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Monday, May 01, 2006

Pornography Bill in Indonesia

Some time ago, a friend sent me a short email asking me why I didn’t agree with pornography bill that has been strongly argued in Indonesia, between two parties—anti and pro this bill.

To answer that question I related it to some knowledge I got when I was in elementary school where I went to an Islamic school. It answers then why I was indoctrinated very strongly in Islamic perspective. When I was a little, my teacher told me (and my classmates, that’s for sure) that in this life there were three main temptations that would take someone—MEN mostly—to hell; they are money, throne (it can be interpreted as position), and WOMEN. I also still remember that my teacher said that the occupants in the hell later are mostly women coz they are created in this world to tempt/tease men to do sin; coz they gossip a lot; coz they don’t always pray to God due to the period they get every month.

I was not really critical to my teacher at that time. But it hurt my feeling as a little girl. For the first and the second reasons, my teacher took Eve’s case as an example where Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit when they lived in heaven so that God was angry with them and they then were thrown away from heaven and put in this mortal world. For the last reason, it really made me confused. I was born as a female. All female beings get period and this is something we female cannot avoid. It has happened since time immemorial. And in Islamic teaching, a woman who is getting period is considered not in a “clean” condition so that she is not allowed to do prayer and fast. It means when a woman gets period and she doesn’t pray nor fast (especially during Ramadhan month, the holiest month for Muslim), she just follows the teaching. So, how could it even make a woman punished to go to hell???

By comparing women to money and position, it is very clear that women are synonym to THINGS and not human being.

Women’s beautiful bodies are considered as the source of sins coz men will lose their common sense when seeing open women’s bodies. Therefore, women must cover all of their bodies, from head to toe. Coz when a man is tempted to see women’s naked flesh, he will lose his mind, he will think of sex, and as a result he will go to hell coz of the temptation.

Because men will always think of having sex when seeing women’s naked flesh, women are considered as sexual objects. It will make men think they deserve to stare at women to their heart’s content; and even to touch them; even when a woman covers all over her body, men still have right to imagine what kind of body they will find under the woman’s clothes, and then do sexual harassment—from whistling, greeting with nasty words, or even more terrible than that.

It all starts from the belief that women’s bodies are just like THINGS, not a human being. Referring to what Beauvoir stated, women are just the second sex, and men are the first.

And I am of opinion that the issue of pornography bill in Indonesia refers to this belief—that women are just like THINGS, that women do not deserve to possess their own bodies so that government thinks that they have full right to arrange what a woman should wear and behave. The present government under SBY-JK as the president and vice president obviously fails to increase the citizens’ welfare coz even more and more people become poor, more and more babies die coz of malnutrition. To cover this failure, SBY-JK use women’s bodies’ issue as their weapon so that Indonesian people are even more busily discussing and arguing this pornography bill over the real issue SBY-JK must cater—poverty, education for future generation.

Patriarchy believes that sexual harassment happens coz women do not cover their bodies “properly”. Patriarchy believes that men were created to have a high sexual drive so that women must understand when men cannot repress this drive. On the contrary, women were created to have a low sexual drive. Well, at least this is what I observe in Indonesia.

The following question is who will guarantee that sexual harassment will not happen to women who cover all over their bodies? Who guarantees that rape will happen only to women who happen to wear “open” clothes?

The answers for the above questions are NOT!!!

For the first question, I have proved it by myself. I mostly wear a long dress and a blazer t go anywhere. Still some nasty irresponsible men harass me, by whistling or greeting with indecent sentences while I NEVER show any “inviting” body language. Second question, who guarantees that rape doesn’t happen in some Islamic countries where most women wear clothes covering all over their bodies? Indonesian newspapers have often reported some female migrant workers going to those Islamic countries were raped. I personally know several women going to Arab Saudi to work and when they go home, they also bring their babies home, the result of rape.

My conclusion is that pornography all starts from the way men underestimate women as THINGS, and not from the way women get dressed, walk, move, or behave.


In fact, I wrote the above article in my national language coz some Indonesian friends of mine complain why I write my articles in English. I posted it in my blog some weeks ago. One day, I got a comment from unknown source saying, “Just blame God why God created men and women’s bodies different so that we men love to watch women’s bodies coz of the difference.” And he concluded I am pro pornography coz I am anti pornography bill.

A very wrong and illogical way of thinking, don’t you agree?

First, why I disagree with pornography bill poignantly argued in Indonesia recently is like what I illustrated above. It starts from the way men underestimate women. They don’t respect women as their fellow citizens.

Second, not clear description of what is pornography in the bill itself. One example of the bill stated, “A woman who is ASSUMED to show off her body—breasts, buttock, or thighs—will be imprisoned.” Another example, “A woman is ASSUMED to be a prostitute when she is hanging around in the evening without any clear reason.” Whose assumption? Who has right to assume such a thing? Who has right to know what other people are doing in a certain place?

And this unclear statement in the bill made a group of women sued and harassed by some irresponsible people some weeks ago coz these women were standing at the side of the street around 9pm. They were ASSUMED as prostitutes. Then, it turned out that they were going back from their workplace and waiting for the public transport to go home. It happened in Tangerang, a district close to Jakarta—the capital of Indonesia.

Many women go to work to help their husbands to make their ends meet. With the crazy soaring prices of daily needs, more and more women work. In Indonesia many women work not coz they want to increase their self-esteem or to actualize themselves (I refer it to Maslow’s hierarchy of social needs) but because they have to do that to survive—be it to help their husbands or to survive coz their husbands irresponsibly leave them for other women. When these unfortunate women work in companies that oblige them to work under some shifts, so that sometimes they go home until 9pm, why the hell then they are considered as prostitutes?

The most illogical and ridiculous thing is that when we are to blame God that has created men and women have different bodies.

I replied that those irresponsible men will always find another party as black sheep for their own mistake. They cannot repress their passion when seeing women and then they blame God for that. It reminds me of my childhood. During Ramadhan month—the month where Muslim people are to fast the whole month—many restaurants had to close during the day so that they wouldn’t tempt those fasting people to eat or drink; with a big note, “Please respect fasting people.” And when someone is tempted to eat or drink due to the hot weather during the day, let’s say, he or she will blame the restaurants that open during the day. How my teacher and also people around me taught children to find a black sheep for one thing we cannot do well. This is very sad. :( Why didn’t they teach us like, “When you are determined to fast, coz this is Ramadhan month, and you will go to heaven as the reward, please don’t let yourself tempted by anything or anyone, including those open restaurants with their delicious food and fresh drink that make your mouth water.”

Until now the “fight” between two parties—pro and anti pornography bill—still happens in Indonesia. When many feminists say that they are anti pornography bill and easily people judge them as pro pornography, it is absolutely wrong. We feminists hate to see sexual harassment and rape that happen to many women, as results of pornography. But issuing such a bill with so many irrational statements is indeed not a good way out. Such a bill will only make jails in Indonesia full of women who unintentionally do the “crime”.

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