Islamists take arms against Indonesian gender equality bill
World's largest Muslim majority nation slow to grant woman equal rights
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim majority nation, with 80 percent of the population adhering to Islamist ideals. A gender equality bill, which seeks to grant more rights to women there has come under fire by no less than six major Islamic groups.
The gender equity bill goes against the grain of the Islamic Shariah law on inheritance which favors males. The bill also allows a man or a woman to freely choose a marriage partner -- regardless of religious persuasion and seeks to legalize homosexual or lesbian marriages.
According to Iffah Ainur Rochmah, spokeswoman for HTI the gender equality bill and policies that encourage women to seek employment could only lead to conflicts within marriages.
Rochmah says that divorce rates among female teachers were high because "wives with better earnings may feel superior to men leading to conflict."
In addition, the bill goes against the grain of the Islamic Shariah law on inheritance which favors males. The bill also allows a man or a woman to freely choose a marriage partner -- regardless of religious persuasion and seeks to legalize homosexual or lesbian marriages.
The international Women Against Shariah organization has been accused of muddying the notions about the place of men and women in Indonesian society.
According to the organization, 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," Salwa Amira, a young Muslim woman says..
Amira said feminist groups and non-governmental organizations 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," Muhammad Abas, a regional head of the country's religious affairs department says. "Sexual abuse, trafficking and labor conditions are not problems of gender, but of the law," he added.
Some analysts believe the bill will shortly become 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 says. "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 program 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 program of action and national legislation."
A version of this story was first published by Inter Press Service news agency.
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: Indonesia, gender equality, Sharia law, NGOs
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