Headline News

March 09, 2006

HANDS OFF: With a poster stating "My body belongs to me", members of the Joint Women's Coalition stage a protest Wednesay in front of Merdeka Palace, Central Jakarta, in conjunction with International Women's Day. They denounced the deliberation of the pornography bill, which they said would repress women, and demanded the revocation of laws and bylaws often used to stifle women's rights. (JP/Arief Suhardiman)

Women take to streets to condemn sharia, porn bill

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Women's groups took to the nation's streets Wednesday to voice their opposition to sharia law and the controversial pornography bill, both which they said unfairly criminalized women's sexuality and behavior.

Demonstrations across the country to mark International Women's Day also called on the government to reduce basic commodity prices and do more to stop crimes where women were victimized, like human trafficking and domestic violence.

In Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, around 1,000 women protested against what they said was the unfair implementation of sharia law in the province.

Activists told The Associated Press the "sharia police" -- religious vigilantes enforcing the rules -- were detaining women who did not wear traditional Muslim headscarves or were found walking outside at night unaccompanied by a man.

The women said the laws were unfair as they curtailed women's freedoms but not men's.

About 200 women rallied in Jakarta to voice their opposition to the pornography bill, which is currently before the House of Representatives. The bill if passed would encroach on basic freedoms, including the right to personal expression, they said.

Marching from the State Palace to the House of Representatives building, the women said the controversial bill was a move back to the bad old days where women had little autonomy.

The bill bans people from kissing in public and fines or jails women for exposing "sensitive" body parts, which could include their hair, shoulders and legs.

Artists could also be prosecuted for including nudity in their works.

The women said the bill targeted women without examining the core issues in pornography that mostly involved men, capitalism and the patriarchal system.

The bill has been supported by Muslim organizations throughout the country. Muslims account for an estimated 92 percent of country's total population.

Supermodel Olga Lidya, who joined the protest, said the bill blamed women for being the cause of moral degradation.

"The government should instead focus on improving education," she said. Pornography definitions had already been incorporated into the existing Criminal Code but were never properly enforced, she said.

The protesters called for the government to focus more of its attention on cases of human trafficking and domestic violence, two issues they said were being overlooked by the administration.

In Surabaya and Yogyakarta, demonstrators also called on the government to decrease fuel prices and abandon a proposed electricity price hike. High prices for basic commodities ended up hurting women and children the most, they said.

Women also needed better working conditions, including regulations for more maternity leave, they said. (10)