Social Media Gives Indonesian Women a Platform to Practice Their Rights

Taking a look back at US history, you will see the great strides that women have taken in the struggle for equality.

These steps include woman’s suffrage (the right to vote) and the equal opportunity in both education and the workplace.

In spite of overcoming insurmountable barriers, gender bias continues throughout the world at a staggering rate, especially among women of color and the poor. We are still at the forefront of the ongoing battle to end gender-based violence and to liberate women from the binding power of men.

Throughout Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, the strict religion-based laws have made it complicated for women to avoid attacks and sexist comments.

The Associated Press reports that in January, Judge Muhammad Daming Sunusi was being interviewed for a Supreme Court position and joked about rape to a parliamentary selection panel, saying that women “might actually enjoy it.” Allegedly, the remark drew initial laughter from panel members. Then there’s the story of a local official taking a 17-year-old second wife and then abruptly ending the marriage via text.

These cases both reveal the attitude that the country has regarding women’s rights and safety, which has been a constant for years due to the secular government and strong practice of Islam. The only difference now is that both Indonesian officials are in jeopardy of losing their jobs over the controversial events.

Following a photo of the local official and 17-year-old being posted on the Internet, rage ensued. Local media spread the news like wildfire and protests began, with thousands of people demanding that the 40-year-old official resign. The President even responded; issuing a public condemnation because of his illegal marriage to a minor.

“We are living in a different era now,” said Husein Muhammad of the National Commission on Violence Against Women. “Now we have supporting laws and social media to bring severe consequences and social sanctions. Enough is enough! Our officials should no longer mess around and issue ridiculous statements even as a dumb joke.”

According to the Associated Press, the commission is now pushing for a revision of Indonesia’s 1974 marriage law in order to grant more protections to women involved in gender equality and violence. Rape cases are hardly properly investigated, and rape victims even run the chance of being blamed for the heinous crime.

Growing concern in Indonesia over women’s rights reflects that of many countries around the globe.

In 2011, when a woman was gang raped on a minibus, then-Jakarta Governor, Fauzi Bowo, protested the situation saying that “women should not wear miniskirts while on public transportation.” Apparently, doing so arouses male passengers. The ghastly crime sparked nationwide protests and demands for change and the comments from Bowo cost him a re-election bid.

Women in Indonesia are currently taking part in the “One Billion Rising” campaign, which calls for an end to the violence. For a country that is so social media-obsessed, it is very surprising that change is happening so slowly.

Women have been rallying, both online and on the streets, against the numerous assaults and insisting that they be treated with respect.

This is just a small step for women’s rights, but one that is much needed.