10 ways the world got closer to ending child marriage in the last 10 years

Every year, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. That’s nearly one girl every three seconds, forced to grow up too soon.

But we’ve seen some encouraging progress over the last ten years. Although we still have a long way to go to end the practice for good, UNICEF reported in 2018 that global rates of child marriage are declining, with 25 million child marriages averted over the last decade.

And the good news doesn’t end there.

Here are ten ways the world got closer to ending child marriage over the last ten years:

1. Over 1,000 organisations have united to end child marriage 

Since 2011, the Girls Not Brides partnership has grown from zero members to a global movement of over 1,300 organisations across the globe.

Our global partnership reached a milestone 1000 members. Members celebrate at the Girls Not Brides Global Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Credit: Graham Crouch / Girls Not Brides.

That’s thousands of organisations and activists who are working around the clock for a world free of child marriage, where girls can exercise their rights and achieve their full potential.

Together we’re stronger. And together we’ll reduce the number of child brides.

2. Child marriage went from a taboo topic to a prominent world issue

At the beginning of the last decade, child marriage was a taboo subject that governments, world leaders and communities across the world didn’t talk about. Fast forward ten years and it’s a prominent issue on the global agenda and in the communities where child marriage is most prevalent.

In 2016, child marriage was embedded within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They’re a set of ambitious and urgent goals and targets aimed at changing our world for the better.

Under Goal 5 – to achieve gender equality, Target 5.3 aims to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilations” by 2030. As a result, 193 countries have committed to end child marriage by 2030, changing the lives of vulnerable girls and women for the better.

3. Governments moved to raise the age of marriage

The past decade saw a number of governments raise the minimum age of marriage.

Norway approved a law banning child marriage, and set a global example. Tanzania’s Supreme Court declared child marriage unconstitutional, Malawi officially banned child marriage and Indonesia raised the minimum age that girls can marry from 16 to 19.

In Latin America, a number of governments raised the minimum age of marriage to 18 without exceptions: the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. In Mexico, 24 out of 33 states have now updated their legislation in line with federal laws.

And in the UK, a new bill has been proposed which will raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 without exceptions.

4. The first US states outlawed child marriage

In 2018, Delaware became the first US state to outlaw child marriage, followed shortly by New Jersey. And in 2019, the U.S. Virgin Islands legislature voted unanimously to end child marriage.

Fraidy Reiss, activist and founder of Unchained At Last, the only organisation dedicated to ending forced and child marriage in the US, even got a tattoo to celebrate the victory.

Photo: Susan Landman

 

5. Millions of dollars were made available for grassroots efforts to stop child marriage

In 2018, leading donors and philanthropists came together to launch the Girls First Fund.

The Fund champions local efforts to ensure all girls can live free from child marriage and reach their full potential. They support local organisations, particularly girl-, women- and youth-led groups that work with the most vulnerable girls, working tirelessly to prevent child marriage and advance girls’ rights.

These organisations focus on girls, families and communities because they are in the best position to create lasting, local change and address the causes of child marriage at their roots.

6. Women and girls fought the law, and won

In 2016, 31-year-old Rebeca Gyumi took on her country’s legal system, winning a landmark ruling to raise the age of child marriage for girls in Tanzania from 14 to 18.

She was awarded the 2018 Human Rights Prize by the United Nations in recognition of her contribution to girls’ rights. The announcement came shortly after the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a third resolution on child, early, and forced marriage, which sets out the responsibilities of UN member states in ending child marriage.

Rebecca is just one of thousands of incredible girls rights activists who have made a difference for their peers, communities and countries.

7. Senior Islamic clerics issued a fatwa against child marriage 

A fatwa against child marriage and Female Genital Mutiliation was announced in Dakar in 2019. The Deputy Grand Imam of Al Azhar issued the fatwa. It specifically sets out that marriage under 18 for boys or girls is haram (forbidden).

 

Other religious leaders have also led the way in their communities. For example, in Ethiopia, leaders of the Orthodox Church declared that they will not preside over marriages where either spouse is under 18. And in Malawi and Zambia, chiefs, such as Chief Chamuka, have developed chiefdom by-laws outlawing child marriage.

8. 49 villages in India went ‘child marriage free’

In Rajasthan’s Thar Desert, many families are forced to marry their daughters off early. Poverty, social pressure and the lack of quality education all make it hard for girls to stay in school or seek a life beyond early marriage.

But norms are changing. Urmul Trust takes travelling music and puppet shows to villages across the Bikaner district, educating parents and children about child marriage. The puppet show highlights harmful effects of child marriage in a way that people of all ages can understand.

Villagers sign an oath against child marriage. Photo: Allison Sarah Joyce/Girls Not Brides

After the show, everyone takes an oath that they will keep their village child marriage free, before signing a banner which is then put up in the village to hold everyone accountable.

The campaign to make villages child marriage free has reached almost 200 villages in the Thar desert. Over 49 villages are currently free of child marriage.

9. 1,000 couples pledged their weddings to support girls 

Couples in the USA said ‘I DO’ to help girls to say ‘I DON’T’.

 

These couples registered their wedding registries with VOW, an initiative which gives couples and companies the power to help end child marriage — by donating a portion of profits from wedding registries and products to girls’ rights organisations.

10. Goats, chickens and bicycles stopped girls from becoming child brides

In Ethiopia and Tanzania, Population Council rewarded families who kept their daughters in school and out of marriage with goats or chickens.

Families who couldn’t afford their daughters’ education were pulling them out of school and often into marriage instead. As part of their Berhane Hewan programme, the organisation also gave girls school supplies and matched them with older female mentors.

And it worked! Girls in one village in Ethiopia were 90% less likely to be married than their peers whose families received goats and chickens.

40% of girls in Nepal become child brides and thousands don’t finish their high school education. But in the last few years, hundreds of girls have been given bicycles so they can travel quickly and safely to school.

Janaki Women’s Awareness Society runs the project to make girls’ journeys to school quicker and safer so they’re less likely to drop out of education and be left vulnerable to marriage. When the girls receive their bikes, their parents pledge to keep their daughters in school and to not marry them as children.

Shristi and Santamay ride their new bikes home. Photo: Girls Not Brides/Thom Pierce

 

Source: https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/10-ways-the-world-got-closer-to-ending-child-marriage-in-the-last-10-years/?fbclid=IwAR0mA-3KduKPTlJVFnttQaLANr2lOu3kuAbsAR0ZDkOlfHgUcXxxZqw8StQ

Congratulations Finland!

Congratulations to the people of Finland for the new cabinet led by a female Prime Minister, Sanna Marin, who serves as the youngest sitting prime minister in the world, and three strategic position ministers: Ms. Li Andersson, Minister of Education; Ms. Karti Kulmini, Minister of Finance; and Ms. Maria Ohisalo, Minister of the Interior.

We hope that the new cabinet will bring great changes for the future of Finland.

Selamat!

Giving Thanks for the Blessing of Reason: Reconstructing the Meaning of Wilayah (Guardianship) to Prevent the Practice of Child Marriage

Report on Discussion of the Book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Child Marriage and Forced Marriage

In Bekasi, on 20 October 2019, Rumah KitaB, in cooperation with Yayasan Perguruan Islam el-Nur el-Kasysyaf (YAPINK) and Institut Agama Islam Shalahuddin Al-Ayyubi (INISA), conducted a discussion of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Re-reading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Child Marriage and Forced Marriage. This event was attended by 194 participants (44 men and 150 women), comprising the Board of Pesantren Caretakers of YAPINK, the leadership of INISA, lecturers, teachers, and students, and invited Ulil Abshar Abdalla (PBNU), KH. Ali Anwar (YAPINK Board of Pesantren Caretakers), and Ahmad Hilmi, (member of the book writing team) as the resource persons. The discussion took place at the Lecture Hall of YAPINK’s Faculty of Culture, and acting as the moderator was Jamaluddin Muhammad (Researcher from Rumah KitaB).

Before the event started, KH. Khalid Dawam (Chairman of the YAPINK Board of Pesantren Caretakers) provided welcoming remarks conveying his appreciation for the intellectual work that has been done by persons who are willing and courageous enough to explore matters that are often considered final, such as fikih. This intellectual work to respond to what is happening in society, according to KH. Khalid Dawam, is not intended to ignore, negate, or disrespect the fuqaha who have set forth their thinking in the studies on fikih as presented in various books, but is instead a form of intellectual responsibility to address problems in society.

Al-Qur’an and the hadith are indeed one, but clearly their interpretations are not singular, KH. Khalid Dawam stated. Hence, he continued, it is still possible to discuss matters that are of a furuiyyah[1] nature.

If to date the community has believed that akil baligh [maturity] is one indication that a person is allowed to marry, now we must reexamine what exactly akil baligh is, and what its consequences are – particularly if biological maturity is used as a basis for allowing child marriage. This is because there are certain individuals who use this basis to commit actions that are not beneficial for all, thereby often giving rise to negative views about Islam. Observing this, KH. Khalid Dawam said, quoting the noted Egyptian Muslim intellectual, Muhammad Abduh: “Al Islamu mahjubun bil muslimin” (the glory of Islam is concealed by (the actions of certain) Muslims themselves).

The book Fikih on Guardianship prepared by the team from Rumah KitaB, according to KH. Khalid Dawam, is part of an expression of gratitude for our being given common sense, by using it as well as possible so that rigidity of thinking does not occur.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla stated that the book that is being discussed came about as a response to the widespread practice of child marriage in Indonesia. Following on from this, Ahmad Hilmi mentioned that Indonesia is among the countries with a high rate of child marriage.

This problem of child marriage has become so serious not solely because of legal issues, but also because it is intertwined with religious and cultural perspectives. Hence, according to Ulil, the book makes a significant contribution to resolving the problem of child marriage.

For example, the religious arguments that have up to now been used as a justification to allow child marriage are reconstructed in the study (in this book) and given a new meaning that is friendlier to females, particularly those who are likely to become victims of child marriage. As an example, the concept of ijbar in fikih differs from the concept of ikrah (coercion). Ijbar is the realm of protection by the father (guardian) to his daughter in order to protect her from all possibilities by choosing a proper partner for her. And clearly, a requirement for ijbar is the willingness of the daughter who is to be married. The power and authority to protect the rights and dignity of a child that are held by a guardian in ijbar cannot simply be reduced to the idea of coercion (ikrah).

[1] Furuiyyah literally means branch. But in this context, it can mean multidimensional.

 

REPORT OF BOOK ROADSHOW: “Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage”

Thursday, 12 September 2019

13.00 – 16.00 Western Indonesia Time

Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya, West Java

AS part of the 2019 Book Roadshow, Yayasan Rumah Kita Bersama (Rumah KitaB) conducted a discussion and analysis of the book Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage at Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya, West Java, on Thursday, 12 September 2019. The opening remarks were conveyed by Dr. Zaky Mubarak, M.Si., Director of Postgraduate Programs at Institut Agama Islam Cipasung, and Lies-Marcoes-Natsir, MA., Executive Director of Rumah KitaB. The event was attended by 149 participants, consisting of lecturers, teachers, and santri from Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, Tasikmalaya.

The discussion was kicked off by Dra. Hj. N. Ida Nurhalida, M.Pd. (PP Cipasung) who spoke extensively about the experience of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung in putting gender justice into practice. Next the participants, together with the resource persons, Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud (USA), Jamaluddin Mohammad (Rumah KitaB research team), and Ulil Abshar Abdalla, MA. (PBNU), discussed the various efforts of rereading which have produced an interpretation of gender relations that are more equal and fair as a thought product that socially has a broad influence in the daily lives of the Muslim community.

The event began with the reading of verse al-Isra`: 13 of the Qur’an, which states that for all persons, without differentiation by their sex, their actions have been determined, and on the day of Judgment will be shown to them in a book containing a record of all their deeds and actions while living in this world.

 

The Experience of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung

Dra. Hj. N. Ida Nurhalida, M.Pd., who is familiarly known as Ibu Nyai Ida, explained that ever since its founding by her grandfather, KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung has applied what she refers to as gender justice.

According to her story, while leading and running the pesantren in 1931, KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat was assisted in his teaching not only by his son KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat, but also by a female teacher, Ibu Hj. Suwa. KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat never assumed that women are lacking in expertise and would be unable to provide benefits to the pesantren. Ibu Hj. Suwa was given the broadest possible opportunity to teach the books “al-Jawhar al-Maknûn”, “Alfîyyah”, and other classic books to the male and female santri. This shows that KH. Muhammad Ruhiyat was truly a person imbued with gender justice.

According to Ibu Nyai Ida, this discussion and analysis of the book Fikih on Guardianship is not the first activity related to rereading of the fikih regarding women. Many years ago, in 1994, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung was host to a similar activity which began with the Fiqh al-Nisa` program of P3M together with Kiyai Masdar F. Mas’udi and his colleagues. This program received full support from her father, KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat. This was the first time that Ibu Nyai Ida heard about the term “gender”.

After learning about and understanding the term “gender”, Ibu Nyai Ida then concluded that true equality is a core value whose presence is indisputable in the daily life of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung. Her own father, KH. Muhammad Ilyas Ruhiyat, deeply respected his wife and children. Males and females are given the same opportunities, with no discrimination or constraints. Everyone is given freedom to pursue their own interests, and even given the freedom to choose their own marriage partners, with no coercion.

Although her mother was only a primary school graduate, her father always involved her in consultation on all matters. Behind the success of her father, who was the Rais ‘Amm PBNU [Supreme Leader of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama], was her mother, a modest person who always provided input and supported him in everything.

In later developments at Pondok Pesantren Cipasung, women were not only given the opportunity to teach or serve as guru ngaji, but also granted the mandate to lead formal educational institutions. For example, the Principals of the MI, MTs, MAN [primary, junior high, and senior high school level madrasah], senior high school, and even the Head of the STIE [economic college] within Pondok Pesantren Cipasung are all women. And based on observation, the women who lead these formal educational institutions are very successful.

Regarding child marriage, Ibu Nyai Ida told that one of her aunts was married at the age of nine. However, at first she was not allowed to live under the same roof as her husband; they were only allowed to live together after she reached the age of 15. She had many children, all of whom were successful.

In her day-to-day life, Ibu Nyai Ida recalled, this aunt seemed to be fine. But when encouraged to have a heart-to-heart conversation, she would tell about all the problems she experienced. She was very sad that she had not been able to pursue her schooling to a higher level, because she had to stop when she got married. She advised her children not to get married until after they finished university.

Ibu Nyai Ida heard many stories from relatives who married in childhood. They all said, “avoid getting married in childhood.” They even became involved in the campaign to prevent child marriage within the pesantren. It commonly happens that a girl santri is taken out of the pesantren by her parents in order to be married off. Quite often the pesantren has to negotiate with the parents to allow the girl the opportunity to finish her education at the pesantren, and then when she is old enough she is allowed to marry.

For Ibu Nyai Ida, child marriage is an emergency whose handling requires the involvement of many parties, including those from the educational world of the pesantren. It is true that there is no specific religious teaching that explicitly forbids child marriage. There are still differences of opinion among the ulama regarding this issue. Some deem that child marriage is acceptable and valid, while others feel it is not. Even if it is considered permissible, child marriage is not a good thing, because based on experience, it brings more problems that advantages.

In reading a text, according to Ibu Nyai Ida, it is essential to look at its background: why did this text appear, when, and in what context? This is what is called contextualization, which continually requires a balance between the text and the context so that the mission of Islam as rahmatan li al-‘âlamin, a blessing for all, males and females, can be carried out.

To further show concern for women, Pondok Pesantren Cipasung has established a WCC (Women’s Crisis Center) or PUSPITA (Pusat Perlindungan Wanita) which is part of Puan Amal Hayati. Many cases have been handled by PUSPITA. One of these was the case of a girl who was repeatedly raped by her own father. Ibu Nyai Ida related that every time the father wished to perpetrate this evil deed, he would order his wife out of the house, while the daughter was not allowed to go with her. He did this many times, with no resistance by the girl, until finally the crime was revealed and then reported to PUSPITA. The father was arrested and imprisoned; the girl was assisted by PUSPITA and enrolled in a beautician course, and eventually she married her teacher’s son. She now has a happy life with her husband.

In Ibu Nyai Ida’s view, what PUSPITA does is an effort to protect human lives and dignity, and this is part of religiousness. “Wherever we are, that is where we must carry out our religion. When we are at school or on the campus, that is where we engage in religious behavior, not just through our prayers or fasting,” she said.

 

Between Text and Context

The experience conveyed by Ibu Nyai Ida is truly extraordinary – departing not merely from theory, but from social reality which shows that women have what in the social sciences is referred to as agency or ahlîyyah: the ability to do something or to change something in society, and this has been soundly proven by the experience of Ibu Nyai Ida through the institutions of Pondok Pesantren Cipasung. This kind of experience is widespread in society: that women have capacity and agency, in many cases exceeding that of men.

Whether we realize it or not, the views that control us even now are views that were constructed by males. In the history of interpretation of the Qur`an, for example, almost all of the main players have been men; very rarely do we find tafsir written by women. In Indonesia, or even in the world, all writers of tafsir on the Qur`an are men.

Therefore, as conveyed by Ulil Abshar Abdalla, MA., the views on the role of women in society are often out of balance. The interpretations of the texts of the Qur`an and hadith regarding women, which were constructed and written by men, do not reflect the experience of women. As a consequence, there is a gap between text and reality. On the one hand is the realty that women are increasingly involved in society, while on the other hand the interpretations of the Qur`an and hadith – which are mostly written by men – still take a disdainful view of the roles of women.

This gap, according to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, has existed for a very long time, but recently it has come into question by Muslim intellectuals, including those in Indonesia. In the recent developments, as a country with a majority-Muslim population, Indonesia has taken great steps in granting a greater role to women. Sometimes these actions have been taken without first requesting approval from the ulama, and when the ulama are asked to grant approval, it may happen that not all of them agree. For example, nowadays there is a worldwide movement to give women adequate representation in social roles. As an example, the Indonesian law on political parties states that all parties are obliged to allocate 30% of legislative candidate positions to women.

Furthermore, in their organizational structure, political parties are also required to provide an adequate allocation to women. During the deliberation of the political parties law in the parliament, nobody made an issue of the 30% representation for female legislative candidates. There has never been any major dispute in Indonesia based on religious grounds regarding the greater role for women in political parties. Yet if we look at the experience of other countries with a majority Muslim population, this is still a matter of debate.

In the countries of the Arabian Gulf – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and so on – whether women can be members of parliament is still a major issue. Do women have the ahlîyyah or agency to be members of parliament?

But in Indonesia, such questions have never been an issue. Yet the construction of the tafsir on this topic is still traditional, viewing women as creatures who must always be inside the home, never outside the home. This contrasts strongly with the reality in society, where many women are actively involved in political parties, as members of parliament, and as state officials.

Ulil Abshar Abdalla related that in the 1950s, a scholar from the United States named Daniel S. Lev conducted research on judicial institutions in various regions of Indonesia. In his research, he found a woman serving as a religious court judge. Obviously, this came as a great surprise, because in Indonesia, as a country with a majority Muslim population, it was possible for a woman to be given space to serve as a judge, something which would be unimaginable in other Muslim countries.

In the Qur`an there is a verse that reads “Al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`,” [QS. al-Nisa`: 34]. According to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the interpretation of this verse by the ulama tends to be rather uniform: that leadership is in the hands of men, while women are seen as mere followers. For example, Fakhruddin al-Razi, in his book “Mafâtîh al-Ghayb” (the last major Sunni tafsir, 13th century CE) states that the meaning of “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” is that “men are given the right to act as leaders who control women”.

If we look closely, the basis of all the concepts about wilâyah and qiwâmah is “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” (men are leaders for women). But in daily practice we often find that “al-nisâ` qawwâmâtun ‘alâ al-rijâl” (women are leaders for men). One obvious example is Ibu Nyai Ida, who currently serves as the Principal of MAN [senior high madrasah] II Cipasung. In this position, she has many men working under her.

Does Ibu Nyai Ida’s position as Principal of the MAN conflict with the Qur`an? So we are now faced with a situation in which there is a gap between “al-rijâl qawwâmûn ‘alâ al-nisâ`” as text and “al-nisâ` qawwâmâtun ‘alâ al-rijâl” as context or social reality. Hence, the challenge for Muslim scholars going forward is to build a construction of fikih that involves dialogue between the texts (al-Qur`an and hadith) and the context (social reality).

 

The Importance of Education for Equality

Ibu Nyai Ida noted that when she gives lectures at religious study groups (majelis taklim and pengajian), she always inserts material on the importance of education for both males and females. “In the majelis taklim, we tell them that if you want to have good offspring, their mothers have to be smart. If you have children, whether boys or girls, both must be given the same opportunity to study and get an education,” she said.

The importance of education for males and females was also conveyed by Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud. Quoting a hadith of the Prophet pbuh which states, “Seeking knowledge is an obligation for both male Muslims and female Muslims,” she said that the 1441-year history of Islam has shown the importance of education, because the very first verse that was revealed to the Prophet pbuh was “Iqra’” (Read!), which emphasizes the importance of reading. The existence of this command to read as a verse revealed to the Prophet pbuh added to the knowledge of the Muslim community at that time.

According to Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud, the Muslim community achieved its golden age at precisely the same time the people of Europe were stuck in the Dark Ages. But the Muslims failed to maintain this glory, because they were unable to preserve the spirit of the importance of education as taught by the Prophet pbuh.

It is important to note that the Arabic word “tarbiyah” (education), which comes from the root “rabbâ” (to educate, to care for), does not refer solely to a quantity, but instead relates to fostering and guidance to improve the quality of life and growth of boys and girls.

The quality of growth and development must be continuously improved through education so as to enable every person to have the opportunity to become a good servant of Allah. In Prof. Amina Wadud’s view, when Allah said He would create a khalifah on the face of the earth, this showed that every human has a responsibility to give their best in order to improve the quality of human life on earth.

“Truly, the history of the future has not yet been written,” said Prof. Amina Wadud. Therefore, every person, male or female, has the same opportunity to formulate great steps to achieve an even better future.

 

The Methodology Offered by the Book Fikih on Guardianship

According to Ulil Abshar Abdalla, the book Fikih on Guardianship is truly an effort to bridge the gap between text and context by proposing a tafsir based on maqâshid al-Islâm or maqâshid al-syarî’ah and the principle of benefit. One of the themes discussed in the book is child marriage. In fikih, there is a concept known as wali mujbir, a guardian who has the right to force his child to marry. In fact, this concept is still a matter of debate between the various mazhab (schools of thought); some mazhab allow a guardian to force his daughter to marry, others do not allow this, and so on.

To date, the popular understanding in society regarding wali mujbir is that a guardian or parent has the right to use his authority to force his daughter to marry. This happens in cases of child marriage in many regions of Indonesia. Research by Rumah KitaB has found that Indonesia is a country with a very high rate of child marriage.

Among the reasons why parents marry off their daughters at a very young age are economic factors, unwed pregnancy, the factor of traditional or social views that if a girl reaches a certain age but is not yet married, this brings tremendous shame to her parents, so they have the right to force her to marry even if she does not like her prospective husband, and many other factors. This concept of wali mujbir is then used – or misused – by parents to marry off their daughters without the girls’ permission.

As well as the issue of wali mujbir, which describes the relationships between parents and children in the context of the concept of wilâyah (guardianship), the book Fikih on Guardianship also discusses the relations between husbands and wives in the context of the concept of qiwâmah (leadership). Jamaluddin Mohammad noted that gender analysis is essential in looking at the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah. This is because the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah have become well established social institutions practiced since 1300 years ago, and have become part of the value system recognized and embraced by the Muslim community. Consequently, any efforts for renewal will certainly come under suspicion as attempting to alter the long-established nash or texts; people are trying to reinterpret something that is claimed to be indisputable.

Using gender analysis as a critical perspective, it will be found that the concepts of wilâyah and qiwâmah contain asymmetry or inequality in the general relations between males and females. This gender analysis is then reinforced using the approaches of maqâshid al-Islâm or maqâshid al-syarî’ah (hifzh al-dîn, hifzh al-‘aql, hifzh al-nafs, hifzh al-nasl, and hifzh al-mâl) in the framework of triangulation between text, context, and maqâshid al-Islâm. Here, the text and context are promoted to attain the great ideal of Islam, i.e. maqâshid al-Islâm.

The book Fikih on Guardianship mentions many efforts by thinkers and practitioners to show that the efforts for a rereading of the concept of wilâyah and qiwâmah are not something new in the study of Islam. Among the noted scholars who can be mentioned are Prof. Dr. Teungku H. Mohammad Hasbi Ash-Shiddiqiy, Prof. Dr. Mr. Hazairin Harahap, S.H., Dr. (HC). KH. Sahal Mahfudz, and Dr. H. Andi Syamsu Alam, S.H., M.H., as well as ulama from the Middle East such as Rifa’at Rafi’ al-Thahthawi, Thahir al-Haddad, Muhammad Abduh, and Qasim Amin. They are thinkers and practitioners who have tried to contextualize social changes with the original texts so that the texts remain relevant in overcoming the asymmetrical gender relations in the family.

Their ideas are truly extraordinary. Take for example Thahir al-Haddad, a thinker from Tunisia, who in his time proposed the idea that the registration of marriage is one element for the validity of a marriage. A marriage certificate is one of the foundations of a valid marriage. Furthermore, in his opinion talak, effecting divorce through repudiation, is the right of both men and women. So it is not only men who can perform talak but also women, and furthermore this can be done only through the courts. Simply uttering “thalaqtuki tsalâtsan” (“I divorce you” three times) does not automatically lead to divorce. But that is how it is seen in the classical books of fikih, and this is one of the things that today’s ulama are trying to change. []

 

Book Roadshow: Fikih on Guardianship

Pondok Pesantren Kebon Jambu,

Babakan Ciwaringin, Cirebon, West Java

Friday, 6 September 2019

Achmat Hilmi, Lies Marcoes

 

With support from the Oslo Coalition, Rumah Kita Bersama held a “Book Roadshow” activity for the book Fikih on Guardianship on Friday, 6 September 2019,  at the Sang Dwi Cahya Mulia Women’s Mosque, Pondok Pesantren Kebun Jambu (regarding the Women’s Mosque, see the report by Lies Marcoes). This pesantren is headed by Nyai Masriyah Amva, a very influential woman ulama in Babakan Village, Ciwaringin District, Cirebon Regency.

This activity was designed as outreach to publicize the book “Fikih on Guardianship” – Rumah Kita Bersama’s latest book, which was compiled based on the routine discussions of Dirasah Kutub Rumah KitaB on the concepts of Qiwamah and Walayah. These discussions produced a knowledge product that reconstructed the religious understanding on the concepts of the power relations between men and women, between husbands and wives (Qiwamah), and between fathers and daughters (walayah), in the domestic context and in public space, by presenting various methodologies for reading texts conceived by previous generations of scholars at both national and international levels.

This activity was attended by Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud, an Islamic feminist who has conceived the paradigm of Tauhid as an effort toward equality between men and women. Amina is currently in Indonesia as part of her sabbatical to write several knowledge projects relating to the issues of feminism and Islam. Also present were Buya Dr. (HC) KH. Husein Muhammad (ulama from Cirebon), and Ibu Nyai Masriyah Amva.

The event was attended by, among others, postgraduate students from Universitas Pendidikan Indonesia (UPI) Bandung, students from IAIN Nurjati Cirebon, ISIF Fahmina, Mahasantri (university level santri) from Ma’had Ali Al-Hikam As-Salafiyyah (MHS), Mahasantri from Ma’had Ali Ponpes Kebon Jambu, teachers from within Pondok Pesantren Babakan Ciwaringin, Cirebon, as well as male and female santri from pondok pesantren Kebon Jambu and from various other pesantren in Babakan Village. More than 200 participants were present.

In her welcoming remarks Nyai Masriyah Amva emphasized the importance of openness and tolerance. According to ibu Nyai, it is very important for the santri to attend this event to enrich their knowledge about the discourse on a tolerant Islam. This activity, according to ibu Nyai, is a response to the needs of the santri, who are currently facing the challenge of an increase in intolerant religious views in Indonesia which can potentially damage the relations between religious communities and reinforce discriminatory religious views toward women both in the private context and in public space.

Ibu Lies, in her remarks, expressed her thanks to Ibu Nyai Masriyah Amva and Buya KH Husein Muhammad. Ibu Lies has been teaching the concepts of gender justice for over thirty years, in various pesantren. Now, the concept of gender justice is growing in the world of the pesantren, in line with the perspective and character prevailing in the pesantren. In this way, the concept of gender justice can develop. In Indonesia, the concept of gender justice has been able to develop thanks to the existence of the pesantren. With their traditions, outlook, and knowledge, pesantren can apply the concepts of gender justice so as to bring about new models of knowledge products on gender justice based on the pesantren tradition and perspective. Thus, the pesantren have been proven able to develop religious inclusiveness in the social space of the pesantren community. But to counteract the rise in intolerant religious views in West Java, this Fikih on Guardianship Roadbook activity is being held at Ponpes Kebon Jambu, Cirebon, to strengthen the santris’ knowledge on the concepts of power relations with gender justice.

Prof. Dr. Amina Wadud explained about the concept of the mosque and the patterns of discrimination against women with a religious basis. According to Amina, mosques are part of the historic struggle for gender equality in Islam. Yet in the historical record, mosques have never provided the same, equal space for men and women; women are often placed in smaller prayer halls with a different social status from a mosque. Within an actual mosque, women are placed behind the men; they are treated as secondary visitors. This situation does not come from the teachings of God, but rather from men’s attitudes which are discriminatory toward women. God has never made an issue of the positions in worship of men and women, whether in the back, in the front, by the side or in the middle. Women can worship anywhere, in any part of the mosque, because God is present everywhere and has never stipulated a particular location for women to worship in a mosque. It is the men who determined that women’s place is in the back, at the side, and that the men are in front. These rules were made by humans and conflict with the concept of equal rights in worship which is taught by God.

Buya Husein, as the second speaker, explained the importance of reconstructing the understanding relating to Qiwamah and Walayah, because the religious interpretations currently available still see the power relations between men and women in a discriminatory and subordinating way. In his explanation, Buya Husein helped the participants to map the distance between religion as a spiritual locus with universal concepts of teaching, and religion as a product of culture in a particular region. As a universal teaching, religion embraces the concept of equality between men and women, because the highest power is with God alone, and other than God, all are equal except in their devoutness, not superior from their inherent status as males. This is different from the religious perspective produced as a product of a patriarchal culture, which states that men’s superior position relative to women is inherent. This view clearly contradicts the universal concept of religion. Any religious product that deviates, from justice toward injustice, from love to dislike, requires a reinterpretation of its religious perspective, as it conflicts with the general concepts of religion.

Roland Gunawan, as a representative of the writers of the book “Fikih on Guardianship,” explained that the emergence of the book was preceded by a lengthy series of eight discussions to seek and explore religious arguments as a basis and foundation for reconstructing religious views with gender justice in the concepts of Qiwamah and walayah.

Following the series of lectures, the activity continued with a discussion session. Three santri asked questions. Three questions of an abstract nature were raised by two male santri from Ma’had Aly Al-Hikam Al-Salafiyah and Ma’had Ali Kebun Jambu. The fourth question, based on the experience of women, was raised by a female santri from Ponpes Kebun Jambu. But the most interesting was certainly the question asked by the female santri, since its basis was the experience of women who suffer discrimination in public space, in connection with forced marriage.

The response from the participants was tremendous, as proven by the dozens of santri who enthusiastically used the discussion session to present their comments and questions. []

 

Female genital mutilation is forbidden in Islam: Dar Al-Ifta

Highly-ranking Egyptian Muslim institution Dar Al-Ifta Al-Misriyyah recently confirmed in a press statement that female genital mutilation (FGM) is religiously forbidden due to it’s negative impact on physical and mental well-being.
The statement came as a response to the Tadwin Center for Gender Studies, who has urged the Sheikh of Al-Azhar to reconsider unreliable fatwas released by some members of the faculty of Al-Azhar University who claim FGM is a religious necessity based on weak Hadith.
“This act has no religious origin, it only dates back to inherited traditions and customs and the biggest evidence for not being a religious duty for women is that the Prophet Muhammad had not circumcised his daughters,” the statement said.

 

Dar Al-Ifta said that female genital mutilation has been practiced by some Arab tribes due to certain circumstances that has now been changed, and its negative physical and psychological effects have been detailed by most doctors.

The statement pointed out that Dar Al-Ifta supported their position with scientific research issued by accredited medical institutions and objective international health organizations, which prove the severe harm and negative consequences of FGM.

Dar Al-Ifta warned people from listening to unreliable fatwas issued by those who are medically and religiously unaccredited and urge people not to let their daughters undergo FGM; ” prohibiting this act in this era is the most adequate decision that comes in accordance to Islamic Sharia” the statement said.

The National Population Council announced in February that the prevalence of female genital mutilation (FGM) among teenage girls aged 15-17 dropped in Egypt from 74 percent to 61 percent from the years 2008-2014.

Dar al-Ifta is assigned to draw upon the Quranic scripture and prophets’ teachings, and has consulted jurists throughout history to help Muslims live their lives according to the principles of Islam.

Source: https://egyptindependent.com/female-genital-mutilation-is-not-islamic-dar-al-ifta-says/?fbclid=IwAR0YuTE7zZSeNHbR2y1Rt7aT3MXxlatQ74cHfaKGAV5Ujc0llcodHmi0LhQ

Summary of Books on Fikih on Guardianship: Rereading the Right of Guardianship for Protection of Women from Forced Marriage and Child Marriage

Exposers of the Dark Current:

Exploring the Works of Muslim Intellectuals in Realizing Justice for Women

by Nur Hayati Aida

 

The world we live in now is one in which society still considers one sex as superior to the other. Nearly all arrangements in society are constructed from a male perspective, so it is not surprising that what is produced is a set of rules that tend to be detrimental to women and put them in second place. One factor that reinforces the imbalance in the relations between males and females is (the interpretation of) religion. Whether we realize it or not, interpretation of religion (and its texts) contributes to the perpetuation of practices of injustice toward females.

Yet in the midst of this patriarchal mainstream, certain persons have emerged who chose to fight the tide by building a methodology that reinterprets the misogynistic religious texts that have long been deliberately used to legitimize gender-based discrimination.

In the early 19th century, an intellectual who was also a scholar at al-Azhar named Rifa’at al-Thahthawi published a book that analyzed the gender relations between males and females in Islam. This book, entitled al-Mursyid al-Amin li al-Banât wa al-Banîn, addressed the unequal relations between men and women in Egypt at that time. With his deep understanding of religion, Rifa’at al-Thahthawi traced the elements in the classical treasury of Islam that were more friendly toward women. He also actively campaigned for the importance of education. Education and social interaction are the doors for the advancement of women. Without education, the ideal of progress for women would be a dream that is never realized.

With his intellectual capability, Rifa’at al-Thahthawi also built a methodology for interpreting religious texts using a feminist perspective through three basic principles: al-hurriyah (freedom), al-musâwah (equality), and al-hub (love). If these three foundations are used properly in the reading of every text, the interpretation can never lead to oppression of one sex by the other.

A few years later, Muhammad Abduh became prominent. One of Abduh’s intellectual works that can still be enjoyed today is Tafsir al-Manâr. Although ultimately this commentary was completed by his student, Rasyid Ridha, the basis and direction of al-Manar were constructed by Abduh. al-Manâr is a work that addressed the social problems existing at the time the book was written. According to Abduh, the interpretations prevailing at that time were unable to accommodate the problems experienced in the context of modern society. What Abduh did was an effort to engage the Qur’an in continuous dialogue with the current age.

Abduh fervently opposed polygamy because of its great potential to destroy the family, and also because it violates the sharia which function as the protector of positive benefits. This argument was based on the Qur’an, specifically al-Rum:21.

In the middle of the 19th century, there emerged in Egypt a thinker and activist named Qasim Amin. Qasim Amin wrote a book entitled Tahrîr al-Mar’ah. This book created a great controversy, leading to various responses, both positive and negative. In the book, Qasim Amin wrote about women and their private rights in connection with the family in Egypt. The topics that received the most public attention were polygamy and divorce.

At the same time, Qasim Amin also harshly criticized the fikih scholars who took the position that talak could be imposed without witnesses and even if done as a joke. Qasim Amin placed divorce on the same level as marriage. Like marriage, divorce is an action of sharia that leads to the loss of certain rights and the emergence of other rights, such as sustenance and inheritance. Therefore, divorce also requires witnesses.

As well as in Egypt, an intellectual also emerged in Tunisia who was greatly concerned with humanitarian issues, and especially women, at the end of the 19th century. This was Thahir al-Haddad, who constructed a concept of Islamic ethics using three instruments: al hurriyah (freedom), al-‘adâlah (justice), and al-musâwah (equality). These three instruments were used as the spirit in reading texts in the creation of sharia. Sharia grants freedom to individuals and the public based on a basic human right – the right to live free from domination by any type of person. According to Thahir al-Haddad, Islamic sharia must be a pioneer for change in society to emerge from backwardness toward progress. The greatest challenge faced by the community in the world of Islam is the excessive power of religious institutions in controlling family life.

Through his book Imra’atunâ fî al-Syarî’ah wa al-Mujtama’, Thahir al-Haddad voiced his social critique because Tunisian society placed women behind religious symbols created by the ulama based on religious knowledge as the center of truth.

Although his life ended in exile, Thahir al-Haddad’s concepts and ideas live on. Many years later, his name is used for schools in Tunisia and his photograph is displayed in government offices.

 

Indonesian Scholar/Thinkers who Spoke out for Justice for Women

 

Islam arose in a feudal social structure centered on the power of clans (bani), relying on patriarchy and physical force to conquer a harsh physical environment. Islam actively combined with the local culture through the Prophet Muhammad, and responded to the characteristic events and social traditions of the Middle East. The products of law, particularly the fikih, were constructed by the ulama of the early mazhabs based on the context of the region where they lived and studied, mainly in the Middle East. One context worthy of mention relates to the position of those who are weak or are made weak, such as women, children, widows and the poor.

Indonesia is obviously not the same as the Middle East. The two regions are different in terms of culture, geography, land, and social structure. If a nomadic society relies on trade, communities in Indonesia tend to settle in one place and be based on the traditions of an agrarian society. These differences have implications for changes in various religious practices. In the classical works of fikih, for example, istinja’ or cleansing one’s body after defecating is done using a stone. This practice of using stones for personal cleansing may make sense in a sandy desert region, but certainly does not apply to the context of Indonesia with its water-based culture.

These differences, as well as certain social issues specific to Indonesia, have forced Indonesian scholars and thinkers to reconstruct and reanalyze the interpretations of religion and the law of fikih. They have tried to provide a context to the rules of fikih which were taken from the locale where Islam first emerged, and particularly the more sensitive issues that are rarely addressed such as women, children, and minorities.

We can now mention the name of Husein Muhammad, a male ulama who has been most vocal in speaking out for the rights of women. His works and writings record how the (interpretations of) religion that have long been used as justifications to perpetuate discrimination can in fact be used as a means of resistance and a counter narrative to the negative views of women. Kiai Husein, with his mastery of the literature and the academic realm, has traced the classical texts of Islam, and proclaimed the news of ideas about the equality of humans, whatever their sex. Islam, according to Kiai Husein, is a religion that upholds the principle of equality. This is clearly illustrated in the confession of tauhid, belief in the oneness of God, as a confirmation that there is nothing and no one that deserves to be worshipped and elevated in rank by humans other than Allah. And humans, both males and females, have the same position and opportunity to engage in pious works. Men and women also have the same worth in the eyes of God. Those who are more favored before God are those who are pious and devoted, whoever they are, male or female.

As well as Kiai Husein, there are several other figures from the world of the pesantren who, while not specifically known as feminist, speak out on issues of benefit in society which are based on development of the law of fikih. No doubt fresh in our minds are the ideas of social fikih as conveyed by KH. Dr. (HC) Sahal Mahfudz. Social fikih is a form of religious accountability to respond to the needs and problems of society. More than that, social fikih is also a form of concern from Kiai Sahal, as he is known, regarding the assumption that fikih is a kind of transcendent truth. The general public has a mistaken perception that all truth is contained in (the books of) fikih. To produce social fikih, Kiai Sahal uses two methods: qawlîy, using an approach of qawâid fiqhiyah, and manhajîy, the approach of maqâshid al syari’ah, whereby the text and the context are brought together.

Kiai Sahal places great attention on the many cases of child marriage. He is of the opinion that by marrying off a daughter who is still a child, the parents have violated their obligation as parents to provide a decent livelihood and education for their child.

In the realm of the Religious Courts, Dr. Andi Syamsu Alam can be considered a pioneer in institutional management. He is very active in building effective working methods and a modern judicial system, and also encourages judges to pursue further judicial education.

Dr. Andi’s concepts in verdicts on family law, which should serve as a reference for religious court judges, include rejecting dispensations for a lower age of marriage, and granting inheritance rights to adopted children. Unfortunately, the first of these concepts is often not used as material in the consideration of verdicts. According to Dr. Andi, this is because judges’ thinking is stagnated, in that judges still interpret the Marriage Law as accommodating child marriage. In fact, the Marriage Law, despite its many loopholes that need to be criticized, was in fact an initiative by certain progressive figures and ulama to raise the age of marriage and to protect women and children from discriminatory practices. The minimum age for marriage for females, which was set at 16 years when the Marriage Law was enacted in 1974, was the result of fierce negotiation with conservative groups.

Two figures who were involved in the preparation and formulation of the Marriage Law are Prof. Dr. Hazairin Harahap and Teungku HM. Hasbi Ash-Shiddiqiy. Teungku Hasbi is one of several persons who have offered the idea of Indonesian fikih. According to Teungku Hasbi, the ‘urf (local wisdom) of Indonesia should be used as the basis for creating a special fikih characteristic of Indonesia, considering the differences in culture, habits and social structure between Indonesia and Middle East, the region where Islam was first sent down and which was used as the basis for creating the laws of fikih. This idea has received many responses from various groups and individuals, some of whom say there is no need for an Indonesia fikih.

Teungku Hasbi’s interpretations include a prohibition on polygamy, because the requirements for allowing polygamy cannot possibly be fulfilled. Furthermore, the narrative constructed by verse 3 of al-Nisa’ is a prohibition, not a recommendation. Polygamy, according to Teungku Hasbi, is only allowed in emergency circumstances, and emergency doors must normally be kept shut.

Meanwhile, Prof. Dr. Hazairin Harahap was Indonesia’s first doctor in traditional law following independence. He served as Minister of the Interior in the cabinets of Ali Sastroamidjojo and Wongsonegoro. After retiring from the world of politics, he entered the world of education as a professor at the University of Indonesia.

Like Teungku Hasbi, Hazairin also strove for the concept of an Indonesian fikih by reconstructing ‘urf and istihsân in ushul fikih. He severely criticized the practice of marriage in childhood which bases its permissibility on the concept of biological maturity (baligh). Biological maturity cannot be used as a justification for marriage in childhood. A person must have achieved the level of baligh rusyd (maturity in thought and action) as a requirement for permissibility of marriage. In addition, his ideas relating to receptio a contrario also contributed to the creation of the Marriage Law.

The figures mentioned above are just a few of those who have chosen the lonely path toward realizing justice. They have chosen the path less taken: intellectual work, a kind of work that requires great discipline in exploring both text and context, as these two aspects are interrelated and constantly pulling on one another. A text does not appear in a vacuum; context cannot stand firm without the support of text. And it is these lonely works that can expose the dark current of patriarchalism that has for so long prevented thinking and acting to achieve justice for women. []

Lawyer Nursyahbani receives honorary doctorate from SOAS University of London

Indonesian lawyer and human rights activist Nursyahbani Katjasungkana has received an honorary doctorate from the SOAS University of London for her role in championing human rights.

SOAS director Valerie Amos personally bestowed the recognition to Nursyahbani, who had “fought for and gained recognition women’s right in Indonesia”.

During her speech, Nursyahbani told the audience attending the university’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday to join the fight against human rights violations.

“Looking back on my 40 years of human rights activities, my advice to you is this: Be changemakers, show imagination, fight against the greatest human rights violations to all […] Don’t accept the world as it is, dream about what the world could be and then help make it happen,” she said.

Nursyahbani served as commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Ham) between 1998 and 2004, and the first secretary-general of the Indonesia Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy (KPI), which she also cofounded. She held the position from 1998 to 2003.

She was a member of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) from 1999 to 2004 and was a House of Representatives (DPR) member from 2004 to 2009.

The SOAS University of London also honored other figures in the fields of law, literature, journalism and finance, including journalist Lindsey Hilsum; scholar, former banker and anticorruption campaigner Muhammad Sanusi II; and editor, broadcaster and critic, Margaret Busby. (dmr)

 

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2019/07/26/lawyer-nursyahbani-receives-honorary-doctorate-from-soas-university-of-london.html?fbclid=IwAR31t-zQ9G4gHytNPHdwVuzze4FHsb5jMyT3eTA3DElyokqcg2lvfFXoRdQ

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