Politicizing Islam: New Challenges for Indonesian Women

Sri Wiyanti Eddyono
Publication Date: 
November, 2007

Politicizing Islam: New Challenges for Indonesian Women
Sri Wiyanti Eddyono is a feminist lawyer, member of National Commission on Violence Against Women Indonesia, and Vice-President of Semarak Cerlang Nusa, Indonesia. I would like to start my presentation by asking the question; why is this campaign important for Indonesia? We have never heard of stoning in our country. However, we have cases in many areas where women are dying as a result of violence. There are many incidences of domestic violence, as well as violence against migrant workers, which happens in the Middle East as well. There is also violence happening which is the result of armed conflict in Indonesia in the past. So while these forms of violence are occurring, today I would like to focus on a new phenomenon which is increasingly serious in the Indonesian context.

I would like to start by talking about the province of Aceh. Perhaps some of you know of it, because it received much attention especially after the tsunami, but it is also well known because of a civil war that broke out over religious and political tensions. In 2004, Aceh began using Islamic law, and established a religious penal code which legitimizes the use of corporal punishment. Since then we have found that there have been at least four cases of women being whipped; three on accusations of adultery and one because of gambling.

These women had no option to defend themselves, nor did they have access to a lawyer. The execution of the whippings occurred in public, in front of the Mosque, and everyone, including children were allowed to watch the execution. The victims were traumatized, and people and society continues to isolate them. Two of them felt the need to move to other provinces. In 2007, in the small village, Padang Village in Bulukumba, a 13 year old girl was whipped, without her knowing what exactly what the accusation against her was. The men in the community were suspicious that she had committed 'adultery', or sexual relations outside of marriage, but no evidence was presented, nor did she have the right to legal defense. She was simply brought to a meeting and was then informed that she would be whipped. This was an arbitrary ruling by a government official, made despite the fact that there was no official legislation, regulations or policies in place to support a sentence of whipping.

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