Believe in equality, diversity for a better Indonesia

Believe in equality, diversity for a better Indonesia

Basically, I was not interested in feminism. The Fourth World Conference on Women, the most recent one, was held by the UN in September 1995 in Beijing, China.

Its Beijing Declaration states that women’s participation in society and politics are fundamental for development, social equality and peace. It equates women’s rights with human rights.

It encourages governments to cooperate with NGOs and civic communities to help the UN fulfill its action plans. The conference also provided dialogues between indigenous women’s rights activists (mostly white women) and indigenous activists (mostly indigenous men).

The world was a mixed place in 1995. Indonesia was excited with globalisation, although people were wondering about life after Soeharto. China and Russia were on cordial terms with the US despite conflicting views on Taiwan and Tibet and the war between Serbia and Bosnia. One day after the conference, three British soldiers in Cyprus raped and killed a Danish tourist guide.

Accepting women’s rights is never easy. Fifty years ago, the accepted wisdom in the Western world was that a woman’s place was in the kitchen (and elsewhere inside the house).

International Women’s Day, now celebrated on March 8, a socialist idea that started in the US, Australia and Western Europe in the early 20th century, was adopted as a national holiday by communist states.

It’s not that communist parties supported feminism, but they wanted to celebrate the role of women in supporting communism — as mothers, workers and soldiers. Indeed, many citizens of ex-communist countries see the International Women’s Day as a relic of the bad old days.

I used to see feminists like many people do — men-haters, confusing, self-absorbed and far left. In 1995, feminists themselves were tangled in controversies and conflicts on every possible issue — the status of transgender women, white and non-white feminists, relations with men, pornography and prostitution.

But now a feminist can sing to Taylor Swift or Beyonce on karaoke night, share cake recipes and banter with her biracial transgender friend on Twitter.

Although there’s no “official” announcement, many feminists believe that feminism is on its fourth wave, or generation, away from the angry and contentious 1990s.

The state of security and welfare for women and children worldwide does not look bright in March 2015. Look at Indonesia. A rising movie star was recorded illegally in a bathroom when she was a teenager.

Yet after days debating if it was her or a lookalike, major news and entertainment websites and TV programs made bombastic headlines (“nude video” was the common phrase), as if the video was recorded with her consent.

More seriously, a serial rapist married his underage victim in Bintan before the police, and a female teacher is on trial on the charge of molesting a male toddler.

Twenty years after the Beijing Declaration, a new BBC documentary on the rape and brutal murder of Indian student Jyoti Singh shows the twisted mind of a rapist. One of her rapists, Mukesh Singh, said that she was the one to blame for staying outside at night; she was taking a bus home at 8:30 pm after watching a movie in a mall. He blamed her for resisting, saying it was the reason he and his friends killed her sadistically. His lawyers said that women have no place in Indian culture.

Rape and such attitudes are not merely problems in developing countries. A Welsh footballer convicted of rape is still struggling to find employment, and yet his victim has to constantly change names and addresses as she is hounded by his supporters. A week after Chelsea hooligans were caught pushing a black Frenchman off a train, they were spotted bullying a female student who stood up against their racist chants. A survey also found that one out of five women in Denmark, supposedly a model country of equality, has experienced sexual assault.

Has the world become a more hostile place for women compared in 1995? Perhaps not. Since the case of Jyoti Singh, more reports of rape in India emerged, as the people of India have become more active and vocal in reporting, documenting and condemning rape, once seen as a non-issue.

On the other hand, there is certainly active resistance against the changing world — against the acceptance of people from different religions and races, of people who have non-standard sexual orientations and of people who happen to be female. Many of them, especially in the developing world, use religion and tradition as excuses. But in developed countries, some avowed racists and misogynists are proudly atheist, voting for left-wing parties.

Using evolutionary theories and enlightenment logic, they state it is human nature for men to be sexually aggressive and promiscuous, and that feminism harms Western civilisation since it will make Westerners less aggressive and competitive.

Actually, the idea that better living conditions for women means better living condition for everyone is common sense.

Japan is still in stagnation for two decades because of its persistence in not allowing its brilliant women to make a difference.

Nordic countries have the best quality of life since they believe in gender equality, with room for improvement. Perhaps you will see the hashtag “Make It Happen” around this time, the theme of the UN’s Women’s Day. If you want to live in a better Indonesia, believe in equality and diversity — and try to make it happen.

Publication Date : 09-03-2015

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