Translated from “Corak Domestifikasi Perempuan dalam Sistem Politik Indonesia”
April 6, 2020
The domestication of women or the idea that women can only be involved in domestic affairs lately has gained a great deal of public attention. Recently, the discourse about the domestication of women is in the limelight. The House of Representatives (DPR) proposed the family resilience bill (RUU Ketahanan Keluarga) which is considered to be a sign of the state’s increasing interference in people’s personal lives. It is apparent in Article 25 of the bill that stipulates the marital obligations of wife and husband.
Departing from that point, BALAIRUNG had the chance to interview Julia Suryakusuma, socio-political observer, feminist, activist, and writer of State Ibuism: The Social Construction of Womanhood in the Indonesian New Order. In this interview, Julia gave her insights about the domestication of women in Indonesia and its connection with the family resilience bill.
What does it mean by the domestication of women?
The domestication of women, as elaborated through the concept of state ibuism, is a concept about the subordination of women’s position below men. This is the subjugation of women because women are only considered as kanca wingking, and always have to serve the men.
How does the domestication of women materialize in Indonesia?
The domestication of women in Indonesia is the gender ideology in the Guided Democracy (1959-1965), New Order (1966-1998), and the Reformation (1998-now) eras. As a matter of fact, in the Guided Democracy era, women occupied some strategic governmental posts. It was proven with the presence of two ministers, Maria Ulfah Santoso as the Social Minister and Surastri Karma Trimurti as the Labour Minister. Apart from that, President Sukarno is a feminist figure, as concluded from his book entitled Sarinah. In his book, Bung Karno showed his progressive ideas about women that are in line with his socialist views. According to him, there was a “goddess-stupefying” of women, which is a condition when women are glorified but it was just a means of subordinating them. I had interviewed Ibu Inggit Garnasih, Sukarno’s second wife. She was an incredible figure whose roles were very crucial in helping her husband in the time of the Indonesian revolution. Ibu Inggit once recounted that she taught Sukarno a lot of things and helped him to achieve the position as the first president. However, Ibu Inggit did not get the First Lady position as she refused to be in a union as one of Sukarno’s two wives when he married Fatmawati.
Subsequently, in the New Order, the role of women was further ostracized. Women who occupied strategic posts at that time were those who had familial linkage with Suharto or the ruling elites. The state domesticated women by enacting the state ibuism ideology, a concept born out of an amalgamation from the Dutch bourgeoisie housewife-domestication idea with the Javanese aristocratic ibuism. This ideology was later “improved” by Dharma Wanita and socialized through the Family Empowerment Program (PKK) in Indonesia.
Dharma Wanita postulated five principles called Panca Dharma Wanita that contain the obligations of women. First, as her husband’s loyal partner. Second, as the educator of her children and the guide of the youth generation. Third, as the household manager. Fourth, as an additional income-generating worker. Fifth, as a functioning member of society. The state ibuism ideology that was formulated in accordance with the characteristics of the ruling elites inevitably discriminated against the majority of poor women in the rural areas. Amongst the poor, both husband and wife have to work to make ends meet.
At the dawn of the Reformation, women’s movements against the domestication of women began to rise. Starting from the creation of the Suara Ibu Peduli (SIP) movement that first appeared in a demonstration at Bundaran Hotel Indonesia on February 23rd, 1998. With this, I would also like to correct the history that it was not the students that started the reformation, but the SIP movement.
After the SIP movement, other non-governmental organizations for women such as Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia untuk Demokrasi dan Keadilan (The Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy), Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity for Human Rights), and KAPAL Perempuan (Institute for Women’s Alternative Education) as well as many others. Despite the rise of the women empowerment movement, domestication was still powerful. This was the result of a literal and conservative interpretation of the Islamic concept that suits state ibuism. That interpretation then empowered the emergence of local regulations that limited women’s latitude. However, with a more conceptual interpretation, Islam does not absolutely domesticate women. As reflected from Prophet Muhammad, he was a feminist figure, a loving husband, and placing women as men’s equals.
How is the governmental policy about the domestication of women in the Reformation era?
In the Reformation, a few laws regarding the rights of women such as the Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence and the revision of Law No. 1/1974 on Marriage. However, the implementation was unsatisfactory. Laws that should be giving legal certainty are hard to be enacted due to the deeply rooted cultural and religious beliefs. For instance, the regulation regarding polygamy in the revision of the Law on Marriage obliges a man to have written permission from his ‘previous’ wife before marrying another woman. Yet in the practice, lots of men proceed to marry again without the permission of their previous wives. Another example is about the minor marriage. With the ratification of Law No. 16/2019 as the Changes on Law on Marriage, the minimum age for marriage for women is 19 years old. The implementation of this law is also hampered. Whereas minor marriage is very harmful, not only for those who marry at their young age but also for the state.
What is your opinion on the Family Resilience Bill (RUU Ketahanan Keluarga) that leads to the domestication of women agenda?
A family resilience bill is a form of state ibuism loaded with conservative Islamic values. The rights of women according to what this bill proposes will become very backward, and even more aggravating than the implementation of state ibuism in the New Order. Women are not deemed to be humans any longer because, with the enactment of the bill, they will lose their rights. The family resilience bill also emphasizes too much on sexualities which is a private sphere. Ironically, since four years ago the sexual violence eradication bill (RUU PKS) has been waiting to be ratified but constantly meeting failures because of the rejection from the Prosperous Justice Party (Partai Keadilan Sejahtera). The uncertainty about the ratification of the sexual violence bill is a part of the domestication of women’s ideas that women are not more than just tools to satisfy men’s sexual needs.
Is there a positive side to the domestication of women?
The concept of the domestication of women is never positive because it always places women below men. This concept is long-lasting because of the deeply rooted belief in society that no matter how high a woman’s position is, she will eventually go back to the kitchen anyway. This control towards women into the domestic sphere is not a wise move and neglect of women that harms the state. Moreover, women now have equal access to education like that of men, as well as employment opportunities despite being unsatisfactory.
What steps should the government take to eradicate the concept of the domestication of women?
The domestication of women is perhaps hard to be eradicated, but it has to be lessened at the minimum. The first feasible step is not ratifying the family resilience bill. The House of Representatives must ratify the increasingly urgent sexual violence eradication bill since violence against women is escalating. The state must appoint and put women in many strategic positions as well as supporting various women’s activities in every sector. Hence, the state needs to institutionalize equality and gender justice in every area of its policy. Other than that, people have to participate in upholding women’s rights in their everyday lives.
Writers: M. Affan Asyraf dan Syifa Hazimah H.A.
Editor: Nadia Intan Fajarlie
Translator: Veronica Ayu Pangestika
 In its literal meaning, kanca wingking means a friend in the back. Kanca wingking is a Javanese idiom that refers to women’s roles in marriage. Women are always behind their husbands.