Indonesia’s beautiful archipelago plays host to a colourful array of values that are enshrined in regional law, thanks to it’s decentralized political framework. One province in East Java, however, is attempting to drag Indonesia back to the dark ages.
This flies in the face of Indonesia signing the Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Woman. Jember is set to form a medieval bubble around it’s 2.3 million inhabitants and Indonesia’s bold march towards progress.
Article Submitted by Jimmy Thoriq
The bill currently being considered by East Javan lawmakers regarding “good conduct” will make virginity tests a requirement for all female students to graduate.
“What surprises us the most is they have had sex several times and with different partners,” Habib Isa Mahdi said, a lawmaker for the ironically named People’s Conscience Party. “Indonesia is in an emergency situation against pornography — that’s what drives us to make such regulation.”
If we are to presume for a moment that there does exist an omnipotent, intangible pornography monster exiting within Indonesia today - is it more the fault of the female or male population, do you reckon? Targeting Indonesia’s future female leaders will only serve to bloat said monster.
“If they’re not virgins anymore, don’t let them pass,” said Mufti Ali, A lawmaker from the National Awakening Party (PKB). “It may sound like a joke, but it’s serious. It’s for the sake of the future.”
It doesn’t sound like a joke, Pak Ali. It sounds like an act of female oppression.
Religious sentiment cannot be considered the source of this bill. There is no hiding behind the “defence of traditional values” as an excuse for it’s advocates (unsurprisingly male in majority.)
Indeed, Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s second largest muslim organization, strongly opposes the bill.
NU has stated: “Virginity is very sensitive. If a female student cannot meet the requirement, she’ll be the subject of gossip in the society,”
To fail the test would lead to complete ostracism from the community, and without an education, zero opportunity for the future. A shot through the heart to a young woman’s aspirations.
The NU rightly quizzed, “How about the boys?”
“We can’t test the boys,” was Mufti Ali’s blasé response. “But at least with the regulation, girls will be afraid [to have pre-marital sex]. The boys will be prevented from the act because girls will become unwilling. This will scare them, that if they [have sex], they will not graduate.”
It is a consequence that will only be suffered by the female contingent of an act that takes two to tango. During a very complex time in ones life - beyond even the stress of passing school - the sexual pressures, felt naturally by both sexes, may lead to girls experiencing sexual advances from boys who are free from such repercussions.
It is a bill that shines a spotlight on the deeply ingrained male dominance of a brutally patriarchal society, that aims to further oppress the female gender, when brave progressive steps are being made across the country.
It is a curious decision, particularly when Indonesia boasts one of the world’s greatest examples of the benefits of gender equality.
In 2014, the first female mayour of Surabaya, Tri Rismaharini, affectionately known as Risma, was voted the third best Mayor in the world.
Since 2010 she has transformed the city, converting 22% of the Surabaya's underused land into green space, and also allocating 35% of the city's budget to education - the highest rate in Indonesia. She has also enlarged water absorption area’s resulting in 3 floodless years - a stark contrast to Jakarta.
By scrutinizing and controlling the lives of Indonesia’s young woman, the haggard ideas of the past, and the male vehicles that espouse them, are inhibiting the possibility of Indonesia’s next generation of Rismas.
This is happening during a global resurgence in feminism, the so called “4th Wave”, where increasingly more men are realizing the benefits of gender equality, and are heeding their sister’s calls to act.
Emma Watson gave a profound speech at the UN in 2014, notifying the world of the HeForShe campaign:
Jember’s backward proposal needs to be met with the ridicule and resistance it deserves, domestically and internationally, if we are to hold sacrosanct the inalienable right for young women to have dominion over their own bodies, lives and futures.
Furthermore, this is not solely a woman’s issue. This is an equality issue, for Indonesian society as a whole. We are all richer when there is no discrepancy between society’s valuation of man and woman.
This is a matter that demands men to join the conversation as equally as woman. As members of the patriarchy, we can provide indispensable pressure to halt such sexist laws, and defend the rights of our Mothers, Sisters and Daughters.
What could be more macho than that?
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