Islamists Stall Gender Equality Bill - IPS ipsnews.net
JAKARTA, May 9, 2012 (IPS) - The fate of a gender equality bill pending in Indonesia’s parliament and aligned with the United Nations convention on the elimination of all forms discrimination against women (CEDAW) has become uncertain after falling afoul of powerful Islamist groups.
No fewer than six major Islamic organisations have formally objected to the equality bill on the ground that some of its articles go against Islamic values in the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation where 80 percent of its 238 million people are followers of the faith.
Iffah Ainur Rochmah, spokeswoman for HTI, said after an important consultation with parliament’s commission on religion and social affairs held on Mar. 16 that gender equality and policies that encourage women to seek employment could only lead to conflicts within marriages. According to Rochmah, divorce rates among female teachers were high because "wives with better earnings may feel superior to men leading to conflict."
The bill goes against the grain of the Islamic Shariah law on inheritance which favours males. It also allows a man or a woman to freely choose a marriage partner regardless of religious persuasion and seeks to legalise homosexual or lesbian marriages.
Many ordinary women now accuse non-government organisations (NGOs) such as the international Women Against Shariah (WAS) for creating confusion in Indonesian society that has set notions about the place of men and women in it.
According to WAS, Shariah law imposes second class status on women and is incompatible with the basic principles of human rights that include equality under the law and the protection of individual freedoms.
"Indonesian women have no problems with men, but there is a tiny group of people which is out to create problems," said Salwa Amira, a young Muslim woman who is an environmental consultant to a South Korean firm in Jakarta. Amira said feminist groups and NGOs were promoting the bill. "These are small groups of women who talk a lot," she said. "Their campaigns attract some women who happen to be going through some crisis."
Some analysts believe that it is only a matter of time before the bill, originally due to have been passed on Apr. 15, becomes law. There is no official word on when it will be taken up again in parliament.
"The Indonesian government has already ratified CEDAW as government regulation in 1984," Nining Widaningsih, a well-known commentator on women’s affairs, told IPS. "The bill is meant to amend this regulation, which still leaves a lot of disadvantages for women." ...
"This is the work of radical feminists who are fed by the West," Kirana Andilycia, a housewife, commented in the Facebook group ‘No to Gender Equality Bill’. "It has been stamped in their minds that Muslim women are oppressed, beaten, and excluded from public positions, although the facts are different."
Kirana said it is not difficult to see that the real aspirations of Indonesian women are not reflected in the bill. "I think freeing women from breastfeeding and demanding 30 percent of (parliament) house seats are a bit much. That is not what Indonesian women want.
"We will stick to Islamic teaching in women’s affairs. God created women different from men. Our duties and responsibilities are different. Our tendencies and inclinations are different. But we are equal as human beings, as God’s creatures."