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Women Continue Local, Global Struggle for Change

Last year there were over 300,000 cases of domestic violence nationwide, with almost 70 percent of them occurring within personal relationships, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) has reported.

These statistics show that little has changed in over a decade, despite the women’s movement helping to push the passing of the 2004 law on domestic violence.

The cases include torture and maiming, the murder of girl friends, a wife being doused with petrol and the rape of young girls by their stepfathers or grandfathers.

It is not a problem that is only reflected in national statistics and the horrifying cases that get national coverage. TIle problem and protests against it occur everywhere.

In 2016, in Gunung Kidul, an impoverished area in the province of Yogyakarta, people from all walks of life protested the high rates of sexual violence, which have resulted, they said, in hundreds of teenage pregnancy cases over the last few years.

Women have had to come out to protest not only in response to sexual violence and direct gender discrimination, but also in response to decisions that affect families economically.

Remember the women from the village of Kendeng who staged a vigil outside the State Palace in Jakarta, their feet cemented into concrete blocks, to protest against a new cement factory that they said would ruin the irrigation and environment they rely on for their livelihood.

This is just one of many similar cases. It is clear the scattered and irregular protests are not working. The statistics indicate that there has been no real progress. The cement factory in Kendeng seems to be going ahead anyway. A growing and continuous movement is urgently needed.

And this March there are important initiatives being taken. March is the month in which many commemorate the international struggles of women.

In 1908, working women in Kew York marched to demand an improvement in wages and working conditions. March 8 is now commemorated as International Women’s Day (IWD).

Then in 1910, the International Working Women’s Conference in Copenhagen, attended by 100 women from 17 countries, passed a resolution calling for an international day for women.

Almost seven decades later, in 1978, the United Nations declared IWD. In Indonesia, IWD is neither a holiday nor has any formal national status. IWD was only commemorated during the Sukarno period before 1965 by organizations such as the Republic of Indonesia Women’s Union (PERWARl) and the Indonesian women’s Movement (GERWANI).

Various women’s groups celebrated IWD on March 8 during the New Order and have continued up until now. March 8 is a day for women to unite to further the campaigns for their demands.

The sustained support for IWD in Indonesia is part of the renewing of the women’s movement as part of a global movement.

For example since 2013, there have been activities on V-Day (Vagina Day) initiated by the One Billion Rising (OBR) movement, which opposes violence against women in general, and rape culture in particular.

In Yogyakarta, OBR has raised awareness around the city’s very high rates of domestic. violence.

It is no wonder that women’s struggle to improve their lives is never ending. Discrimination and exploitation is endemic, not only regarding wages, but also in terms of sexuality and the body.

In Indonesia, the state preselves this “second sex” patriarchal culture, as reflected in the statements of state officials, such as the demand for virginity tests for schoolgirls and women applying to be police officers.

These statements show how Indonesian women are still trapped by shallow stereotyping. One example is Agriculture Minister Amran Sulaiman blaming women’s gossiping for a shortfall in chili production and price hikes.

Women should stop gossiping and plant more chili, he said. Another is Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Muhammad Kasir banning sexual minorities from campuses because “they violate national morality and values.

Even Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise, a female professor, blamed a lack of parental supenision for the rape and murder of a schoolgirl in Bengkulu. A fonner Jakarta governor, Fauzi Bowo, once said that rape occurred because too many women wore mini-skirts.

This patriarchal culture is also sometimes worsened by statements from religious institutions. The World Health Organization has declared female circumcision to be a violation of human rights that has no health benefits. Indeed, they say that it can cause infections, problems with urination and complications with giling birth.

Yet the Indonesian Wema Council (MUI) has issued a fatwa stating that female circumcision is recommended as an important religious duty and that there should be no banning of the practice, though it should follow standards.

While these news remain dominant and affect policy decisions, opposition and criticism will inevitably continue.

This year local activists are organizing a “Women’s March,” responding positively to the women’s marches in the United States opposing President Donald Trump’s misogynist statements about women and anti-human rights policies on immigration and sexual minorities, among other things.

The movement started through proposals launched via social media and now more than 5 million people have participated in marches around the world.

In Indonesia, with support from many local and international NGOs, the March will be help on March 4 in the lead-up to IWD on March 8.

The Jakarta Women’s March is demanding the government do more to defend and promote tolerance and diversity, act against violence, including violence against woment and violations of humau rights.

Discrimination against minorities or any group, on the basis of ethnicity, race, religious belief or sexual orientation, must and.

Achieving real progress for women in this country, ending sexual violence and improving the economic rights of women will need an increasing number or people to support and take part in such actions.

The writer is a playwright, director, theatre producer and cofounder of Institue Ungu, Women’s Art and Cultural Spase.

Source: The Jakarta Post.

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