. Apa kabar, Ibu.” and just trying to be neighborly, but the opportunity for me to walk with just a t-shirt on is rare. I can’t do it in the country like the United States because we got that other thing that’s going on there and I need to represent myself as a Muslim because I don’t want other things to come…I’m Muslim here, I don’t have to dress to go with it.

I went to the mosque with my T-shirt on, I just bring along scarf to do the prayer part, and I take it off and I get up and everything, I’m finally whole. My body is whole. I’m not fighting a war all the time with my body so I will have that choice to a Muslim woman. I don’t have to fight that here, so it is a pleasure. But sometimes, I worried, I said, “Are you showing off?” Because I would never, I mean, stay in an island… I went to Madagascar, which is an island, we have our own little private beach, so I’m in a sort of regular bathing suit, like a one-piece, but not like a burqini. And my friend, who’s also a Muslim, from the UK, she would go to the village to buy food, and she would wear just the shirt on. I mean, I could not go that far, so I have to put back on more clothes. I could not go with my chest all out, in my bathing suit, so I had to put on a regular T-shirt, so I’m not comfortable in certain levels of dress. Even on an island, if I’m going to meet other people, but I swim in a bathing suit like this, you know. So it’s a really funny thing because I noticed it more as I get older that the right to be able to choose my own body politics is very rarely given to me. So, when I walk in my neighborhood, I can do that, but you know, I wouldn’t be able to do that in many places.

But yeah, I do notice more (people are wearing hijab). Since the first time I lived here, which was 2008 to 2009, so in those ten years, I do notice more. Because I also wear (hijab) and I take it off as I want to as well, and I only started doing that when I was here. Living here the first time, I realized I don’t have to defend Islam. I’m not a walking poster for Islam, I’m just another person out here in the community, and most of them are Muslims, it took a weight off my back. So my first time to experience what would it be like to walk all the time without my hijab on is living here, and I said that I’m okay with this. But as I said, I wouldn’t go with a tank top, that’s not me. I came back here so I can enjoy taking it off. I’m not here for anybody’s pleasure or inspection, so if you don’t like that I don’t wear it, that’s your problem. Just as I would tell the Americans, if you don’t like that I do wear it, that’s your problem.

We also received quite a number of articles from the women who took off their hijab and receive a lot of backlash.

I used to say that most people give that backlash because they’re jealous, like, “Why do you get to take yours off while I have to wear mine?” I mean, like, that’s your problem.

So, are you doing your research here?

This first year, I must admit, I’m flaunting being retired, just trying to make some friends for safari, I’m going to South Africa next month. I’m enjoying not having to do anything except for what I want to do, because I’m a workaholic and I have five children. So, I never got the chance to do whatever I wanted to do for more than a minute, so I’m just flaunting it.

But I need to get to do some writing, which is why I left the U.S., I didn’t plan to stay, but this happened in such a good way. But yeah I want to do some writing from this research on sexual diversity and human dignity, and also I put in a proposal for a book about progressive ideas about the summit of spirituality and devotional practices. A kind of a progressive version of the five pillars, so I can talk about women imams, and also talk about the ways which people connect themselves to Allah, that include the regular five pillar that also extends it beyond itself.

After I made hajj, I ran a proposal that was accepted like, okay, here’s a chapter, and I never get any further. So I’d like to make that book, sometimes when people think of a book, to know about the fact that there are lady imams. Because if you learn about lady imams, it has to be like on a marginal discussion, on a marginal aspect, but no. It’s just a part of a regular Islamic salah (prayer), so, inshallah (God willing). Put me in your dua’ (prayer), because the idea is good but the discipline really sucks.

 

Source: https://magdalene.co/story/meet-amina-wadud-the-rock-star-of-islamic-feminist?fbclid=IwAR3Qt9Py8RI-q6DECUdqWabKUWNHfuhX-Q_Svw7Kt4ottvDdSnS87AF61og

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#_=_

KSI Interview with Lies Marcoes: GESI Perspective in Research for Development

Lies Marcoes Natsir is one of Indonesia’s foremost experts in Islam and gender. She has played a pioneering role in the Indonesian gender equality movement by bridging the divide between Muslim and secular feminists and encouraging feminists to work within Islam to promote gender equality. Lies is a passionate and talented trainer – frequently used by KSI and other DFAT programs – and has used these skills to change people’s attitudes to the status of women in Islam. With her strong leadership and commitment, Lies has empowered countless Indonesian women and brought gender into mainstream parlance in Indonesia.

 

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about your background?
A: I graduated from IAIN/UIN Jakarta, from the Islamic Theology Faculty, with a Religious Comparison Major. After more than 15 years as an activist in the reproductive health area, including as a program manager at the Association of Islamic School Development and Community (P3M), I received a scholarship from the Ford Foundation for my Masters program in the field of Health Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. 
I have also been a researcher and activist in the women’s movement in Indonesia. These are two roles that, in a number of cases, are not always linked to each other and not always played by one person. Usually, people choose to become activists by using the research outcomes of another institution as the basis for their cause, or they only become a researcher without advocating their research outcomes. 
I may be a bit unique, in that I do both. I love the research world, especially research on religious social anthropology. This issue gave my life colour and meaning. I love to go to the field; finding out, asking questions, listening to stories, and writing them up with a specific discipline and theory, particularly feminism. By doing this, I can explain a phenomenon by using a critical perspective related to the relationship (authority) between men and women, a perspective that can dismantle gender prejudice and bias, and the resulting discrimination. 
I also love to write. I love writing research outcomes. I often write an extract of my research outcome in the opinion section in media such as Kompas, the Jakarta Post, or on social media by using popular and easy to understand language. When I am writing all of these, I feel that I am conducting advocacy to change perspectives or policies. 
In the context of time, I think my momentum was timely, even though any time can be used as momentum for anyone to experience changes in their lives. I was going through life in the era of mid-New Order, which at the time was very arrogant towards people. 
The political engine of the New Order, namely the Golkar party and civil servants, became the most effective backbone in supporting the regime. Meanwhile, others of us, NGOs, the student movement and the press, must work under a shadowy pressure – invincible but frightening. Speaking on women’s rights at the time, we had to point out the mistakes of the Family Planning (FP) program for example, a program that has been proven to support development by significantly reducing the birth rate. We had to explain that a program, even with its positive impact, must still be questioned if, in its implementation, it takes away individual basic rights of women controlling their own bodies and violates the principles of democracy by forcing their will without any room for negotiation. We know that at the time, FP was done coercively, using military means, systemic threats, using the approach of shame for those who did not follow the State’s will, and did not leave room to question or refuse the program. These methods, according to us activists, violated the basic principles of freedom and jeopardized the program itself. People were following FP because of force, not because of their own awareness, but through mobilisation. Now, we can see the result, we have found the evidence that FB has been rejected for reasons that should have been discussed in the past–reasons related to its objectives, benefits, methods and origins. And this comes from a domain that should have been discussed first, such as religious or demographic political perspectives. 
I used to speak about reproductive health in the face of state coercion, now my research and advocacy remains on reproductive health issues. The difference is that we used to face the coercive force of the State, now we are facing another shadowy force from the religious perspective, which also feels entitled to have power and control over a woman’s body.    
 
Q: Can you explain how feminism is made operational in your research?
A: In researching any theme, I always want to critically observe the power relationship, including the gender power relationship.  
With this gender analysis and feminism, I can also see the agency of women: how they provide meaning, either by being compliant or fighting against the patriarchal will that is making them suffer, but it requires a critical awareness to realise this. For example, when I researched the radical movements in Indonesia, I read several research outcomes on this issue. I am baffled as to how a religious movement in Indonesia can ignore the involvement of women. How can something so real and visible manage to be skipped in the research framework. For example, the wanted terrorist Noordin M. Top can survive because he is camouflaged by forming a regular and normal family. Don’t we want to know who the wife is, whether she is afraid or not, how did they know each other, what is the wife’s view of her husband’s cause? In short, don’t we want to know how the terrorist moves from one city to another, who washes his underwear? I am very surprised that research on a religious movement in Indonesia can fail to question the women’s position. At that point, I assume there is a huge gender bias. Terrorism is considered a masculine world, the world of men. But this bias is lost in the research.
Based on this curiosity, I designed research on women and fundamentalism. I tried to observe it in a round way, not directly at the heart of the research on radicalism. I agree with the opinion of Ihsan Ali Fauzie from PUSAD Paramadina, who concluded that fundamentalism is a way to radicalism. Together with a researcher of Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB), we intensively interviewed 20 women on what can connect women to a fundamentalist point of view and movement in Indonesia. The outcome was very interesting. In each woman we interviewed, there is an agency to fight and engage in a jihad to defend her religion. The women attached a very personal meaning to jihad. Of course, this concept was received through their involvement in their fundamentalist group. Here, there is an agency role of women, namely as ‘servants’, both in providing meaning or even criticising the organisation or their fundamentalist group. 
A more interesting thing is how women attach meaning to their jihad. Fundamentalist groups place jihad in two categories. One is major jihad (jihad kabir), namely jihad that puts your life on the line in the battlefield/conflict area. Meanwhile, small jihad (jihad saghir) is a jihad related to the role of women to give birth, especially to boys, that will become the actors of major jihad, and being patient while their husbands go on jihad. However, women from younger generations are not satisfied by this social role. They negotiate to participate in major jihad, for example by becoming bomb carriers. This is an interesting fact. But it is the researcher’s job to question this fact in a deeper way. 
In my research, because I used gender analysis and feminism, I raised the question of why women feel dissatisfied with their traditional roles in performing small jihads. This question brought me to a more interesting finding. It would seem that the social position of women within fundamentalist groups is very low. They are unappreciated, unseen and unrecognised as something that provides meaning to jihad. These young women are desperate to prove their bravery, even being braver than men. They want their role to be seen and recognised. The only way to prove this is by sacrificing their lives (as the bomb carrier). In the theological concept, actors of jihad are incentivised by receiving angels in the next world, but what is in it for the women? The concept is not as bright and clear as for men. Despite this, women still want to prove that they are willing to put their lives at risk. With this, they are ‘respected’ and their presence and existence are accepted. We can then understand why some women are willing to blow themselves up by carrying a bomb and thinking of this as a jihad (read the publication of Rumah KitaB entitled the Testimony of Servants: A Study about Women and Fundamentalism in Indonesia, red.).
Q: Violence against women is a long-standing phenomenon. How does your research bring to light data and information on the facts of violence, and thus, become evidence for policy change and social justice?
A: This is an interesting question. This explains my two working arenas – research, and writing for advocacy. I wrote an article in Kompas to respond to the statement of the Minister of Education and Culture, Mohammad Nuh, (he was in power from 22 October 2009 to 27 October 2014, red). At the time there was a rape of a Junior High School student in Depok, committed by her senior. The school refused the victim’s right to go to school after the rape. The minister said that this was not sexual violence, but consensual sex. So, instead of finding a solution on the discriminatory action of the school, the minister condoned it in the name of protecting more students. 
In this article, I explained that sexual violence against teenagers is similar to violence in dating. The point is rape can occur in a relationship initially built on a consensual basis, but at one point there is a coercion using the power relationship in the name of love. There is a gender difference that must be understood on the perception of teen boys and girls on the expression of love, the power relationship, and the meaning of a sexual relationship. This difference needs correct understanding that is not biased and not based on male assumptions.  
Another example is the research of Rumah KitaB that I am leading on child marriage (there are 14 research titles that can be viewed on https://rumahkitab.com/project-list/karya/). Attempting to step out of the focus that sees child marriage as a result of poverty, we tried to further explore the root of such poverty. Child marriage has become a phenomenon that can be found almost anywhere in Indonesia, both in rural and urban areas. Data shows that one in five Indonesian women were married when they were under age, and two thirds of these marriages ended in divorce. Indonesia is in the top ten countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world. We tried to observe the root of the poverty, namely the changing living space in rural areas as a result of change of land ownership and its conversion. When men and community figures lose their access to land, they become more picky in dealing with public moral problems, including their teenagers. They tend to be more conservative and at least let child marriage slide. By doing this, they show their power politics role and receive economic benefits by becoming a regulation broker. At the analysis level, this research demonstrated how child marriage is actually a form of violence by adults to children. To make matters even more frightening, this violence is agreed upon between adults. Not one adult is challenging it. They often state moral reasoning, in the best interests of the child, covering up shame or resolving immoral conduct. This is contradictory, because marriage of a child is clearly immoral. They drop out of school, stop expressing themselves, and stop playing, which are their rights.
Among the institutions that we observed in the context of this research, there were ‘vague’ institutions. There were neither formal nor informal institutions, but they were extraordinarily effective in promoting child marriage practices. 
Q: How do you, along with other researchers, advocate a policy change that is not reactive and does not target the issue on this ‘vague power at work’?
A: We see that child marriage is promoted not only by formal institutions, but by other institutions accommodating this practice. Emergency door regulations, such as dispensation to get married when under age from the Religious Court after the Religious Office has refused because it violated the Marriage Law is one of the accommodative formal institutions. Or, people take advantage of informal institutions, where a community figure is involved in approving a child marriage by conducting an under-handed marriage, which is illegal from the State’s point of view, but legal from a religious stand point.
Between these two institutions, there is a very powerful situation encouraging child marriage practices, neither by formal nor informal institutions. We call it a ‘vague institution’, namely decisions taken by unknown figures. It may be the mother, father, relative, a big family or the community. The point is marriage is done to cover up shame and resolve the anxiety of adults surrounding the child. This is particularly true when the child is pregnant, or is considered to have disturbed the family stability by the way the child expresses his or her sexuality. They are considered flirtatious, unable to control themselves, and so forth. This shame has plenty of power, but its bearer is so vague. That is what we mean by vague power at work. 
The research on child marriage that we conducted has produced new theories that still need to undergo some testing, for example, the phenomenon of social orphans, where the child does not have a father and mother as a place for them to seek protection and help. Their parents have lost their social roles as parents due to severe and systemic poverty.    
Q: What kind of progressive maneuver would you like to create through your research to improve the gap in the power relationship between women and men in Indonesia?
A: Our research on FP (publication entitled Religious Perspective Map on Family Planning, red.), fundamentalism, women in radical movements, or child marriage basically shows how religious views and institutions can take a larger role in protecting women. We do this by contrasting text and reality when text is used blindly as a tool to justify or legitimise violence against women. We show facts on this violence and face it with the normative, ideal teachings brought by religion. If we believe religion is a blessing for all humanity, why are only some people enjoying it? If religion teaches us good things, why does it result in bad treatment of women? Certainly, it is not about the religion, but how people interpret it in a biased and incomplete way. In the niche between the fact of bad treatment suffered by women and the normative ideal value of religion, we have the opportunity to build an alignment to women. The feminism analysis knife to me is a way to grow critical thinking and methodology to build alignment, namely thinking and action to address oppression. 
Q: What trend do you want to see in the next generation of researchers and analysts that want to promote policy change for social justice?
A: A while ago, I saw a documentary video of a poet, Agam Wispi, an Indonesian runaway poet staying in Amsterdam. He was a poet for the People’s Cultural Institution (Lekra) from Medan, North Sumatera in the late 1930s. He was the most influential Lekra poet during 1950-1960s, before joining the navy and being stuck abroad during the 1965 incident. According to the records of the Literature Encyclopaedia developed by the Ministry of Education and Culture, his poetry contained reform never seen before, such as language, expression and emotional word choices. I was very impressed with his work because it contained anger about the social situation that he considered to be unfair for the poor. 
In the 1980s, he was invited to Jakarta and he met young poets and writers in Indonesia. He was very impressed with how active these youths were. According to him, their work was very creative and they were acting to fight the oppressive regime.
Inspired by this interview, I see that a critical young generation is the most important element in social change. Issues of environment, labour and specific issues on the oppression of women are mobilised by activists. They are not just conducting research, but also consistently and persistently taking action to move and resist a bad situation. The methods may be different than during my years. The actions today are done through fun methods, out of the standard organisational boxes, but they produce very good results. Social media and technology are clearly helping them, while back in my era cell phones did not even exist.
I see the use of social media as an advocacy tool being a trend that will develop in the future. Infographics, short videos and short movies will become inevitable smart choices in this digital era to advocate policies from research outcomes. This is the era of youth in a fast-paced global era. 
However, there are two things that can pose a threat. The first is ethics. The truth of social media news is very hard to trace, from research methodology and knowledge management perspectives. How the research was conducted is not explained, all we get is the outcome. We really must uphold ethics, if not, there will be research outcomes that cannot be academically accounted for, making it no different from hoax news. If false information is used for advocacy material, that is truly frightening and clearly wrong. 
The second issue, and I feel that this is a crisis, is organisation at the grass roots level. It is there that the real fight for humanity issues lies. Who do we want to defend? Surely the oppressed people. To find them and build their resistance to oppression in the social or gender structure, they need friends. Who is currently working at the village level to organise the people? Political parties do not go that low, instead we have religious communal groups. A number of villages are lucky to be selected for NGO work. Beyond that, we expect the awareness to come from the villagers themselves, who regretfully, have not learned to truly organise themselves for more than 40 or 50 years. Existing organisations are established by the State through agents (village officials). Village elites become small kings who are currently managing their own funds, such as the village fund allocation. In my observation, this is an important facility to conduct advocacy for change. However, the institutional and organisational aspects at the lower level are very fragile. Village discussions become a technocratic mechanism where the voice of the marginalised, including women, is rarely heard. I feel that the trend of change should come from there, but who is over there? Without any critical people, without organisations based on the essence of democracy and public space free from primordial interests, we will let democracy die from its most basic core: representation at the village level. 
So if you ask me what do I want to see in the future, I want people’s education at the village level. Not only Qur’an recital. Not only about livelihoods. I want a community organisation growing at the community level, the village. It is not enough through organisations managed by the village or recital/religious groups, but a critical people’s organisation, where people are aware of their rights, within which are elements of marginalised villagers who have the same opportunity to voice their opinions. Efforts toward this have clearly been done, but again, who is over there? I left the village a while ago. I am only looking from afar and am powerless to raise the awareness of my own village people. This is ironic for many activists of social movement and the Gender Equality and Social Inclusion, red. (GESI) justice movement.     
        
Q: Within the next five years, how do you see the ‘GESI perspective in research for development’ helping to create and support a wider and more robust knowledge sector in Indonesia?
A: At the knowledge production level, we have to be able to prove that without GESI, just like the examples I put forward from several researches above, the research outcomes are not only inaccurate, but also lost. Lost here means that the knowledge production cannot fulfil the expectation, which should be the basis of policies. When the research is wrong, how can the recommendations be right? At the communication level, we need creative ways, just as activists do through media, but they must be very GESI-sensitive. Not for the sake of GESI itself, but so that knowledge can really be effective and knowledge can be easily read by policy makers.
I feel that issues related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) must be prioritised. There are 17 targets that need robust knowledge production. This will also help policy makers to budget and plan a policy. A simple example is how many contraceptives are needed in this country? We cannot simply give up to the drug industry producers. Knowledge production must be able to complement the State with correct data, so that the State can meet the reach of contraceptives, thus meeting the rights of women.
SGD targets need good databases. The GESI perspective is important to be brought forward, especially for data on targets that seem to be neutral on GESI, for example, the target to eradicate malnutrition and famine, or targets on water and sanitation. Without using GESI, the target to eradicate malnutrition, stunting, famine, or to make clean water available will not be achieved. There needs to be an understanding of how the power relationship works and influences access and control of nutrition and clean water. The power relationship can be based on ethnicity, race, physical condition, or geographical condition, within which there should be the reality of the gender and age relationship. 
Source: https://www.ksi-indonesia.org/en//news/detail/ksi-interview-with-lies-marcoes-gesi-perspective-in-research-for-development?fbclid=IwAR04kL94bzjdc3sTgW25pk2uuNoT2BNnRZXgY8g6BNoGGIcHWBX0nsX9JOE

Finland expresses its gratitude for contributions to equality with special recognition – Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation from Indonesia among the recipients

Finland places great significance on promoting equality in the world, and wishes to thank those who are working towards this common goal. To express its gratitude, Finland will be presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the globe who are committed to advancing inclusivity in society. The names of the first recipients from 16 countries were released today, with one of the honours going to Indonesian Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

Equality is a core value for Finland and its people. To highlight the importance of equality and to show gratitude for the valuable work that is being done to advance equality in society, Finland will be presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the world. Finland aims to encourage conversation about equality and promote initiatives for a more inclusive society.

Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation (Rumah KitaB) is a research institution aiming to empower women, children and marginalized groups in Indonesia. It pursues an equal society by shedding light on discriminating social and religious structures through advocacy, education and awareness building. It is led by Ms. Lies Marcoes Natsir, an independent consultant and expert in the fields of women’s rights, reproductive health, and gender in Islam.

Among other recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway and Japan. They represent a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality. The full list of the first recipients and more info about why they were selected are available at: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours.

The recognition forms part of a broader campaign about equality, launched in June 2019 and continuing until the end of the year. Finland aims to bring questions of equality to the fore of the international conversation.

In 2017, the year Finland celebrated the 100th anniversary of its independence, it promoted action around the world in the name of gender equality and launched the first International Gender Equality Prize. The prize will be awarded for the second time later this year.

 

List of recognition recipients: https://finland.fi/han/#Han_honours
Finland’s equality campaign website: www.finland.fi/han
​​​​Rumah Kita Bersama website: https://rumahkitab.com/en/
IGEP: https://genderequalityprize.fi/en

 

Source: https://finlandabroad.fi/web/idn/current-affairs/-/asset_publisher/h5w4iTUJhNne/content/finland-expresses-its-gratitude-for-contributions-to-equality-with-special-recognition-rumah-kita-bersama-foundation-from-indonesia-among-the-recipi-1/384951

Child Marriage in Indonesia: Resolving an Issue

by Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri

Child marriage is a form of violence against women and girls, as it deprives them of their rights to education, healthcare, and freedom from violence, among others. Indonesia has committed to end child marriage in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

However, as of 2016, it is estimated that one in nine girls in Indonesia will marry before the age of eighteen1 and, due to its large population, the country is among the ten countries worldwide with the highest absolute number of girls married while underaged.2

The Issues
The research on child marriage in Sumenep Regency, Madura, East Java undertaken by Rumah KitaB3 in 2015 shows that close to 70 percent of the people in the regency got married before the age of eighteen. The district of Dungkek in the regency had the highest number of child marriage, with about 80 percent of its nearly four thousand people – as per national population records in 2015 – having married as children.

The research also reveals that child marriage is caused by different factors and circumstances. But there is one common factor that led to it – either the complete absence of parental guidance due to migration, or weakened family structures resulting from divorce or pressures related to survival in the face of poverty.

Another research conducted in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara province involving four girls (identified as Rita, Ida, Vera and Idawati)4 reveals the significant roles played by religious and community leaders in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. Young couples who eloped (merariq) are urged by these leaders to marry immediately, and insist that marriage is the only solution to the situation to prevent shame on the whole village. The community has a strong culture of shame. It recognizes the religious and community leaders as custodians of customary rules. These customs are reinforced by Islamic religious values that add greater pressure to eloping young couples to marry.

Unmarried girls who eloped and failed to immediately marry are subject to social pressure including gossip and ridicule. They would be referred to as mayung bakat (literally meaning “injured deer”), dedare toaq/mosot (old spinsters) or “tainted” and thus a disgrace to the family. Boys on the other hand are not subject to these social mores.

For girls who get pregnant, religious values require marriage in order to have the names of both parents listed on the child’s birth certificate. According to Islam, the relationship of a child to the father can exist once ijab qabul (exchange of marriage vows) has occurred. Outside of marriage, the child would only be officially related to the mother.

Girls who marry early are forced to bear the financial burden of their households through informal work, and not allowed to continue their education (but the boys continue their study). Many are forced to raise children alone (as in the cases of Rita and Ida). Child marriage is also associated with the high divorce rate in Lombok. Being psychologically ill-equipped at such young age to deal with marriage and economic pressures, many child marriages lead to divorce within one year.

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ChildMarriage-2s.jpg

Wedding reception in Lombok (Photos by Morenk Beladro)

Health and Child Marriage
Studies on child marriages often refer to the impact of underage marriage on women’s reproductive health. From the four case studies in Lombok, three of the girls experienced adverse effects on their reproductive health. One showed signs of anemia during her pregnancy, and another experienced bleeding due to an underdeveloped uterus. A third one was administered contraception at a very young age. 80 percent of teens in Lombok suffer from anemia, a condition affecting the uterus and nutrient supply to an unborn child. This poses risks during and after (postpartum) birth. Furthermore, the impacts of child marriage on reproductive health are not limited to physical health, but also to the psychological health of the girls who have not yet reached a level of maturity required to raise a child.

The 2013 data from Lombok, show the mortality rate of women as shown in the table below.

Number of Maternal Mortality in Lombok in 2013
Pre-natal Natal Post-Natal Amount
Mataram 3 2 9 [14]
East Lombok 10 0 25 35
Central Lombok 1 3 16 20
West Lombok 4 3 3 10
North Lombok 0 0 2 2
Total [81]

(Source:West Nusa Tenggara(NTB)Statistics Office5)

The Lombok statistics show that the highest rate of maternal mortality occur at the post-natal phase. The leading causes of maternal mortality in Lombok are bleeding, infection, complications associated with heavy workloads following birth, and poor health and sanitation facilities.

Infant mortality, on the other hand, usually occurs when infants are around one month old, and two-thirds of the cases occur when infants are around one week old. The West Lombok Health Department sees low birth weight, often related to the physical and mental condition of young, ill-prepared mothers, as the biggest factor for infant mortality. These factors also relate to the high rate of maternal mortality in Lombok, especially when a mother’s reproductive organ is not yet fully mature.

Measures to Address Child Marriage and Health Problems
The Indonesian Marriage Law of 1974 provides that a girl of at least sixteen years of age can marry with parental consent. But the Law on Child Protection of 2002 defines a person under the age of eighteen as a child regardless of gender. The conflict between the two laws was brought to court. On 13 December 2018, the Constitutional Court of Indonesia issued an order declaring the provision of the Indonesian Marriage Law of 1974 on marrying age for girls unconstitutional and discriminatory against girls. It also considered this legal provision as against the law on child protection.6

But the question remains, how can child marriage be stopped at the level of the community? The people know the law on marriage and in a number of cases prevented the application of the law by using the traditional marriage system to allow child marriage,7 or by using the legal process with falsified documents on their age.

Of the four case studies examined in the research, it is clear that there is a link between child marriage, social change and cultural stagnation in terms of the application of merariq in Lombok’s case or fear of becoming an “old spinster”8 in other cases.9 Due to the absence of parental guidance and support, low levels of maturity and education, the girls agreed to marry. They viewed marriage as a solution to the problems they faced at home. Social and institutional pressures and the strict application of cultural traditions by community and religious leaders make it difficult for girls like Rita and Vera to be allowed to continue their schooling and postpone marriage until they are physically, emotionally and psychologically more equipped to deal with the pressures of marriage and raising a family. The case of Vera (who continued her study after marriage) however is a clear example of how intervention by legal aid providers and provincial and district legal institutions can lead to much better outcomes for girls particularly in relation to education.

Therefore, besides working at the national level to raise the minimum age of marriage for girls, working together with formal and non-formal institutions at the community level is crucial since these institutions are the “gatekeepers” who have power to allow and, at the same time, to prevent child marriage at the community level.

Lies Marcoes is the Executive Director while Fadilla D. Putri is the Program Manager of Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama. 

For further information, please contact: Lies Marcoes  and  Fadilla D. Putri, Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB), Rawa Bambu I, Blok B/7, Pasar Minggu, Jakarta 12520 Indonesia; ph (6221) 7803440, 778837997; e-mail: official[a]rumahkitab.com; www.rumahkitab.com .

*This article is largely based on the 2015 report of the authors entitled Child Marriage and the Phenomenon of Social Orphans in Lombok, Rumah Kita Bersama and Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice, and the 2016 report entitled Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, April 2016. More recent documents supplemented the discussion from these reports.

Endnotes

1 UNICEF Indonesia Factsheet: Child Marriage in Indonesia, 2017.

2 UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2017.

3 Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri, Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, April 2016.

4 The four women in the case studies were identified through consultation with local activists, government officials and community members. The interviews were held after getting the approval of the woman, her parents and village leadership.

5 Lies Marcoes and Fadilla Dwianti Putri, Child Marriage and the Phenomenon of Social Orphans in Lombok, Rumah Kita Bersama and Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice, 2015, page 4.

6 See Agustinus Beo Da Costa, “Court ruling brings Indonesia closer to ending child marriage: campaigners,” Reuters, www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-women-marriage/court-ruling-brings-indonesia-closer-to-ending-child-marriage-campaigners-idUSKBN1OC1CM 

7 See discussion on role of institutions in Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, op. cit.

8 Translated from the Indonesian language “perawan tua.”

9 Marcoes and Putri, Testimony of the Child Brides – Summary of Results of Research Study on Cases of Child Marriage and the Role of Institutions in Nine Regions in Indonesia, op. cit.

NU Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage

BY : SHEANY

JANUARY 23, 2019

Jakarta. Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s largest Islamic organization, has called on Muslims to play an active role in helping to prevent child marriage in Indonesia.

“Preventing child marriage is a mighty important thing to do, to avoid the negative impacts on women and children,” Siradj said, as quoted in a statement by the Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation.

In a meeting with members of the foundation at Nahdlatul Ulama’s headquarters in Central Jakarta on Monday, Siradj also offered to hold a focus group discussion with NU’s education body to build a common understanding on the importance of preventing child marriage and increasing the organization’s role in ongoing efforts.

The Rumah Kita Bersama Foundation is a research institute for policy advocacy established in 2010. Its work focuses on fighting for the rights of marginalized communities.

Involving both religious and nonreligious organizations is considered a viable way to help end child marriage, especially in rural communities where it is still practiced and considered part of tradition.

Indonesia ranks 7th among countries with the highest absolute numbers of child marriage, with around one in nine girls married before they turn 18.

The prevalence of this practice in the archipelago affects approximately 375 girls every day, according to data published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

Despite the legal age of marriage being 21 in the country, there have been exemptions allowing girls as young as 16 to wed with parental consent.

In December, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government must change this minimum age requirement.

The court declared that the 1974 Marriage Law discriminated against girls and diverged with rules on child protection, and subsequently gave lawmakers three years to decide what the new minimum age should be.

However, many cases show that girls enter into religious marriages through nikah siri, which literally means “secret wedding,” that are not registered with the government. The underreported nature of child marriages means that grassroots-level efforts are key, and influential organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama could therefore play a crucial role.

“Preventing child marriage is an urgent matter for us to reduce divorce rates and for families to thrive,” Siradj said.

Source: https://jakartaglobe.id/context/nu-chairman-calls-on-indonesian-muslims-to-help-prevent-child-marriage

Why women ulema reject patriarchy

by Yulianti Muthmainnah

The challenge of pluralism that Indonesia faces today is the strengthening of identity politics, where women are among the targets of patriarchal ideals hiding behind the robes of religion. Religion is used to justify polygyny and child marriage, among other things.

Increasing efforts to revive polygyny as an acceptable practice often refer to Prophet Muhammad’s household, though some of his wives were older. Likewise, child marriage is seen as a way to preserve a girl’s morality and purity by avoiding sinful premarital sex. The strategy of appealing to religious purity juxtaposes “us” with “them” — “infidels”, “the West” and “Westerners”.

This leads to ahistorical and meaningless interpretations of religious texts. The policing of women and their bodies is considered necessary to uphold religion.

We see, for instance, advertisements on chat groups promoting seminars or training on “fast polygyny” with fees of Rp 3.5 million (US$241.30) to ensure “responsible” polygyny supposedly in line with the practice of the Prophet, or a cheap marriage package guaranteed to be syar’i (in line with sharia) for those under 18.

Meanwhile, child marriage has reached emergency proportions. According to a report by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, “State of the World’s Children 2016”, one in seven girls in Indonesia is married as a child.

Thus, Indonesia ranks second among the 10-member ASEAN and seventh internationally in the prevalence of child marriage.

Among many factors, including poverty, studies by the Rumah KitaB research center show that religiosity, especially the wish to preserve morality, plays a very significant role in child marriage.

The impacts on women who get married as children include dropping out of school, exposure to domestic violence, poor reproductive health and even death related to pregnancy and complications in labor, apart from poverty.

Women in a polygynous marriage also often lack access to social protection, many have neither birth nor marriage certificates and lack legal documents for inheritance, among other negative consequences.

The 1974 Marriage Law essentially upholds monogamous marriage and limits child marriage. However, polygyny and child marriage appear to be on the rise; justifications found in the same law include conditions for taking another wife and legal permission even for children under 16 to marry based on parental request.

Yet, women and girls in polygyny and child marriage are legally unprotected, because most of the unions are unregistered and undocumented.

A historic breakthrough occurred on Dec. 13: The Constitutional Court ruled to end child marriage, though the demanded increase in the marriage age requires a change of the 1974 law to become effective. The ruling followed the third attempt at changing the law, with the main plaintiffs including women that had been married as children.

Women ulema have long felt the need to respond to religious views that are detrimental to women, by offering a new perspective inspired by the Islamic spirit of justice and protection.

As a member of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization and the Indonesian Women Ulema Congress (KUPI), I have witnessed the progress of women in Indonesia in addressing continued abuse against women and girls.

Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah, and the Muhammadiyah councils of fatwa and Islamic reform in Makassar this year issued a fatwa on children (fikih anak) that states the minimum marrying age should be 18 for males and females, who are generally physically and psychologically mature at this age.

In its book Keluarga Sakinah (Family with Tranquillity) published in 1982, Muhammadiyah promoted the understanding of the ideal family based on the principle of monogamy.

Such teachings and legal opinions had progressed far beyond the state policy under the 1974 Marriage Law.

Meanwhile, KUPI’s initial congress in 2017 produced three fatwas, one being that preventing child marriage is mandatory, because child marriage brings about damage and harm rather than bringing families closer to a household of tranquillity, love (mawaddah) and compassion (wa rahmah).

Such fatwas from Muhammadiyah and the KUPI should always guide efforts to increase awareness of the dangers of child marriage and polygyny.

At a recent expert conference on pluralism in Paris in November, speakers shared how teachings of faith and custom continued to corner women, even justifying violence against them.

At least in Indonesia, I told participants, Statistics Indonesia (BPS) has begun to record instances of violence against women, following efforts of women groups and the National Commission on Violence against Women.

We heard how in Nigeria, according to Benedicta Daber, director of Justice

Development and Peace Caritas, many women face poverty if they separate from their husbands, or continued domestic abuse if they don’t, as the religion did not allow divorce.

When a husband dies, the woman either must marry a man from the husband’s family if she wants to survive and obtain her husband’s inheritance, or leave everything behind, including property and children.

A leading imam of Nigeria, Muhammad Ashafa, said the practice of polygyny reflected more on the perspective of the imam or cleric and was not an Islamic tradition.

The Quran drastically limited the number of wives to four from the unlimited number of wives permitted to men in past Arabian societies.

As even leading imams have acknowledged that polygyny is not Islamic, upholding monogamy and abolishing child marriage requires further support. Muhammadiyah and the KUPI have started with the above fatwa and legal opinions, which have been incorporated in the draft on the revision of the Marriage Law.

The law’s revision requires a huge commitment from various sides, including politicians, amid resistance from those seeking to uphold patriarchy in the guise of religion. Legislative candidate Grace Natalie of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) has spoken up clearly on monogamy.

Indeed, monogamy is not only in line with the Islamic principles of ‘adilah(justice) and mubadalah (reciprocity) but also the principle of democracy that requires justice to be assured by the state, even in the most personal sphere of the household.

The fatwa from the KUPI and Muhammadiyah councils should be constantly promoted at the local, national and international level. Though nonbinding, they provide breakthroughs to obsolete laws and narrow interpretations of Islam with vested interests of perpetuating patriarchy.

Religious figures and organizations must speak up against challenges to our pluralism, which also victimize women and girls with various justifications.

When religious figures lack formula to protect women, they should at least recognize the above breakthroughs and pass on such fatwas to their grassroots communities.

***

The writer is a lecturer at the Ahmad Dahlan Institute of Technology and Business Jakarta (STIE-AD) a member of the Law and Human Rights Council’s National Board of Aisyiyah, the women’s wing of Muhammadiyah, and program manager of Alimat, Indonesian Women Ulema Congress (KUPI). She was a speaker at a discussion on pluralism held in November by Pharos Observatoire in Paris.

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/2018/12/28/why-women-ulema-reject-patriarchy.html

Groundbreaking study on guardianship and child marriage published

The book Islamic Jurisprudence of Guardianship: Re-reading Guardianship Rights for the Protection of Women from forced Marriage and Girls from Child Marriage challenges traditional ways of thinking about the father’s role in child marriage.

Staff at the NCHR partner institution Rumah Kitab in Indonesia. (Photo: Rumah Kitab)

The book looks at the question of guardianship from a new angle. Traditionally almost all religious legal arguments are linked to men’s authority over women as guardians. Arguments condoning child marriage are centered on the rights of the father (wilaya), while those related to the rights of the husband are centered on his role as a protector and head of the family (qiwama).

Islamic legal thinking and social experience

The book has explored the relationship between social experience and Islamic legal texts, uncovering that the concept of maturity (baligh), unwanted pregnancy and worries about committing adultery also conditions the occurrence of child marriage. Feminist scholars have also contributed to the discussions on related issues, among them domestic violence.

Rethinking guardianship

Re-reading the concept of guardianship in Islamic legal thinking, taking social reality into consideration, is therefore a prerequisite to combat child marriage. The book urges a broader vision of interpretation in order to legitimate change of practice.

The book

The book originally titled Fikih Perwalian: Membaca Ulang Hak Perwalian Untuk Perlindungan Perempuan Dari Kawin Paksa Dan Kawin Anak (Indonesian) is a result of a series of discussions in 2018 in Indonesia on classical and modern religious texts on guardianship (wilaya and qiwama). Eight rounds of discussions were led by Ulil Abshar Abdalla and Lies Marcoes-Natsir.

Source: https://www.jus.uio.no/smr/english/about/id/news/guardianship-indonesia.html?fbclid=IwAR3xVNBvSnkiJgKh4HP457fWFCIS5Pi-alICiQgpixlFgSCel5b2_XUP754