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.
Organisations opposed to the bill include the influential Indonesian Ulema Council, the Indonesian Consultative Council for Muslim Women Organisations, Aisyiah, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) and the Islamic Community Party.
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.'
'Yes, some Indonesian women are excluded from job positions, but so are men,' said Muhammad Abas, a regional head of the country’s religious affairs department. 'Sexual abuse, trafficking and labour conditions are not problems of gender, but of the law,' he added. 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.'
The 2011-2015 United Nations Population Fund’s programme in Indonesia has plans to address gender-based violence 'through improved policies and social protection systems, in alignment with the CEDAW, the International Conference on Population and Development’s programme of action and national legislation.'
Indonesia’s women empowerment and children protection ministry reports that the number of domestic violence cases has increased during the last two years - 105,103 cases in 2010 and 119,107 cases in 2011.
© Inter Press Service (2012) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service
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