Indonesian Headline Urges to Ban Female Genital Cutting
Indonesia has recently undergone a new Islamic cultural awakening that has seen the integration of Islamic teachings into everyday life. Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country but also has Hindu and Christian minorities. This means that there are different religions present in Indonesia, which lead to tensions between the various religions and their followers. The current issue concerning Indonesia’s gender separation or ‘hijab’ law is not new but has actually been a source of much controversy within the country.
The Indonesian legal system allows both men and women to wear religious clothes like the hijab, known as Islam’s traditional veil. However, many women have found the need to join the ranks of those who can wear the Islamic headgear for social, political and religious reasons. They do this by putting their religion on display and wearing a hijab. There are many reasons why women choose to wear a headgear, especially the fact that it is compulsory for them to wear a hijab in public. This has caused tension between the sexes in Indonesia, especially between the educated and the conservative Indonesia maidens. In fact, the issue became so heated that a number of foreign Indonesian women, both local and expatriates, were arrested and sent to prison last year over their ‘unaired’ religious freedoms.
Indonesian authorities have since appealed to the International Court of Justice to prevent this move by the Islamic forces against female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced child marriages. Indonesian officials are determined to uphold their conservative ways and have implemented a set of rules and regulations that all Indonesia women must follow. This includes the ban of the full face veil by all Indonesian women. However, many women are still able to wear the hijab and are allowed to do so with the strict guidance of their religious leaders.
Indonesia has one of the highest numbers of girls and women who are married by their parents to foreign men. This situation has also led to the increasing cases of domestic servitude in Indonesia, both in rural areas and in Jakarta. This is one of the reasons why FGM is not discussed openly in Indonesian society. Many girls who have undergone FGM are too embarrassed or are too scared to talk about it with anyone. Most of them would rather stick to their homes, afraid to discuss their experiences with anyone else.
Indonesian women have taken action into their own hands and launched campaigns for ending FGM. They have demanded that police officers be fired and that the head of the Indonesian National Religious Council be prosecuted for his comments against the wearing of the Islamic headscarf. The authorities have yet to do anything to curb these abuses. Most local Indonesian women living in rural communities are also reluctant to file charges against their husbands and fathers who forced them into having FGM. They are afraid of being shunned by their community, if they bring up the subject.
The main perpetrator of FGM in Indonesia is a 31-year old man named Basuki Abdulhamit. He is a Christian and has been in prison for eleven years. There are reports that he used to force other women to undergo FGM on a daily basis. Another woman, identified only as PP, claims that after undergoing FGM at the hands of Basuki, she was suffering from severe pains and bleeding and did not feel like herself ever again.
Indonesian authorities have arrested many people involved in the practice of FGM. However, many more women are still going through the trauma and fear, and there is no sign of any end in sight. The best that we can do is to raise our voices and demand that the abuse of women is stopped. This is not an impossible dream anymore, as seen by the huge campaigns that the world has conducted over the past few years to help solve sexual abuse and other issues related to gender.
Indonesia needs to look at itself deeply and ask themselves whether they are tolerating this type of thing in their midst. We can only be tolerant if we understand and respect other cultures and beliefs. Indonesia should really think about this and take corrective measures to stop FGM within its own borders.