Meet Rizka, the Indonesian teen behind a high school superhero

  • Rizka Raisa Fatimah Ramli was 17 when she won Unicef’s international contest to create a high school superhero
  • As she prepares to unveil her creation at a UN event in New York, she talks about drawing strength and inspiration from her experiences of being bullied

Rizka Raisa Fatimah Ramli, the Makassar-based comic artist, was 17 when she won Unicef’s international school-superhero comic contest. While that may not seem particularly precocious in an era when phenoms come out of nowhere and seem to be getting younger each time, winning the contest was no mean feat. Part of Unicef’s global campaign to help keep children and young people safe from violence in and around schools, it drew some 3,600 submissions from 130 countries.

Rizka is the youngest of four siblings. The age gap between her and her youngest sibling is nine years; she was a late gift to her parents, a thing simultaneously cherished and tamed, coddled and let loose upon the world. And as with many gifted late-born children, there is a whiff of the loner in her, an aspect that does not fit in anywhere. It is the corollary of her talent, as is her curious mix of irreverence and sophistication, inwardness and self-assurance.

In her old room upstairs, her older sketches and drawings hint at the artist she has become today. Most of them are manga-style, of various narrative depths. Her lone female figures are particularly striking, ranging from fairy-tale wistful to tomboyish and action packed. There is a steadiness and poise to her lines, a graceful understatedness in her colouring.

Rizka grew up on a steady diet of comic books, anime films and video games. She never took drawing lessons. Once, when she was very young, a friend of the family – an art teacher – offered to teach her. She refused. “I don’t like to be taught or told how to do things. I prefer the process, the journey,” she says.

Rizka working on comics in the canteen, her favourite place to draw at school. Photo: Unicef/Arimacs Wilander

Rizka working on comics in the canteen, her favourite place to draw at school. Photo: Unicef/Arimacs Wilander

While such words may strike one as lofty for a person so young, she has a dignity and eloquence about her that are quite beyond her years. She has big and wary eyes, a slightly nervous aspect, and a lovely face that can break into the sunniest smile when she feels amused or understood.

There is a reticence to her, a quiet watchfulness and an awareness of being watched. She speaks in rich, rounded sentences; her voice is controlled, with the occasional lilt.

But something seems to light up in her when she talks about Cipta, her winning superhero. Although not strictly biographical, much of Cipta’s struggle is rooted in Rizka’s own story.

“It wasn’t until a few hours before the competition deadline that Cipta materialised before me. It was one of those ‘ping’ moments,” she says, gleefully. “I suddenly could see it so clearly: what she looked like, how she moved in this world.”

Cipta is a junior high school student who doesn’t just draw like a dream, but can also see The Silence – a dark, ominous figure who forces victims and witnesses of violence into muteness. A nomadic figure who moves from school to school, Cipta battles the villain by drawing thousands of doves, breathing life into them and sending them all over the world. The doves are trained to coax those in need into drawing what they are reluctant to speak about, and to take the drawings to whomever they are intended for.

Rizka’s creation Cipta, also known as Rajwa, is a 15-year-old who can turn her drawings into real-life objects and control them to stop school violence. Photo: Rizka Raisa Fatimah Ramli/Unicef

Rizka’s creation Cipta, also known as Rajwa, is a 15-year-old who can turn her drawings into real-life objects and control them to stop school violence. Photo: Rizka Raisa Fatimah Ramli/Unicef

“For me, it is as important for witnesses, not just victims, of violence to speak up,” Rizka says. “And given my own experience with [being bullied], I always find it easier to draw what I feel than talk about it.”

Rizka was nine when she was first bullied. One day, as she was riding her bicycle alone in her neighbourhood, she was verbally assaulted by a group of older children. It took her a long time to work up the courage to walk the streets alone again. “But mostly I just wanted to disappear,” she says.

For a while, she found refuge in drawing. But it was both a bane and a blessing, particularly as her encounters with bullies and harassment didn’t stop then.

“There was even a time when I stopped drawing because I didn’t want to remember,” she says. “At the end of junior high, I deliberately ate a lot and got fat. It was as if I wanted to make myself unattractive so people would leave me alone.”

But it was also the time she found her way back to drawing, she says: “That was when I started thinking, oh, there is a way of articulating a problem without having to speak about it.”

Rizka at work in a room with her mother. Photo: Unicef/Arimacs Wilander

Rizka at work in a room with her mother. Photo: Unicef/Arimacs Wilander

When she decided to enter the Unicef contest – launched in October last year – something shifted in her. “It made me rethink my relationship with drawing, and how to turn art into a tool of resistance.” It also made her take a closer look at herself. “I realised I’m a non-confrontational person. It explains my choosing the dove as Cipta’s messenger.”

In April, Rizka started working with a team of comic-book professionals in the United States to produce Cipta, a 10-page comic book based on her concept. She feels she has learned a great deal from the team, which she likens to her “editors”. “Now I know a thing or two about plotting, pacing, and being more concise,” she says.

Since graduating from high school, Rizka has a lot of free time on her hands. For now, she is content with a few commissions that have kept her “drawing, drawing, drawing”. She is also excited about her upcoming trip to New York.

“I can’t wait to present Cipta,” she says, referring to the annual United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development on July 16, when the book will finally be unveiled.

“In my head there are so many things I want to say, like I wish schools could be the safest haven, instead of breeding grounds for bullies. But really, I’m just so psyched up about the trip. And I hope people will like the book.”

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/3018364/meet-rizka-indonesian-teen-behind-high-school-superhero?fbclid=IwAR00lnC1tRpXJU7HxlbJaYBtSdfWB2fOq-Eba1QwgAhlsXiScz6ZVCKjovY

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

What Being Malala’s Father Taught Me About Feminism

By Ziauddin Yousafzai

June 14, 2019
Yousafzai is the author of Let Her Fly: A Father’s Journey, a memoir about his fight for women’s rights in Pakistan and his relationship with his daughter, Malala

Long before my daughter, Malala Yousafazi, was born, long before we began fighting for girls’ rights to education together, and long before the Taliban’s brutal attack on her brought the world’s attention to her story, I made a decision.

Growing up in a village in Shangla, northern Pakistan, I was surrounded by patriarchy. I had five sisters and a brother and I saw how we boys got better shoes, more clothes, and tastier cuts of chicken than the girls. I saw how my mother couldn’t go out unescorted and, on documents like doctors’ prescriptions, was never referred to by her name – Maharo Bibi – but as mother of Ziauddin, or wife of Rohul Amin. And, worst of all, I saw how I got to go to school, while my sisters stayed home, crippling their future.

I was very determined that if I ever got to be a father, I’d be different.

When I married my wife, Toor Pekai, we chose to build an egalitarian family, respecting each other as equal partners and raising our daughter Malala the same way we raised our sons, Khusal and Atal. I didn’t hear the word feminist until I was 45, after the attack on Malala led us to move to the city of Birmingham in the U.K. But it was feminism I had been trying to spread in my family, and in my community, for years.

I believe fathers have a crucial role to play in the fight for women’s rights. Of course, when your rights are being violated — at home, at work, anywhere — your voice is the most powerful to challenge your oppression. And so women’s voices are the most important in feminism. But in patriarchal societies, a father’s voice is perhaps the next most important tool to galvanize change.

We have seen great moments in history, from the Suffragettes, to #MeToo, and wonderful global organizations and local organizations, who are working for gender equality, and for the rights of women and girls. But in patriarchal societies – which even many Western countries still are –, one platform, one organization, is universal: the family. When a father begins a journey into feminism, believing in the worth of his daughters, he can change his whole family’s future.

I’m not sure why I chose to start that journey, while other men accept the values passed down to them for centuries. Maybe it’s because I was bullied as a child, for my dark skin and my stammering problem, so I was angry about any kind of discrimination against someone for the way they are born.

But I am sure of one thing: patriarchy is sheer stupidity. Fathers have a great interest in dismantling it. And we as campaigners need to communicate that to them.

Life within patriarchy is a sad, frustrated life, for everyone. I have seen families in Pakistan where a father and mother have one boy and five or six girls. Because of social norms, the father and his one son go out to earn for the whole family. The burden falls to them, while all his sisters have to stay back at home, not sent to school, unable to do jobs, just waiting to get married. A guy sacrifices his life for a foolish norm, and girls don’t see their potential unlocked. And, even in countries like the U.S. and the U.K., while girls are educated and often have the same opportunities as boys, issues like pay inequality, sexual harassment and misogyny continue to damage girls’ careers and personal lives. Unhappiness breeds unhappiness.

Fathers who help unlock their daughter’s potential, standing up for their rights and raising them to believe they have them, bring prosperity and happiness to their entire families. Worldwide, according to our data at the Malala Fund and the World Bank, if we gave all the girls in the world free, quality education for 12 years, we would add between 15 and 30 trillion dollars to the world economy. It really is win, win.

These arguments are powerful, and the arguments for patriarchy are weak. That is why the Taliban shot Malala in 2012 as she and I campaigned against their ban on girls going to school. They knew that one girl with a voice can create more change than their guns and bombs.

The attack was the worst thing that could happen to a family and remembering it is traumatic. Malala is not just my daughter, she is my comrade, my soulmate – jani, in Urdu, my nickname for her. To see her on the verge between life and death was terrible. But it did not affect our commitment to equality. If anything, it made us more sure that our fight is worthwhile.

Now, as Malala campaigns around the world without me and studies for her degree at Oxford University, I miss her deeply. Her first week in her dorm room, I peeked in and shed a few tears while she wasn’t there, thinking about how independent she has become.

But in my heart, I was so happy to see her move freely and confidently around the world, no longer needing me as an escort. Good parents should want their children to be as independent as early as possible.

Within my family, we have broken the chains of patriarchy. Because of that, all of us — not only Malala and Toor Pekai, but my sons and I too — are free.

As told to Ciara Nugent

 

Source: https://time.com/5605625/malala-yousafzai-father/?linkId=70426483&fbclid=IwAR3QePU84A_S0xA6S0LgP2v9fZSfjpc0AaMYAbbuSYZIVLf4ZX0Ox4UGIP4

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

Jakarta, 11 July 2019

 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 is presenting special recognition to individuals and groups around the globe. The names of the first recipients from 17 countries are released, 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 is 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 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 expert in the fields of women’s rights, reproductive health and gender in Islam.

 

“We are thankful for this Hän Honour that recognises our humanitarian work, the importance of equality among people and the acceptance of diversity of ethnicities, races, religions and genders. For Rumah Kita Bersama, the recognition serves as a motivation to work even more actively in the community”, said Lies Marcoes-Natsir, on receiving the Hän Honour at the Embassy of Finland in Jakarta on 11 July 2019.

 

“Rumah Kita Bersama’s work encapsulates very well the meaning of this equality campaign”, said Ambassador Jari Sinkari at the recognition ceremony. “Hän” is the neutral 3rd-person singular pronoun in Finnish language and the symbol of the campaign as it stands for equal opportunity.

 

Among other recipients of the recognition are individuals and groups from for example Singapore, Croatia, Namibia, Norway and Japan. They represent a range of fields, including education, minority rights and gender equality.

 

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 in 2019.

 

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

DISCUSSION OF BOOK ON FIKIH ON GUARDIANSHIP: RE-READING THE RIGHTS OF GUARDIANSHIP FOR PROTECTION OF WOMEN

Qiwamah and Wilayah Column:

[Over the next several months, this Qiwamah and Wilayah Column will appear in the Rumah Kita Bersama website. As well as reporting on the Roadshow for outreach on the book conducted in several cities, this column will try to reach a broader range of readers. Therefore, this column is presented in both Indonesian and English. This column is published four times, in cooperation with the Oslo Coalition]

 

Jakarta, 25 June 2019

Unchaining Fiqh from the Manacle of Asymmetric Relations in Gender’s Construction

JAKARTA. On Tuesday, 25 June 2019, Rumah Kita Bersama launched the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-Reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. This book is the outcome of a study on classical and modern texts on the concepts of wilayah and qiwamah together with various religious figures, sociologists, anthropologists, legal experts, and activists conducted over several months.

This event took place in the hall of Griya Gus Dur at the Wahid Foundation, Menteng, Central Jakarta. The event was attended by sixty participants from various institutions: NGO activists, representatives of the government such as from the Ministry of Religious Affairs, Supreme Court, Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Ministry for Women’s Empowerment, Commission for Prevention of Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), Commission for Protection of Children (Komnas Perlindungan Anak), university lecturers and students, and the media. Also in attendance were three representatives of the Oslo Coalition, Norwegian Centre for Human Rights: Dr. Lena Larsen (the Director of the Oslo Coalition, one out of six thematic areas at the Norwegian Center Department), Prof. Dr. Nelly Van Doorn, and Kathrine Raadim (the Director of International Department at Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, University of Oslo).

To discuss the book, Rumah Kita Bersama invited four resource persons: Dr (CH) KH. Husein Muhammad (head of Pesantren Dar at-Tauhid, Cirebon and former commissioner of Komnas Perempuan), Nursyahbani Katjasungkana SH (women’s activist from LBH Apik Jakarta), Drs. Mohammad Noor SH, MH, (Judicial Judge of the Legal Bureau and concurrently Public Relations officer of the Indonesian Supreme Court), and Ulil Abshar Abdalla MA (young intellectual from Nahdlatul Ulama). The event was led by Lies Marcoes-Natsir MA from Rumah Kita Bersama.

In her introduction, Lies Marcoes noted that normatively, Islam places the values of equality of men and women as a principal value, but in terms of fikih law – where the law regarding social relationships within the family is constructed – the relations between males and females are placed asymmetrically.  In the concepts of fikih, the relations between these two genders are linked in ways that are slanted or imbalanced. Nevertheless, this asymmetrical construct is (often) considered to be certain, fixed, and immutable, or qath’i. In reality, these asymmetrical relations are not always accepted, even by the fuqaha themselves. This can be seen from their interpretations, which very obviously seek to achieve a fairer balance in the relationship. In the book, many figures are presented, including some from the Middle East such as Rif’at Thohtowi, Qasim Amin and Muhammad Abduh. From within Indonesia, the book presents the ideas of Kiai Salah Mahfud with his social fikih, as well as breakthroughs by religious court judges in the Supreme court as exemplified by figures such as Prof. Hasybi Asydidiqie, Prof. Hazairin, and Andi Syamsu Alam SH. They offer new ideas, in terms of both methodology and interpretation, on family law and on how these methods can be applied in court hearings.

Many people assume that Islamic law is whatever is set out in the fikih. In fact, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, Islamic law is not just what is stated in the (books of) fikih, though fikih is one part of the big picture.

Meanwhile, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana stated that the concept of guardianship in Islamic law differs from the concept of guardianship in both the Civil Code and the Marriage Law. In both those laws, women are allowed to serve as guardians; something that is very different from the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah found in the book. Nursyahbani also noted that this asymmetry occurs not only in fikih, but also in the Laws on Islamic family law, such as in the Marriage Law, which states that the man is the head of the household and the woman is a housewife. This indicates that the Marriage Law does not refer to international law or conventions such as CEDAW.

Another problem, as noted by Kiai Husein Muhammad, is that to date men have been at the center of the lawmakers, and they enjoy luxury in many aspects, including in the issues of wilayah and qiwamah. This process of granting luxury to men, according to Kiai Husein Muhammad, is not solely a form of delegation of rights based on gender due to descent or to relations that arise from the occurrence of a legal event, such as marriage, but is instead related mainly to the man’s responsibility and obligation to protect the rights of the children or the wife. In other words, this is a gender construct relating to the obligations and responsibilities of men, and not simply about rights.

Unfortunately, this kind of reading that emphasizes the aspect of obligations, rather than rights, is not very popular in the community. The fikih that we currently use, Kiai Husein Muhammad explained, is a product of medieval Arabic culture, which granted greater leeway to men based on their situation and condition. Methodologically, there are certain principles that should be upheld throughout the ages: the humanitarian ideals of Islam, the ideals that place males and females on an equal standing as humans. Since the death of the Prophet Muhammad, nearly all religious teachings are interpretations. And interpretations are closely linked to time and space, so the interpretations of religious texts, even (interpretations) of the hadith of the Prophet, are products of culture, while in fact they (should) constantly refer to the ideals of Islam.

To achieve a reading of religious texts that is fair to both women and men, a new methodology is needed – a method that is willing to read the changing reality in society. Women nowadays are better educated and more self-reliant. Consequently, a method for reading texts is needed that is friendlier and more sensitive toward women. In this way, the texts will be able to read the special needs of women, which have to date been covered up by the misogynistic power of the texts.

Such efforts are often accused of being a Western agenda that promotes immorality. Lena Larsen said that this egalitarian approach that is undertaken in rereading the concepts of qiwamah and wilayah does not promote immorality. Rather, these efforts are simply to protect the family, especially children and wives, who are vulnerable to unjust treatment.

The efforts to perform reconstruction or deconstruction of texts are not easy. Over many centuries, the existing theological ideas and interpretations have become sacralized. Thus, a significant investment of time and thinking is needed in this regard. But this does not mean it is impossible.

One of the initiatives that has been undertaken by Rumah Kita Bersama is the publication of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Rights of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage. Muhammad Noor says that this book produced by Rumah Kita Bersama is important. In his opinion, this book can be used as a reference by judges and those who provide direct support to the community in handling cases of family law, especially child marriage and forced marriage. (Aida, Lies)

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

New York ends child marriage, raising age of consent from 14 to 18

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed legislation putting an end to child marriage in the Empire State.

The legislation raises the age of consent from 14 to 18, and amends the process to require parental and judicial consent for marriage involving 17- and 18-year-olds, CBS New York reports.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect children and prevent forced marriages, and I am proud to sign this legislation that puts an end to child marriage in New York once and for all,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a news release.

According to a 2016 report from the Tahirih Justice Center, a nonprofit that protects immigrant women and girls, and the National Conference of State Legislatures, North Carolina and Alaska also allow 14-year-olds to marry with parental and judicial consent.

https://www.cbsnews.com/video/why-is-it-so-hard-to-end-child-marriage/

Twenty-seven states have no minimum age for marriage in state law, meaning children of any age could technically marry with court approval.

New York State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who sponsored the legislation, said children have no escape from forced marriages because minors have limited access to legal services and domestic violence shelters.

The previous law, which dates back to 1929, did not provide any guidance to judges on whether to grant consent, Cuomo’s office said.

“We cannot solve the child marriage problem globally if we don’t first solve it here in the United States,” Fraidy Reiss, founder and executive director of the organization Unchained at Lasttold CBS News in May.

Health department data shows that between 2000 and 2010, 3,853 minors were married in New York. Eighty-four percent were minor girls married to adult men.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/new-york-ends-child-marriage-raising-age-of-consent-from-14-to-18/?fbclid=IwAR0IMx7wlmUibnR4qeCS1NgHLOCM0zc1yoDHeSt-MAd2JJS3XvSGPk3Rcnw

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.

ChildMarriage-1s.jpg

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.

My mother died because my father killed her. Full stop.

I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

By

Nour Naas

My mother was planning on leaving my father, and he knew it. Three days after my high school graduation in 2013, I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

Within minutes of her murder, the police arrived on scene. Upon demanding that my father surrender his gun, he aimed it at the responding officer and was fatally shot.

My mother lost her life to domestic violence homicide in 2013. As a Muslim immigrant, my mother’s strongest roots were with the Muslim community; for that precise reason, I expected the most support to come from community members and leaders. I quickly learned, however, that the culture even in this most intimate setting was no different than the culture outside of it.

In the wake of her death, I was told by my mother’s friends that she should have listened to my father, that she should have been more compassionate with him, that she should have left, that she should have been more patient.

In the wake of her death, I was told by my mother’s friends that she should have listened to my father, that she should have been more compassionate with him, that she should have left, that she should have been more patient.

What continues to outrage me is the fact that my mother continues to be held accountable for her own murder. Friends of my parents would pin the responsibility on her, while demanding me to be silent about my father’s actions. This pattern made it clear to me that their refusal to acknowledge my father’s crimes has nothing to do with respect, as many of them claim. If it was about respect at all, my mother would have been afforded the same.

But my mother did not die because she did not listen to my father. She did not die because she did not dress the way my father wanted her to. She did not die because she chose not to go to a shelter. She did not die because she did not give my father enough attention. She did not die because she filed a police report against my father once. She did not die because she returned to my father the first time she left him. She did not die because she was not patient enough. She did not die because she talked back. She did not die because she chose to resist in whatever ways she knew how.

My mother died because my father killed her.

nour

Nour Naas.

My mother, Nadia, was a remarkable woman. She was well known in the community for her cooking, a skill she inherited from her own mother. Her cooking and gardening were the two constants in her life. At the height of her suffering, she continued to carve out time to care for and to nurture the lives of those around her. Even as my father pressured her into isolation, even in the face of all that she had lost, her capacity to give made me marvel.

Growing up in an abusive household made me restless. The first time my father hit my mother was in February 2009. The days following the incident, my father began making more and more peculiar demands of us. The most vivid included meeting him promptly at the front door once he got home from work each night. He expected not to have to knock or use his own key. He wanted the world to revolve around him. Mine certainly did. For weeks, the closer it got to 6pm, the more my fear swelled. I would sit by the door, heart pounding, and stare out the window to await his arrival. When I opened up the door for him each night, like clockwork, I would greet him with a smile and hug him.

The more time that passed, and the more abuse I was exposed to, the easier it became to testify – even if only to myself – that I no longer loved my father. I wondered what had happened to him. I would daydream about preparing the suitcase nestled in the corner of the room that my mother and I shared, and leaving with her and my brothers in the middle of the night.

The abuse carried on for years, until the week that I finally graduated from high school. My mother was planning on leaving my father, and he knew it. Three days after graduation, I watched as my father hammered multiple bullets into my mother’s flesh. In that moment, the world I knew completely vanished from existence.

It was so difficult to watch my mother suffer. Even though the abuse affected us all, my mother bore the brunt of it. I watched as she and the rest of us became more and more isolated from the community. The community iftars during Ramadan we had regularly attended growing up, we began to avoid. My father would gossip about my mother to people within the Muslim community – and when my father talked, people listened.

The abuse carried on for years, until the week that I finally graduated from high school.

When the coroner released her body four days later, we had the Islamic janazah funeral for both my parents. During the khutbah, the imam stated to the entire congregation that, had my mother listened to my father, this would not have happened. I spent most of my time holding back tears, stifling my anger, my rage, running away from the guilt I carried from being there that afternoon but being unable to stop what was happening.

I didn’t know how to encounter grief. My community didn’t seem to know how to, either. For a long time, whatever way I chose to express my emotions was discouraged. The day my mother died, I sat crying on the couch of an aunt’s home and was told to be strong, that my mother wouldn’t want to see me crying. I was told that the more I cry, the more my parents will suffer in the hellfire. When I expressed anger at what my father did, I was told I needed to forgive him.

I was told that the more I cry, the more my parents will suffer in the hellfire. When I expressed anger at what my father did, I was told I needed to forgive him.

My father was given an esteem that was not extended to my mother. She was often blamed for my father’s decisions. And because so many people minimised what happened, because so many people around me discouraged my right to be human, to feel pain, nothing felt normal to me anymore. I became desperate for a sort of blueprint. I spent so many hours googling, searching for my people, for kids like me, brown kids, first-generation kids, Muslim kids, who lost their mother to domestic violence. How were they handling it? Did they cry, too? Did they also lie in bed and whisper to their mothers in the quiet of the night? Did they also look for someone like themselves? Someone like me? I was desperate to know, simply, that I was not alone.

I found no one.

I was thrown into a depression that presented me with severe mood swings. I lost myself in my own body. The days of me swallowing my rage and heartache turned into years. I spent the six months following her death in shock, mostly. I was in so much shock, in fact, that I could hardly feel anything at all. But once my numbness subsided, I was thrown into a violent awakening. I spent most of my days not eating, or drinking. My hair fell out in clumps. I ended up getting fired from a job that I had somehow managed to hold down for one year, then dropped out of college and left the country in hopes of distracting myself enough to forget my own trauma.

It took me almost a year to come back to Vallejo in San Francisco’s Bay area. It was my home city and I had grown to detest it because it was where I had lost so much. It was the city that uprooted me. But when I returned last spring, the city felt better, softer. I came back to make it in time for a domestic violence training in Oakland, which was a life-changing experience. I am currently taking separate domestic violence training with the San Francisco Asian Women’s Shelter.

The days of me swallowing my rage and heartache turned into years. I spent the six months following her death in shock, mostly. I was in so much shock, in fact, that I could hardly feel anything at all

The same year my mother died at least 1,615 other women in the United States did as well. Now, almost five years since my mother was killed, I am realising how the work I do around eradicating patriarchal violence has become like a sort of shield for me. It is a way to divert from the reality of my mother’s homicide. It is the only space, truthfully, that I have so far been able to talk about her death and the grief I inherited in a way that I deem as empowering to others, and myself.

The perfect victim has not, does not, and will never exist. Women are asked to be silent. We are expected to be obedient. We are scolded for being defiant, or for not being defiant at all.

Women, particularly those who speak out about their abuse, are oftentimes subjected to scrutiny and skepticism. They will inevitably be asked at some point or another, “Why didn’t you just leave?” Friends will, more often than not, proclaim how they would have left the second a hand was laid on them. The authenticity of a victim’s claims will be inspected – and routinely rejected – based on a litany of criteria such as her attire, how late she was out, or what kind of a wife or mother she was.

During the khutbah, the Imam stated to the entire congregation that, had my mother listened to my father, this would not have happened.

This standardisation of victimhood does a couple of things. For one, it pressures victims of patriarchal violence to remain silent about their suffering because it has been proven, time and again, that they will not be believed. Secondly, it continues to strengthen a society in which violence against women is condoned and encouraged because victims of violence will never be deemed as such to begin with; rather, the violence against them will be justified in both overt and insidious ways.

This cultural phenomenon, known as victim-blaming, is a tool that is used to perpetuate patriarchy and patriarchal violence against women. And women, especially those at the margins of society, will be held accountable for the actions of their abusers. So while the victim is subjected to unrelenting criticisms and demanded to examine her own part in the abuse, the perpetrator is granted reprieve from accountability.

Women who resist patriarchal violence – even if their resistance is in accordance with the law – are penalised simply for surviving. And for women who, like my mother, lose their lives to violence, they continue to be liable for the actions of their perpetrators even when they are the victims.

I am still enraged by the things that were said to me five years ago. I am still enraged because it is not just about me, but about the millions of other women in communities everywhere who will have to face the same things that I did, who will have to go through the hell that my mother went through.

I am enraged on behalf of women everywhere who will be bold enough to demand space for themselves and their experiences, but who will not be believed. The women who will never be good enough or perfect enough for anyone’s sympathy.

I am enraged on behalf of women everywhere who will be bold enough to demand space for themselves and their experiences, but who will not be believed. The women who will never be good enough or perfect enough for anyone’s sympathy. The women who will look to their family and friends for support, but who will only be met with blame. I am enraged on behalf of my mother and of every single woman out there who, like here, did not make it out, and to those who will not; to those who continue, even in death, to be held accountable for their own murders.

Let us honour those who had no other choice. Let us honour those at the margins of society who are deemed as unworthy victims. Let us honour those who will have blame associated with them to their graves. Let us honour, and let us remember.

It is time to address the root of patriarchal and gender-based violence, sanctioned by our communities, law enforcement, and government. Unanimous denial of patriarchal indoctrination and the devastating impact it leaves on the lives of women will save no one. There are women who will suffer in the future because we choose to collude with and support violence in direct and indirect ways.

Nour Naas is a American-Libyan writer and domestic violence advocate. You can follow her on her website at nournaas.com

Family violence and mental health services:

Source: https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/life/culture/article/2018/05/08/my-mother-died-because-my-father-killed-her-full-stop?fbclid=IwAR01u8njU7ng617fK-fpkVIGCVdf-fVP_ZGnBHapT2F4cNQJBELTTgjO8ZM

Obsession with controlling what women wear needs to stop

LETTER | Sisters in Islam (SIS) demands that Kelantan’s Islamic Affairs and Religious Department (Jaheaik) stops its operations to police and summon women for their clothing, and expunge those whom have been issued notices from attending counselling sessions.

This is in reference to the article “39 women slapped with notices for wearing sexy attire during Ramadan”, which was published in the New Straits Times today.

The obsession to control what women wear needs to stop. Not only does this practice humiliate and degrade the value of women, the compulsive need to control what women wear implies that she is mentally, physically and spiritually defective and a danger to the moral order of society.

We are also extremely concerned that the operations carried out in Kota Bharu unfairly targets Muslim women, as no summons were issued to men who fail to guard their modesty by lowering their gaze as commanded by Islam [24:30]. This discrimination unfairly suggests that women are exclusively to be blamed for social and moral ills within the community.

According to the Holy Quran, discussion on how people should dress revolves around the concept of modesty. Surah Al-Araaf 7:26 speaks of clothing to cover nakedness and clothing as a thing of beauty. The same verse also makes a point that the garment of piety (taqwa) is the best of all. Verse 31 of the same Surah goes on to caution against excessiveness where it comes to dressing well for worship.

When the two above verses are taken together, we can clearly see that while clothing is to be used to cover nakedness, no amount of material used or discarded can take priority over piety (taqwa). According to Surah Al-Hujurat 49:13, the most noble of humankind in the eyes of Allah are those with the best taqwa.

We urge that Jahaeik make efforts to understand the realities of the community which they serve as a whole, as well as the systemic causes of social ills, which does not stem from how women choose to dress.


SISTERS IN ISLAM is a non-governmental organisation working towards advancing the rights of Muslim women in Malaysia within the framework of Islam, universal human rights principles, constitutional guarantees, as well as the lived realities and experiences of women.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

 

Source: https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/476002?fbclid=IwAR1cnNfyQuY0b6JrlQ5jWgBMMziMiObM1qExJkE9ub4-wmDAeriUtIpqHNk