A successful campaign to halt sharia laws in South Sulawesi

WEMC-Solidaritas Perempuan Anging Mammiri (SPAM), South Sulawesi
Publication Date: 
November, 2007

A successful campaign to halt sharia laws in South Sulawesi

Although most Indonesians are Muslims, Indonesia is a secular, multi-cultural state, which claims to uphold human rights, including the rights of the women citizens. However, WEMC research in the district of Bulukumba, Makassar, S. Sulawesi, shows that religion is being politicised with Islamists seeking to subvert the secular state through regulations and legislations, on the basis of their interpretations of Islam.

Seventeen village and provincial regulations have been passed in S. Sulawesi since 2006, where Sharia law based on Islamist interpretations has spread in 7 districts: Bulukumba, Enrekang, Maros, Pangkep, Gowa, Talakar, and Pare Pare. These regulations promote a morality that discriminates against women and minorities (for example, homosexuals). Because the discriminatory regulations are derived from dogmatic and gender biased interpretations of the “holy book”, people feel intimidated by the use of religion for legitimisation and hesitate to question such impositions.

Although enacted on the pretext of protecting society, in reality, these regulations and legislations do not protect women’s rights but on the contrary, exercise control over women’s bodies, minds and their access to public spaces. These mechanisms of control in fact criminalise women, leading to their discrimination and stigmatisation by the government and society. Such local regulations, based on discriminatory interpretations of the Sharia in various parts of Indonesia contradict the national laws and conventions which have been enacted for the protection of women’s rights, thereby posing a challenge to the authority of the state.

Solidaritas Perempuan (SP) has long been concerned with women’s struggle to fight injustice and violence perpetuated by local authorities through regulations and legislations in the process of democratisation in Indonesia. SP has been leading a grassroots effort to raise awareness of gender injustice among policymakers. Fundamentalism was identified as one of the greatest challenges to women’s lives in Indonesia and SP has been particularly concerned about women’s political space in the face of the increasing politicization of Islam at meso and micro levels.

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