Involving family in the ‘theatre of martyrdom’: A conceivable imminent trend

By: Sylvia W. Laksmi

A deadly suicide bombing occurred in Indonesia last year. A family of six rocked three churches in Surabaya as suicide bombers including the youngest child who was only nine years old. The Santa Maria Roman Catholic Church, the Christian Church of Diponegoro and the City’s Pentecost Church were three places of which the Islamic State-inspired family launched their attacks by using a motorcycle and a car.

Because of this shocking incident, 44 people were wounded at the scene, and 13 people were killed, according to the police.

Experts might ignore the role of women involving in violent terrorism, but the attacks proved that mothers played a significant role in leading their kids into terrorist action. There is a cynical perspective even in modern communities that most women have more feminine outlooks than men so that people view women and children as victims rather than as active offenders. Therefore, terrorist groups like the Islamic State then propagate them with the new concept of jihad by engaging family members locally.

The involvement of women and children in the narrative of violent extremism is not new. Even among terrorist groups, they now modify their strategies to exploit women as their agents of movement, which includes committing them as suicide bombers. The decision to bring family members into terrorist action is one of rational parental choice from the family of Dita Oepriarto, the mastermind of Surabaya bombing attacks. They believe that by doing amaliyah (the term of jihadist for self-sacrifice action), God will give them the highest prestigious rewards in the afterlife. This is their justification for their horrific actions.

The family is the closest linkage of socialization which imparts the value of ideology within the society. Parents are the main components who influence the behavior of their children including to whom they become loyal throughout their life.

In the end, if the parents choose to act on beliefs rooted in a violent radical ideology, soon after that, some if not the whole family adopt a similar way of thinking within the society.

In the Philippines, there is a great tendency for applying this strategy among terrorist groups including The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA).

Over the years since the 1970s, the trend of recruiting youth and children by the CPP NPA has been increasing significantly. They target the educated young people studying the country’s top universities by teaching openly the principles of Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism in schools and colleges. It is identified that those children who joined were primarily from large, disadvantaged, and rural families in areas of limited economic and social services opportunity.

However, besides the extensiveness of extreme inequalities and lack of governance in the countryside area, CPP-NPA also empowers its human resource by sustaining cadres based on the lifeblood of the organization. The vetting process of preparing the next generation of CPP-NPA is conducted in three stages such as spotting, social investigation, and actual participation. It covers the process of enhancing knowledge of political views and activities including the efforts of engaging the family members with the government officials.

Finally, the organization would be able to spot potential recruits as the next generation or cadres of CPP-NPA.

Against the backdrop of terrorism growth in the world, recently, Philippines has become a new hotbed of martyrdom theatre by IS-inspired groups, while the fifty-year old CPP-NPA movement continues to strategically destroy Philippine society from within families and government agencies alike.

The way Indonesian jihadists justify suicide bombing as the most rewarding activity in the afterlife could also be possibly copied by terrorists in the Philippines. At certain stages, the recruitment pattern in the CPP-NPA groups is an alert for the next developed concept of self-devotion of what has been done in Indonesia.

The government should be more aware of these vulnerabilities by involving the community to support and stop the massive propaganda done by the CPP-NPA among the youth generation in the Philippines as well as empowering women to be agents of peace for family and society.

Sylvia W. Laksmi is a Researcher and Ph. D. Candidate at National Security College, the Australian National University.


Woman Qazi conducts marriage: A victory in women reclaiming spaces taken up by men

Although in Islam there is nothing that stops a woman from solemnising a nikah, the practice has been mostly limited to the male domain for centuries.

Amidst news of what women can and cannot do, and diktats on their right to religious freedom with regard to traditions and culture, a Muslim couple got their nikah solemnised by a woman Qazi earlier this month. This marks another victory in women reclaiming spaces that have just been taken up by men, irrespective of what religion has to say about it.

Maya and Shamaun, a couple based in Mumbai, got their nikah solemnised by Qazi Hakima Khatoon in Kolkata on January 5. A communications consultant by profession, Maya tells me that when a few years ago she read an article stating that a woman can also be a Qazi and solemnise a nikah, something that she was not aware of like most others because it is not common practice, she and Shamaun decided that their Qazi will be a woman.

Although in Islam there is nothing that stops a woman from solemnising a nikah, the practice is so uncommon that even locating a woman Qazi can be an impossible task. There have been earlier instances where a couple has asked a woman to carry out the nikah, but these instances are so rare and a woman Qazi so difficult to find that most nikahs, if not all, are conducted by men in Muslim families in India. Maya and her fiancé came across the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan’s (BMMA) website and saw that the movement had trained women Qazis in Quranic and constitutional rights. They got in touch with BMMA in 2017. When asked why they chose a woman to conduct the ceremony, the couple said ‘why not’.

Maya and Shamaun’s nikah marks a new beginning for women’s rights – an ordinary Muslim woman activist, who has, after undertaking a rigorous course on rights of women in the Quran and the Constitution, been invited by a regular couple to solemnise their wedding. A practice which has been mostly limited to the male domain for centuries. “It feels nice to give another woman a platform like this, which ideally should be easily available to her anyway. It has been empowering for her and me, both,” Maya tells me.

Qazi Hakima says she cannot explain in words what it has meant for her to be approached and to be able to successfully solemnise the nikah for the couple. She is also aware that as part of her duties as a Qazi she is responsible, under the training that she has taken, to ensure that there is proof of residence and age, and an affidavit from the groom stating that he is not previously married (the marriage is not polygamous). She has to make the couple go through the Nikahnama, fix the mehr (dower) amount and ensure that it is given at the time of the nikah, has to counsel the couple and ensure that the marriage is being carried out with their full consent. BMMA has trained 16 women Qazis in Maharashtra, MP, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Odisha.

Maya, who is half-Bengali and half-British, has a degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. Owing to her belonging to a liberal household, both her family as well as her in-laws were very happy with the decision of the couple. Until the wedding happened and people started reaching out to them, they did not see their decision to choose a woman to solemnise their wedding as ‘a big deal’.

“The biggest challenge,” says Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the BMMA, “is to get couples to come forward. We need more Mayas and Shamauns – the new age, modern, liberal Muslim men and women.”

Muslim women have long been denied rights which the Quran has guaranteed to them, because of the patriarchal norms set by society at large to keep them confined and subjugated. This is changing today when the ordinary Muslim woman is questioning the status quo and is not ready to accept customs and traditions being forced on her in the name of religion. Whether it is re-entering Haji Ali and demanding that religious spaces be easily available to all women, or fighting to ban instant triple talaq, Muslim women are the frontline warriors fighting their own battles.

Qazi Hakima and her like need to be supported so that more couples come forward to get their nikahs solemnised by them – where the mehr will not be a mere eyewash and never be asked to be forgiven, the couple will be made aware of their rights and responsibilities, underage marriages will not be solemnised, and the bride will get all her due rights as per the Quran.

Mariya Salim is a woman’s rights activist and researcher, and a member of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan. Views expressed are the author’s own.


NU Chairman Calls on Indonesian Muslims to Help Prevent Child Marriage


JANUARY 23, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Vanessa Angel Alleged Prostitution and Gender Inequality

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Recent news about the arrest of local celebrity Vanessa Angel for her alleged involvement in underground online prostitution came under the national spotlight.

However, public judgment mostly corners Vanessa and totally exposes her for being the user of the underground prostitution service, such commentary is also found in a large number of major news reports but many have failed to shed light on the male individual that acts as the consumer of her so-called service.

Ermelina Singereta from the Women’s Rights Defender Alliance (WRDA) argued about the public treatment of the online prostitution case. “Why not [also expose] the men that have used her physical body? What is it with a woman’s body?” wrote Ermelina on her Facebook page.

According to the commission 8 House of Representatives (DPR) public advocacy expert staff, every case involving women will always have an element of gender inequality positioning them in a vulnerable position.

“Especially in the case implicating Vanessa Angel where a woman’s body was used and exploited, even though it was consensual this case seems to draw a picture of the victim that has yet understood her rights to her body,” Ermelina explained.

She explained that prostitution will always place women as victims and that it is not exclusively an issue of class. Ermelina said that lower class prostitutions happen because it is driven by poverty experienced by the victim, or woman. She claims the victim’s inability and helplessness to find a proper and better job forces them to accept working in the prostitution industry.

Meanwhile, women in upper-class prostitution can also be considered as victims of the capitalistic industry that so often uses female body to look impeccably beautiful, glamorous, and many more.

However, it is understandable for the public’s inability to see upper-class female prostitutes as victims because Ermelina argues that women in this social status are considered by most to have the proper awareness of their own body.


Why women ulema reject patriarchy

by Yulianti Muthmainnah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Komnas Perempuan Launches New and Improved Call Center for Violence Victims

Reporting on violence against women in Indonesia has been made much easier and accurate with the help the newly launched Cloud Call Center at the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan). A partnership between Komnas Perempuan and ICT solution company Telkomtestra, the new system makes it possible for the Commission to take a lot more reports by phones using a new call-center number and to track down calls so that they can respond to the reports with the right measures.

The system is particularly aimed at facilitating those reporting sexual violence that occur within the cyberspace.

Komnas Perempuan Chair Azriana R Manalu said during the launch of the system on Nov. 4: “With cybercrimes, victims do not have to report directly. They can report their cases online. With Cloud Call Center reporting sexual cybercrimes has become much easier.”

Previously, Komnas Perempuan’s call center, which is based in Jakarta, is manned by people, opening up to possibilities of human errors and making data collecting too time consuming. The Cloud Call Center makes phone conversations much easier to track, so that violence victims everywhere can be assisted rapidly.

“These women all over Indonesia have one thing is common: they are all under the cloud, so we hope that a cloud contact center would be able to reach every single one who needs help,” said Erik Meijer, President Director of Telkomtelstra.

Azriana said that taking perpetrators of cyber sexual violence to court is a tough task:   “There is no law that regulates cyber sexual violence, so what we usually do is help the victims recover first. We contact their friends and families and try to make them understand that this is not the victim’s fault.”

“If there is enough strong evidence, we counterattack the abusers using the Law on Electronic Information and Transaction on spreading pornography. All that is made possible by our call center that has helped many women in the past. With the new features, we can help more,” said Azriana.

The Caller ID technology features helps collect data of the victims the moment they access the call center. It makes it easier to use the data when the case is being taken to court. Another important feature of the new call center is the voice mail function, which makes it possible for callers to report when all the phones are busy, which is often the case. Now they can just leave a message and the call center staff would be able to go back to them with the help they need. This is also useful for further investigations and research on all cases of violence against women, explained Azriana.

Cyber sexual violence has been a difficult case to solve in many countries too. Even when the visuals or writings have been taken down, they could easily be shared again by other parties that have saved or screencapped it. Cases like cyber sexual violence also have additional complexities that make it more challenging to bring to justice using existing laws. In cases of revenge porn, instead of getting help to recover, victims are primarily blamed by people, including their families, friends, and their work environment. In some cases, they are further punished by being expelled from their schools or fired from their job.

“Anyone could be a victim of cyber sexual violence,” said Nadya Karima Melati, co-founder of Support Group and Resource Center on Sexuality Studies (SGRC). “It’s not about why the victims would put themselves in the position that may jeopardize them, but why were the materials leaked in the first place? If the victim did not give consent, then there is nothing to justify the act of spreading the materials.”

Nadya, whose organization has done some researches into cyber sexual crimes, blamed the secondary role women still holds in society that places them in the domestic setting and may result in their lack of knowledge in technology. Also, many people are still not aware of the effects of the media and how it can ruin their lives, she added.

Llia Halimatussadiah, co-manager of Girls in Tech, encourages women and youth to be more media and internet-savvy.

“There are many workshops that could help women to know what they should do when they are hacked or experiencing cyber sexual violence. I think a lot of people, both male and female, would benefit from them. If you focus on positive things, not only will you not be tempted to do unnecessary things but also be able to fight and protect yourself,” she said.

If you want to report a case of violence against women, dial Komnas Perempuan’s new call center ‎+62 21 80605399.

Find out why sexual violence survivors in schools and campuses choose to stay silent over their assault.

Angesti Citra Asih is an intern reporter at Magdalene and final assignment warrior at Universitas Multimedia Nusantara. Her favorite conversation topics are humanity and pop culture. She loves music, especially contemporary R&B like Teza Semendra and Honne, and enjoys playing ukulele and guitar.


Azhar launches awareness campaigns against child marriage

CAIRO – 4 October 2017: In response to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s bid to crackdown on child marriage, Al-Azhar announced the launch of awareness-raising campaigns against the practice.

Sheikh Abbas Shoman, the deputy sheikh of Egypt’s al-Azhar institute, said Friday’s sermons will primarily address child marriages and its impacts, particularly in rural areas where it is prominent.

Ahmad al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar said that there are no sacred texts in Islam allowing child marriages, adding that Islam doesn’t set a specific age at which people can get married.

He added that Islam explicitly prohibits any practices that could lead to health complications or unavoidable physiological harm, which can apply to child marriages.

Recently, in one of the villages of Al-Mahallah al-Kubra, in the middle of the Nile Delta, an imam approved 27 cases of customary marriages for girls below 18 years of age.

Because of a law drafted in 2008 as part of Egypt’s Child Law to raise the age of marriage to 18 prohibiting child marriages, this imam convinced the families in the village that couples could have customary marriages until girls reach the eligible age, after which the bond would be made legal.


BREAKING: Court orders revision of minimum age for women to marry

In a decision that may pave the way for the elimination of rampant child marriage in Indonesia, the Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the 16 years old minimum age requirement for women to marry, as stipulated in the 1974 Marriage Law, was unconstitutional.

The court granted a judicial review petition filed by three child bride survivors and their lawyer from the Indonesian Coalition to End Child Marriage (Koalisi 18+), challenging Article 7 of the law, which sets the minimum age requirement for women to marry at 16.

In a hearing presided over by Chief Justice Anwar Usman, the court argued that the rule was a form of gender-based discrimination since the minimum age for requirement for men to marry was 19, and therefore contradicted the 1945 Constitution.

The court, however, refused to grant the plaintiffs’ demand to raise the minimum age for women to marry to that of the age for men, arguing that it was the authority of lawmakers and the court did not want to make a decision that could prevent any future law revisions.

“[The court] orders lawmakers to revise the 1974 Marriage Law, particularly in regard to the minimum age for women to marry, within a maximum three years,” Anwar read out the ruling on Thursday.

Justice Saldi Isra said the provision in article would remain valid until the deadline of three years. Should there be no revision prior to the deadline, the minimum age requirement would be harmonized with the 2002 Child Protection Law, which defines a child as someone below 18 years old.

Justice I Dewa Gede Palguna said that those at the age of 16 were still categorized children under the Child Protection Law, meaning that those who married at 16 were considered as being involved in child marriage, which had negative impact and threatening children’s welfare.

“Not only in terms of negative impact on health, there are possibilities of child exploitation and the increase of threats of violence against children in underage marriage,” Palguna said, adding that child marriage also threatened children’s rights to education.


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

By Mirisa Hasfaria

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

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


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

The Codification of Women’ Rights

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

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

The State of Gender-Based Violence in Indonesia

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

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

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


The Availability of Data


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

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


Proposed Actions


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


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


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



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

[2] Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights (2003), Handout of What is Gender-based Violence, accessible through

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

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

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

[6] UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children 2016: A Fair Chance for Every Child, accessible through:

[7] Gene B. Sperling, Rebecca Winthrop and Christina Kwauk (2016), What Works in Girls’ Education: Evidence for the World’ Best Investment, accessible through:

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


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


Forced marriage law ‘could stop victims reporting crime’

Criminalising forced marriage could stop victims from speaking up if their parents are locked up, campaigners say.

While legislation sends a “strong message,” a charity working with victims said it also scared off others.

Rubie Marie, 35, who was forced to marry in Bangladesh when she was 15, said: “It is hard because you love your family of course you do… But at the end of the day abuse is abuse.”

The Home Office said it was essential victims had confidence to speak out.

Forced marriage became a criminal offence in 2014, but only one case has been brought in Wales since then – with four convictions in total across the UK.

However, the Welsh Government estimates there are up to 100 cases of forced marriage every year.

Forced marriage victim Rubie Marie

Rubie Marie was raped almost daily by her husband in Bangladesh after being forced to marry him at the age of 15

In 2018, the forced marriage unit – a joint effort between the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Home Office – gave advice or support in 1,196 UK cases.

Shahien Taj of the Cardiff-based Henna Foundation told BBC Wales Live more prevention work was needed to educate perpetrators, who are often the victims’ parents.

The charity said victims often wanted to return to the family home once the situation was resolved.

“I don’t know a single victim that I’ve worked with that has said she’s ok with the police coming down on parents like a tonne of bricks – all too often they don’t want any intervention because of that,” said Ms Taj.

Ms Marie, who now lives in the Midlands, said once she was married, she was raped “more or less, every single day” so her new husband could have a child and a ticket to live in the UK.

A traffic jam at an intersection in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Rubie Marie was forced to marry a man twice her age after being taken to Bangladesh

The Home Office is consulting on proposals that would legally require those who work closely with young people, such as teachers and social workers, to report suspected cases of forced marriage.

Ms Taj believes forced marriage protection orders are the preferred route – allowing young people to apply to the courts for protection, while keeping the family out of the criminal system.

“We’ve had eight cases where young women have gone home and been able to move on with their lives,” she said.

Samsunear Ali from the charity Bawso said education was key as many parents did not even realise they were breaking the law.

“For them they are doing the right thing and that’s the only way they know how to reduce the level of shame in the family that this child could potentially bring.

“It’s a huge problem in Wales, and it’s still not being talked about as much.”

She said there were cases in rural Wales where women had no support and they were at greater risk, with forced marriages potentially “going on for generations and nobody knows about it”.

Rubie Marie as a young girl

Rubie Marie – pictured here aged five – was told her trip to Bangladesh was a holiday

‘I was raped every day’

Rubie Marie was born and raised in south Wales. She had a happy childhood but everything changed once she hit puberty.

She was taken to Bangladesh in 1998 at the age of 15 under the pretence of it being a holiday.

“We were only supposed to go for six weeks but then it went to two months, then it went to three months, then it got to six months and we all got homesick,” she said.

“I asked my father, I said we want to go home. I want to go back to school. I want my friends. But he would say things like ‘we spent so much money coming here’… That was his excuse, his cover up, his facade to plan what he was planning which was the marriage.

“I was sitting down having dinner with the whole family and he just came in and he sat down and he started to eat and out of the blue, and I remember it like it was yesterday,

“‘Wouldn’t it be great if we got Ruby married?’ And I was mortified. I was a kid and I had a tantrum. I threw my plate on the floor. I started kicking off, banging the doors, ran into my room screaming, shouting. I just didn’t know how to comprehend that information.

“I was put on a bidding system. One of my uncles went and started bidding me. It was horrible. I was treated like a slave.

“I was in this alien country – I didn’t know where to go, where to turn to, didn’t know where there was a phone. Nothing.”

‘I was disowned’

Ms Marie was forced to marry a man twice her age and for her engagement she was “dressed up like a doll”.

“The house was full of laughing people, you know there was people everywhere trying to come into my room to see me, to have a peek at this new bride,” she said.

“And I was just sitting there just thinking ‘I’m just an object’. You just got to do what you’ve got to do and that’s it. My vision was just get home, do whatever you need to do to get home.”

Once she was married, her new husband wanted a child.

“More or less, I’d been raped every single day to get pregnant, so then he’s got an official British pathway of coming to Britain because he’s got a child. That was their plan,” she added.

She got pregnant and came back to Wales to give birth. When the baby was born, she fled: “That brought shame to the family again in their eyes. And I was disowned for a very long time.”

Rubie now works as an ambassador, educating people about forced marriage.

“Now I’m speaking and talking to the world and sharing in that way of there is light at the end of the tunnel, there is a place for you in this world.

“It’s not all doom and gloom. And it’s not hell. You’ve got to turn it around. You’ve got to find that strength to turn it around and use it to your advantage and make it a happy place otherwise no one’s going to do that for you.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We know that forced marriage is often a hidden crime and so it is essential that victims have the confidence to come forward to get the help they need.

“We are seeking views on whether introducing a mandatory reporting duty might help strengthen protections for victims and ensure more perpetrators are brought to justice.

“The consultation is open to everyone and we are particularly interested in hearing from victims and survivors of forced marriage, and professionals with expertise in the issue of forced marriage.”