- Gender harmony and the happy family: Islam, gender and sexuality in post-Reformasi Indonesia
- South East Asia Research
- Volume | Issue number
- 23 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
A renewed global emphasis on 'traditional culture' threatens progress in women's and sexual rights. This article focuses on Indonesia, where concepts such as 'gender harmony' and 'the happy (Muslim) family' have become state policy and where neo-Salafism is gaining ground. Indonesia's first President, Sukarno, who managed to balance the army, Communism and Islam, was swept away during the period of mass murder in 1965-67 in which the Communist Party was destroyed. The struggle for women's rights, as represented by the Communist-affiliated mass women's organization Gerwani, became associated with sexual licentiousness through the slander campaign waged against the organization by the army. During the military dictatorship of Suharto, political Islam was allowed to grow. After the fall of Suharto, which introduced the so-called Reformasi period (from 1998), conservative Muslim forces gained control over important institutions. They strengthened a backward interpretation of women's position in society. While a discourse of women's rights prevailed after 1998, this has since been replaced by a heteronormative discourse on the 'harmonious family', in which women are assigned a subordinate position. The Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Children's Protection actively promotes this concept (at the global level too), asserting that it aims to reduce domestic violence. With the help of a discourse analysis of some key official documents, the passionate aesthetics underlying this emphasis on the reintroduction of patriarchal heteronormativity in Indonesia are exposed. Regrettably, the United Nations Population Fund supports the Indonesian Ministry on this path.
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