Aceh women say they suffer discrimination

Khabar Southeast Asia

Aceh women say they suffer discrimination

Norma Manalu, an activist from Aceh, speaks at a June 4th gathering about women's rights in Aceh, at Hotel Acacia in Jakarta. [Elisabeth Oktofani /Khabar].

Norma Manalu, an activist from Aceh, speaks at a June 4th gathering about women’s rights in Aceh, at Hotel Acacia in Jakarta. [Elisabeth Oktofani /Khabar].

Activists say they are not against Sharia Law but question the way it is being implemented

Despite the 2005 peace pact that ended 30 years of bloody conflict in Aceh, life in the province has not improved for women and children since then.

That was the stark message conveyed by a panel of women activists from Indonesia’s westernmost province, who were in Jakarta June 4th to present findings on violence against women in Aceh from 2011-2012.

During that time, there were 1,060 cases of violence against women, according to the 231 Monitoring Network, a coalition of women’s rights groups based in Aceh.

The name refers to Article 231, on women empowerment and child protection, of Law No. 11 2006, which allowed Aceh to implement Sharia Law under its special autonomy status.

The coalition argues that women have been victimised, not protected, as a result of the imposition of Sharia law in Aceh. They face difficulty accessing justice, stigmatisation, intimidation and violence.

The activists stressed, however, that they are not against Sharia itself. It is the way it is being implemented that is raising questions.

“The implementation of Sharia Law should be able to restore proper justice and improve social welfare to its citizens, which we did not get during the conflict,” Samsidar, an activist from the Aceh Women’s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik Aceh), told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“On top of that, it should protect women and children in Aceh,” she added.

Cruel and humiliating punishments

The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which hosted the gathering, has identified 282 regional regulations (Perda) that discriminate against women in various parts of Indonesia.

In Aceh, Komnas Perempuan has identified 15 such regulations. Violating them can lead to cruel and humiliating punishments such as beatings, canings, being bathed in sewage water, and forced marriages, the group said.

“Many regulations are established to promote religious values and morality. But their implementation tends to violate human rights which are protected by the Indonesian Constitution,” Komnas Perempuan Commissioner Andy Yentriyani said.

Aziana Rambe, the secretary general of Women Volunteers for Humanity (RPuK), told reporters that some regulations merely serve to distract local people from more important issues.

A new bylaw forbidding tight outfits for women in Meulaboh, West Aceh, diverts attention from the government’s failure to provide housing for 2004 tsunami victims in Meulaboh, she charged.

If the local government were properly implementing Sharia Law, “they would focus on how to improve Islamic public service and social welfare for Aceh citizens,” Aziana argued.

She said they would neither focus on the women’s outfits nor women’s dancing.

Pro-democracy and pro-Islam

In Aceh, those who criticise authorities are quickly labeled anti-Sharia or anti-Islam. The activists, however, say that is not true.

“As Acehnese, why would we speak something bad about Aceh and still want to return to Aceh at the end of the day?” Norma Manalu, an activist from the Women’s Shura Hall of Aceh (BSUIA), told the forum.

“We want Aceh to be safe. We want to go home without violence or discrimination anymore. We just want to live peacefully with our families in Aceh,” she explained in tears.

“We are not against the government. But if something is wrong, we should tell the government and provide them with some inputs,” said Suraiya Khamauzaman, founder of the Flower Aceh Foundation. “It is very important for the government and civil society to work together to meet our goal in eradicating discrimination against women and also improving social welfare.”

The women made it clear they embrace both democracy and Islam. “Indonesia is a democratic country, and Aceh is part of Indonesia. Therefore, we believe that there is a democratic space in Aceh as well,” Samsidar said.

“Even though there are many risks ahead of us, we want to use our right as Indonesian citizens to make our voices heard. It needs to be understood that Islam is a religion of justice, a religion of love, and cares about other people. Islam is a religion of equality and peace,” she added.

Indonesian police savvy about social media

Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesian police savvy about social media

About 100 people attended the event, which brought together police, civil society and social media. Their collaboration is important in the face of growing cyber-crime [2013: Oktofani]

About 100 people attended the event, which brought together police, civil society and social media. Their collaboration is important in the face of growing cyber-crime [2013: Oktofani]

Police are using Facebook to increase public awareness about the law and cyber-crime, and to foster a closer relationship with citizens.

Indonesian law enforcement personnel are using social media to interact with citizens, and are also monitoring the use of online communication tools by criminal elements.

On May 16th, police hosted a Facebookers’ Meeting for followers of the National Police Facebook page, at the National Police Headquarters in Jakarta. The three-hour event was attended by approximately 100 people from various places including Jakarta, Bandung, and Jambi, Sumatra.

Launched in 2010, the National Police Facebook page has attracted more than 86,000 followers. The page contains important information for citizens: how to renew a vehicle registration, traffic conditions, traffic violations fine list, and the news on law enforcement operations.

Police are hoping to use social media to help citizens protect themselves amid an alarming growth of crime in cyberspace, officials said.

“We have been well aware that many criminals have been taking advantage of technological advances, including the growth of social media,” National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told the gathering.

“It is very concerning for us because there are many crimes occurring and starting in cyberspace,” he added.

“A young girl was kidnapped by her boyfriend that she met on Facebook. Another example of cyber-crime is an online shopping fraud,” he said.

Some people use Facebook specifically to commit crimes, he warned. “Therefore, it is very important for us to anticipate it together,” Boy said. “By establishing regular communication with civil society on social networks, we hope that we can minimise the number of criminal victims.”

Indonesian police receive at least 800,000 reports of cyber-crime annually, according to The Jakarta Globe, which cited Sutarman, chief of detectives for the National Police.

“Cyber-crimes are often related to other crimes like terrorism funding and communication between terrorism suspects. And the intensity of the cyber criminals is also alarming,” The Globe quoted him as saying.

Raising awareness

Police used the gathering to raise awareness of Law No 11 of 2008 on Electronic Information and Transactions, Law No 22 of 2009 on the Mechanism of Vehicle Registration Licence Issuance and Renewal, and a 2008 law on Transparency of Public Information.

Top officials from the Jakarta Police (Polda Metro Jaya), representing the Traffic Directorate, the Division of Professionalism and Security, and the General Crimes Directorate, also addressed the group and fielded questions.

The primary issue raised by participants was extortion, which they said was practiced by some police officers, including traffic officers.

“If there is an officer who abused their position, society should report it to us. We would take serious action against them,” Hari Harnowo, a top official from the Division of Professionalism and Security (Propam), said in response.

Finding solutions together

One participant said he appreciated the chance to interact directly with police.

“This is a very good event because it gives us a chance to have a direct two-way communications with police,” Surbaini, a 50 year-old participant from Jambi, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“In my opinion, we do not come here to blame police for the wrong doing that the police did. But we gathered here to talk about the issue and find a solution together,” he said.