I'm Not a Feminist but I Fight for Women

cr: UNDP
Growing up in a patriarchal environment made me aware of gender equality. Since I was a kid, I was told not to over shadow men and that I have to realise women will forever be below men in every aspect. For example, it was always boys who became our class leader. It was always boys who get prioritised to join competition. It was always boys that was set as an example. I thought that was just how the world works back then and now I say no more.

We actually had given an insight regarding gender equality since we were a student. The curriculum explained the history of RA Kartini who initiate women education. As Indonesian students, we were pretty much aware of emancipation and gender equality. In fact, it was just a theory and we rarely implement such insight into the real world. Even though in some part of my student life, I often see that girls were more capable than boys and eventually they were assigned as a leader.

I just read an article from Business Insider, this article stated that we perhaps need 100 years more to implement gender equality. The parameter set for equality are: literacy rate, political and economic contributions, education, access to health treatment, and opportunity to develop career including the amount of salary received. The country with the lowest gender gap, means women and men receive equal treatment, is Iceland. Almost all Scandinavian countries such as Finland, Norway, and Sweden have the lowest gender gap. Surprisingly, African country like Nicaragua and Rwanda were considered to have low gender gap. Then according to the data performed by Business Insider, Moslem countries almost dominate the opposite category: countries with highest gender gap.

Based on the articles, some people will conclude that Islam opposed gender equality. As Moslem, I find this phenomenon quite upsetting. It is true that Islam suggest women to stay at home better but it doesn't mean that Islam terminate women's right to get education and actualise themselves. Siti Khadijah was a successful Women entrepreneur in her era, she contributed into Islamic da'wah and support her husband in bravery. Siti Khadijah is the actual representation of gender equality in Islamic history. However several Islam practitioner nullified Siti Khadijah's hard work in their narration.

Such phenomenon particularly happened in Indonesia where the anecdote of women have no capability to be independent is spread rapidly. It is not difficult to find social media account which concentrate on da'wah degrading women's existence. They often compared women to an object, moreover they objectified women. They don't see women as a human being but a thing.

The instagram post above describes a women as a flower, it said that men only approach women for its beauty and once the beauty is gone, they will leave them just like that. They forget the fact that such men is the actual crackhead and the post implies patriarchal culture. The post means that women won't be able to be independent without men, it implies that women just a disposable being when they lost their men. Such post surely offend hard working and independent women.

The problem to such phenomenon actually the lack of understanding of gender equality essence. As I mentioned above, some Muslims misconduct the Islamic history and over praise the meaning of women's role in domestic circumstances. They do not understand that men and women were created in this world in a balance. Both gender (including another gender that's slowly being recognised) has their own strength and weaknesses. Men might have sharp intuition and the instinct of giving protection, women exist to give affections and different perspective. Together in equality, human can make a world better place.

I don't consider myself as a feminist activist because I usually saw the phenomenon that feminist might be too radical in terms of opportunity demand. I saw some feminist activist posts on social media that made me thought they are just overreacting. For example, the feminist activist complained about the small number of women speaker in an educational meeting. I don't see this as a problem because I assume perhaps there's not much excellent women figure to be invited as a speaker or probably there's one or more but the figure couldn't attend the event. So for me, it's not just about the existence of women in events but how the systems work equally for both men and women. Rather than concentrating on the number of speaker, it's better to speak up about women empowerment and protection.

In my case, I usually try to speak up if women treated unfairly and I defend my self for being degraded for being born as a woman. During my school period, I was active in school organisation and capable of being a leader, I took initiative to lead therefore I proof the point that women also has the capability of leadership. Leadership not just belong to men. I also proof that being independent doesn't make me lose my femininity, I still have compassion and respect, I'm aware of my role as a woman. Later when I finally marry someone, I still have the consciousness to let my husband make decision since he's the head of the family. However, he needs to know that he should involve me as his wife in making important decision. That's the essence of equality for me.

Living in Indonesia is in-between, in terms of education and health access we were given same treatment as men. Indonesian women actually have equal opportunity to build career but in details there are cases that promotions and work treatment to women is unfair especially in the field of sexual harassment awareness.

Lately I was so disappointed by the petition of refusing RUU Penghapusan Kekerasan Seksual (Sexual Harassment Act). The petition was initiated by a women who fully aware of gender equality, Maimon Herawati. The journalist and education practitioner argue that Sexual Harassment Act will allow pre-marital intercourse and accuse that the act fully support LGBTQ movement and abortions which she consider such actions contradict her belief. Personally I think the reasons are ridiculous since the act doesn't mention anything related to her accusations. The Act basically will give the legality of victim's protection and give the victim's right to speak up, what is wrong with it? How much longer do the victim needs to endure their never ending suffering post-sexual harassment crime they received? How much longer do Indonesian need to be conscious that rape and sexual harassment is degrading human's dignity?

The act itself does not only protect women but men who experienced sexual harassment because this crime not just happened to a women but to everyone regardless their background or clothes. How much longer will we permit sexual oppression off a human being?

Different to developed country, UK for example, Indonesia's law regarding the protection of sexual harassment victim is too weak. For some cases, the authorised officer do not take the investigation matter towards the rapist seriously. Victim blaming still considered understandable, lots of men still think that women get raped because of her revealing clothes. Lots of people still think that the victims ask for getting harassed. Rape culture by admitting catcalling is just a joke does exist in Indonesia.

cr: Tirto.id
Without having a firm legal constitute, it is quite difficult to fight against sexual harassment in Indonesia. And now the hope of legal immunity of the victim is threatened by Maimon's petition. Besides, the legislative council (DPR) also show reluctancies in authorising Sexual Harassment Act. The Act is not being prioritised since it has no direct correlation to legislative electability for the next election. The Act is also considered not supporting capital requirement for real contribution in nation's development. To put it simply, sexual harassment is not an important issue that legislative does not even bother to protect the rights and safety of the victims.

For the crucial matter of equality like sexual harassment case, Indonesia is far left behind. Thus, I don't expect much for any other equality matters in this country. UK has been aware of sexual harassment case and establish a law (Sexual Offences Act) it is supported by equality law not just for gender but for everyone in Equality Act but it needs years and struggles. I think to reach that point, Indonesia will need more years and more struggles. To make it faster and easier let's put effort together, by campaigning, by acting as a dignified human, by having integrity, and by educating our closest relations regarding the importance of equality.