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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Islamic Law in Indonesia 2

The Compilation of Islamic Law chapters 79-84 states that in a marriage the husband has a role as the breadwinner and the wife as the housewife who is responsible for all kinds of domestic affairs. This law then justified the gender-biased view that has existed for ages, about dichotomy of public and private spheres. There are two main consequences of this law.

First, when a woman works outside the house, she will have double roles—as the breadwinner and as the homemaker. When she unluckily has a gender-biased husband, she will have to do all of the household chores without the husband’s help, merely because doing household chores is considered as the woman’s destiny. A woman is born and destined to be the homemaker and not as the breadwinner. The selfish man will (make) use of the unfair law for his egotism.

The second consequence is because a woman is not considered as being born as the breadwinner, she will be considered as single in the workplace. Consequently, she will not get any allowance a married man gets although she is already married. When the workplace is generous enough to give her the allowance, she has to pay tax as the single woman, which is higher than a married man does.

Some years ago, there was a dispute about this in my ex workplace. A female workmate of mine complained to the company why she was considered as single while in fact she was married and she had four children. Consequently, her tax was higher than the male workmate who was married and had four children too. Sadly, I explained to her that it was not the policy of the workplace where we worked together, however it was the policy of the Indonesian government.

This is just one example that Indonesia’s ratification of CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in 1984 doesn’t really help improve women’s lives yet. Twenty-two years after this ratification, women in Indonesia are still treated discriminatively.

PT56 22.05 160107

Islamic Law in Indonesia 1

The Compilation of Islamic Law produced by the New Regime Era under Soeharto is proven biased gender by Kelompok Kerja Pengarusutamaan Gender (The Teamwork on Gender Mainstream) coordinated by Siti Musdah Mulia. This article of mine will focus on two things:
  1. A woman needs to be accompanied by a male relative legally responsible for a bride on her wedding ceremony. This male relative is mostly the father; if the father cannot attend it, he can be substituted by the brother, or the grandfather from the father, or uncles from the father; but not her mother, or any relative from the mother’s side. A woman is viewed as incapable to represent herself. She will always needs the presence of one male relative. (The Compilation of Islamic Law chapters 19-23, 25)
  2. A Muslim woman cannot marry a non Muslim man, while a Muslim man can marry a non Muslim woman. (The Compilation of Islamic Law chapter 40).
The answer of these gender-biased chapters is simply that women are considered as the weaker sex. Women are considered as the weaker sex not only physically but also intellectually. And in this case, women are considered intellectually weaker than men so that they are not capable to represent themselves in the wedding ceremony. Marriage is one big decision to make in someone’s life and a woman as less intelligent creature is viewed as not able to make a good decision for it.

Many centuries ago when women were not allowed to pursue education to be knowledgeable, it was perhaps logical. At that time women were imprisoned in their homes, didn’t get chance to know life beyond their confines. Therefore, the fiqh writers made gender-biased Islamic Law. To protect (or to imprison?) women, the fiqh writers from the middle centuries interpreted Alquran using their point of view belittling women’s existence.

In this era where many women—especially in Indonesia, because I am talking about law in Indonesia—have good chances to pursue their education, to be knowledgeable in all disciplines, they are supposed to be able to make their own decision, to represent themselves so that they no longer need a male relative to represent them on their own wedding ceremony. Women are not less intelligent than men anymore now.

How about mixed marriage? I remember when I was little, my teacher gave a reason why a Muslim woman is not allowed by marry a non Muslim man is because men are considered superior to women. It is okay then if in one marriage the husband is a Muslim while the wife is a non Muslim. The husband is expected to be able to show the superiority by trying to make the wife convert to Muslim. If not, this superior man will not easily convert to the wife’s religion. NOTE: it is simply because hr is considered superior than the wife. On the contrary, people are worried if a Muslim wife will be forced by her (superior) non Muslim husband to convert.

Again in this era where women can pursue their education as high as possible, and become knowledgeable, women are supposed to be considered as equal to men, no longer inferior. The knowledgeable women will not easily give in to the (superior) non Muslim husband to convert religion.

Besides, in a marriage, men and women are supposed to have the same rights and position. They must respect each other, including respect the respective religion. No one is supposed to try intimidating the other party to convert the religion.

In conclusion, the Islamic Law stating that a woman needs a male relative to be responsible for her on her wedding ceremony and that a Muslim woman cannot marry a non Muslim man is no longer valid.

PT56 21.18 160107

My Children Class

This term is the first time I get EC (Elementary School Children) class level 1 that consists of the first grade of elementary school students. There are six boys and seven girls. I find one new characteristic which is different from the FSC (First Step to Communication) class that contains junior high school students: the boys and girls in EC class get along better than those of FSC class. It seems that the first grade of elementary school students in my class don’t recognize any barrier yet between the two different sexes. It is okay for them to sit together. On the contrary, the FSC students always group themselves, boys sit with boys, while girls with girls. When I ask them to work in groups, they will strongly oppose me if I ask one group/pair consists of the two sexes. They just want to work with the same sex, one groups must consist only boys, or only girls. When I give them an assignment that will make them compete to each other, they will show big satisfaction when they beat the other group that consists of the opposite sex; showing like boys and girls are created to beat each other, to be the winner. LOL.

Adult classes that consist of senior high school students, college students or employees no longer show this special characteristic. They work well with anybody, no matter what sex their partner is.
I want to relate this to my review of “Little Manhattan” movie where boys and girls get along well when they are in kindergarten/nursery school, but they start to feel like a big and strong wall separate them when they come to the first grade of elementary school. Gabe starts to be attracted to a girl—or falls in love—when he is ten years old, perhaps in the fourth/fifth/sixth grade.

In Indonesia the case is a bit different. As in my EC 1 class, the boys and girls still get along well, they don’t mind sitting next to the opposite sex. They start to show disgust—or well, avoid working together in one team, LOL,—when they go to junior high school. Three years later, after they are in the senior high school, they start to get along well again.

PT56 23.15 150107

Violence to Women

Last Sunday 14 January 2007, the local newspaper gave information about the increase of sexual abuse done to children in Semarang, my hometown. One Non Governmental Organization concerning with gender and human rights—LRC KJHAM—reported that among 247 rape cases during last year, 187 cases happened to children. The worst thing is that more victims were under five years old: 20 cases happened to children under five years old, while 167 cases happened to girls between 6 until 18 years old. The rapists mostly even were those who had close relationship with the victims, such as neighbors. The reason is because it is very easy to cheat children by giving them some money, candies or toys. When those children refuse, the rapists will threaten them. Usually, children will be afraid of the threat.

The launching of law to eliminate the domestic violence in 2004 seems not to have impact to reduce the violence done to women. It is shown by the increase of the violence done to women as noted by one Non Governmental Organization in Jakarta—Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia (Indonesian Women Coalition—in its press release on January 8, 2007. The highest increase was in 2004—80% compared to the previous year. In 2005 it increased 45% compared to the cases in 2004.

Does it mean that the law to eliminate the domestic violence doesn’t really work well to reduce the violence done to women? No. The law has opened people’s eyes that domestic violence is no longer a domestic case only so that the family—especially women that become more victims rather than men—has more courage to report to the police. Before 2004, people tended to hide the violence that happened in the family because people used to view it as personal/familial problem.

Going back to the news I mentioned in the beginning of this article, the news stated one rape case that happened to a nine-year-old girl (raped by one neighbor.). The mother of the girl herself decided to report to the police although her husband said no need to do that. I am of opinion that the mother is familiar with the elimination of domestic violence law while the husband still thinks that it is a familial problem. In Indonesia—perhaps also in some other countries that have law to consider women’s bodies as the source of sin—women are always cornered when rape happens. Instead of punishing the rapist, society would try finding fault in the victim, such as what kind of clothes the victim was wearing at that time, whether the victim flirted the rapist, etc. the launch of the elimination of domestic violence law in 2004 was expected to see the case using the right point of view—to see the rapist as the criminal that has to be punished and to protect the victim as the victim, and not as the seducer.

PT56 13.00 150107

Sons versus Daughters

In the fitness club I have joined for about one year, there are two women attract my attention recently. One has a daughter, fifteen years old; her husband passed away around two years ago; she is unemployed, surviving by using the money her late husband left. She said that sometimes she gets some financial aid from her own family members, but not from her late husband’s family members. The other one has a son, ten years old, her husband passed away around a year ago. She works as an aerobics instructor, and she said that she monthly gets some financial aid from her family members, especially from the late husband’s family.

If I relate these two cases with the gender perspective, I think that people still think that sons/boys always deserve to get better treatment than daughters/girls. Among low-income family, when they have financial constraint for education, they always have tendency to send their sons to go to school more than the daughters. They still believe that sons later will be the breadwinner so that they need the education better than the daughters. When talking about the nutrition, parents tend to give more nutritious food to sons rather than to girls. The fact Indonesia ratified CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) in 1984, and CRC (The Convention on the Rights of the Child) in 2002 doesn’t change a lot of discrimination done to daughters/girls in Indonesia. I still find many discriminative treatments toward daughters around me. Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal) no 45 published in January 2006 informed that until now CEDAW is still only an alien; not many people know about it yet. It means that people—here especially women—have to work hard to socialize this convention to society so that in the future hopefully we can reduce discriminative treatments toward women.

PT56 13.30 150107