Indonesian man is publicly caned for having premarital sex in Banda Aceh,
Indonesia, May 23, 2017. Photo: AFP/Chaideer Muyaddin
self-appointed morality police are at it again, this time featuring a
university-educated member of the Commission for the Protection of Children
(KPAI) who drew public ridicule by claiming that women risk becoming pregnant
by sharing a swimming pool with men.
Sitti Hikmawatty’s startling gaffe came during a week when Human Development
Coordinating Minister Muhadjir Effendy suggested the country’s wealthy elite
should marry into poor families to help reduce the nation’s stubbornly high
what hasn’t tickled any funny bones is the recently leaked draft of a privately
sponsored Family Resilience Bill, yet to be tabled before Parliament, which
represents yet another effort by conservative Muslim politicians to intrude
into the private lives of Indonesian citizens.
chairman Susanto asked Hikmawatty, 49, a nutritionist with a master’s degree in
early childhood education, to explain herself and to provide him with the
academic or other references she used to support her bizarre assertion.
for the Protection of Children commissioner Sitti Hikmawatty in a file image.
didn’t have to wait long. Hours later, the veiled mother of four apologized for
making what she acknowledged was an “incorrect statement” and pleading for it
not to be disseminated any further.
social media was already in full cry, with one netizen posting a picture of a
full-body latex swimsuit, complete with condom, and another pleading with the
Jakarta governor to fix the city’s floods before they cause too many
isn’t clear what prompted Hikmawatty to make the claim. The closest she has
probably come to a swimming pool was as a nutritionist for Indonesian athletes
attending the 1995 Southeast Asian Games in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Indonesian girls (swimming competitively in the same pool as men) won five
silver and eight bronze medals – without any subsequent reports of pregnancies.
For the record, the males secured two golds, three silvers and four bronze.
is not new to controversy. Last year, she criticized clove cigarette giant
Djarum for sponsoring a program aimed at developing the skills of promising
child badminton players, claiming it was being used to promote smoking among
strongly denied the allegation, pointing to its long record of fostering
Indonesian shuttlers, the country’s only sportsmen and women who consistently
perform at world standards.
Hikmawatty, Minister Effendy made headlines around the world by suggesting that
the Religious Affairs Ministry issue a fatwa under which “the poor are required
to look for the rich (to marry) and the rich should look for the poor.”
former university rector with a doctorate in military sociology, Effendy, 63,
was previously education minister, a job now held by young ride-hailing
entrepreneur Nadiem Makarim, who is seeking to fundamentally revamp a hidebound
education system regarded as a major drag on economic growth.
government claims 9.6% of the population, or 25.6 million people, still live
under the poverty line in Indonesia. But if more realistic World Bank measures
are followed, that figure balloons to as high as 39%, or 100 million, who live
has a confusing habit of taking one step forward and then two steps back on
social issues. Last September, Parliament was praised for raising the minimum
marriage age for girls to 19, closing legal loopholes that for years have
allowed for child brides.
to UNICEF, Indonesia has the eighth highest number of child brides worldwide,
with 14% married before the age of 18 and more than three million before
heads may also prevail with Parliament’s so-called “bedroom bill,” which among
other intrusive measures criminalizes sperm and ovum donors, outlaws the use of
whips and bondage, and enforces a “rehabilitation” program for the lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
a fundamental throwback to a bygone era, one article in the legislation
stipulates that husbands and wives “are responsible for performing their
individual roles in accordance with religious norms, social ethics and
casts the husband as the traditional bread-winner, who fulfils the family’s
welfare and household needs and who also protects his wife and children from
“mistreatment, exploitation and sexual deviation” – a code word for
conservative Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) and National Mandate Party both
oppose passage of a bill currently before Parliament to tackle sexual violence,
alleging that it promotes free sex and supports an LGBT community which
Indonesians once freely embraced before it became an Islamic target.
particularly moralizing provision in the new bill, hardly practical in poor
households with limited space, even mandates separate bedrooms for parents and
children and between siblings of different genders to avoid what it calls
the wake of a civil society outcry, the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party for
Struggle (PDI-P), the second-ranked Golkar Party and Defense Minister Prabowo
Subianto’s Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), have all denied
supporting the legislation.
woman is whipped in public in Indonesia’s staunchly conservative Aceh province
as punishment for being too close to a man. Photo: AFP
only does the state intend to enter our bedrooms, it also intends to dictate
who should enter the bedroom with us,” says one prominent businesswomen, furious that three of the
bill’s five sponsors are her own gender.
include Ledia Hanifa, 50, and Netty Prasetiyani, 50, both legislators from the
opposition Sharia-based PKS and two-term Golkar lawmaker Endang Maria Astuti,
53, all devout Muslims whose ideas are considered out of step with a modern
one interview, Astuti asserted that modern women were too consumed with gender
equality, which consequently made them feel more powerful than their male
partners. “We want to simply return things to the way they should be,” she
from their reaction on social media and with this writer over morning coffee,
the modern Indonesian women she referred to were not impressed, calling it an
attempt to roll back the hard work done to secure gender equality including in
a worrying sign of the haphazard way legislation finds its way on to Parliament’s
agenda, Golkar parliamentary leader Nurul Arifin, a strong supporter of women’s
rights, said she had been “blindsided” by Astuti’s support for the bill.
supporter Prasetiyani is the wife of a former governor of West Java, the
country’s most populous province and a hardline Islamic stronghold which handed
President Joko Widodo a resounding defeat in last year’s presidential
on all sides by West Java and the equally conservative province of Banten, it
may be that which reinforced Widodo’s apparent determination to move the
nation’s capital out of Jakarta and across the Java sea to East Kalimantan.
Headline: Morality police swing out wildly in Indonesia
The Asia Times