Indonesian print media and electronic media has always been a tool for political participation of society. Its freedom of speech is part of democratization. Nevertheless, if talking about tae and plan, still always full with politics and mainstream opinion with many of them using theory of state from the grand narratives/liberal theory.

People tend to not knowing what women think considering state politics. Cause the media too taken for granted of all happened in reality. Including women’s live as citizen. It occurred in the way they presented through media, print and electronic media. Nevertheless women’s view of state is already recognized by some of Indonesian feminist. But again they seem do not have space to speak about it, neither in print/electronic media, nor in political sphere. The efforts for being brought by feminist activist and academic seem unchanged the male-stream atmosphere on concept of state, including basic rights of citizen. The citizens have to be in certain condition to be fully practicing their rights as citizen in term of state politics. All citizens have to be in physical independence, economic independence and impartiality.


These terms of independence are constructed with male standards. First physical independence is almost could not be embrace by women, cause state and patriarchy culture could not recognized violence against women as reality in state and politics, and must be demolishing. Violence against women has always been threat for physical independence of women. Economic independence is merely as wage-earning, but in reality of household and relationship between men and women, within marriage, family and community as whole; father, brother and husband mainly chosen as head of all household. Thus relationship is power relation. These situations are persists all over the world. Women could not hold fully citizenship in term of this independency. Though there are women who could manage to be on top of the political position in state, but in reality prejudice and doubts still persist within society as well as citizens; women and men. Women considered incomplete to polity task. Sometimes this result in realm make women systematically denied their rights to become fully citizen and practicing their rights. But again many women, individual and women’s organizations has done and still great effort to breaking these hindrances. In context of Indonesia, the efforts greatly create through women’s Non Governmental Organizations (women’s NGO’s).

Those three major independence of citizen, which will be questioned by women’s movement in post Suharto’s era. The women’s movement using three major way of looking within praxis, and bringing consciousness raising . Three ways of action by redefining through law regulation, affirmative issues of women’s within social context, and affirmative action through mainstream political sphere.
Turning Point

Many of social activities that being conduct through civil society organization, especially women’s organization were/are to reconsidered social contract for women as citizen. They start upsurge the questions of rights of women as citizen. Do women have rights to have their own name after marriage, do women have rights to bear children after divorce, do women have to get husband’s permission to submit loan, do women independently could go for election; become candidate, do women could get a higher career and go abroad for duty without husband/father permission, to state acknowledge women as part of citizen to defend their country with the way they chose non gender’s way. Those questions are part of women’s power to redefined social contracts. Like what already been stated by Carole Pateman,”…that the very theorytical structure of modern system of power ignore female sexual difference by absorbs it into an abstract paradigm of the individual which is understand a male and universal”.

In Indonesia, women denial to participation in politics as part of citizen rights is acute. More often than not, women become fear, and lack of self esteem were/are to actively involve in state politics. The New Order government has managed to exploited stereotype of women in advantage of greater space for masculinity/militaristic control of all individuals. The exploitation is implemented in suppressed and control of women in politic/public and domestic. Women could never enjoy to able to express their opinion, not even proud of. The New Order government maintain stereotype by introduced women’s dignity and valued after their task as mother. Women must be good and be angel. Double standard is only for women. New order’s fall in 1998 yet still lingering this condition.

Indonesia, like many other countries where the wind of change was in the way, has to face an era of transition. It is road for democracy. In May, 1998, Suharto’s regime fell. This is the beginning of realization of hope, of what has been started long ago by civil society of NGO’s, men and women. The image of an ending fear and oppression by military regime and start for civil government is on the way. Everyone is in hope to find a better future, women and men, older, young and any different background of human individual/collectives.

Months before Suharto’s fell, different types of women’s organization were full to work together. Women’s organization together was too drew women who were not activists. They even held the historical demonstration in Circle of Hotel Indonesia. The called themselves Suara Ibu Peduli (Voice of Concerned Mothers). They strategy to choose to use stereotype of women as mother related to avoid suspicious from security apparatus. This was necessary and effective tactic for struggle within context of military regime and mend to attract public sympathy.

As I stated above, within Suharto’s Regime, the government has performed many acts of violence to citizens and many people are abducted. Suara Ibu Peduli effort was to cover up politics actions as moral actions, turn way from suspicious of military regime. Though many of participants aware that demonstration was political actions. And, this action was seeing as illegal and demonstrators is arrest for civil disobedient . Three women force and arrest by police. Police interrogated them for almost 24 hours. One woman, Karlina Leksono Supelli was known as first woman astronomer in Indonesia. The action itself already being informed to public before took stance, national and international through press conference a day before. Media were prepared to capture the action. The journalists already in position near the location hours before, demonstration began. And coverage media on the actions was huge. The story and photo when they were grab by police were in Newsweek and other international media. The media attention focused on how women from upper and middle class took action. Since then many women from middle class and upper class start joining women’s movement. If not directly as part action of civil awareness, they support financially. They were a variety of women such as artists, entrepreneurs, professionals and academic.

After that action, Indonesia’s politics situation was in rapidly changing flow to one another. They become news in media. Though media still not free informed fully to public on what has happened or what has been said by political figure. They have to be careful not to create a provocative message, because they might be accused to bring untrue story. One could be accused as being subversive without being proof in court, as it happened to Tempo magazine.

That is why women’s organizations spoke in press conference the same time as with other political figure were sometimes being cut by the media. The occasion is when Indonesian Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy read their statement at the same time in the same place with student action in Parliament Building. They spoke loud, but the voice could not be heard by television viewer, not because it was crowded, but it was because danger. Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy was too formed by the same women who formed Suara Ibu Peduli, but this new formed of organization will be more actively speak on national politics. Suara Ibu Peduli chosen to speak in a way of domestic women stereotype using as tool to encourage women. Not directly speak with male-stream level of politics but a women’s way. These are one road for redefined contract social.

Just days before Suharto ousted from the reign, women’s action within and out organization were submerge and in the heat of fire, also students movement. After SIP member being arrest, women struggle for justice follow and more massive. Women continue to support SIP with always be on court. And the mass demonstrations were everywhere, they inspired (though no one admitted) by SIP to held demonstration outside the courts and campuses.

Following accident occurred after SIP’s member arrest. Students who attended students gathering inside University of Trisakti shot by police. And city continued to state in turmoil. Indonesian tragedy of 13-16 May, 1998, where riots, burning, killing and raped were carry out. Fear control situation. Police do nothing to help citizens. The tragedy casualties was beyond compare. Human burn to a crisps, women were rape a massacre, building destroyed. The tragedy then, became a turning point to evaluating a social contract between women as citizen and state as controller. In Jakarta, Solo, Palembang, Lampung Surabaya and Medan hundreds of family lost their relatives, property, and many of them live in catastrophe causing trauma that will extremely difficult to cure.

One of prominent women’s politic (will become) organization, Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy was become first whose outspokenly demand Suharto’s to step down. At May 19, 1998 they considered as women’s movement. Not yet organizing and structure as today. The name of Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy was chosen after a discussed and debate within women’s movement. After long night of seeking support from women throughout Indonesia, the statement to be read in People Representative Assemly (DPR/MPR), finished. And finally after a night sleep, in the morning of 20 Mei women who joined with Indonesian’s women coalition went to People Representative Assemly (DPR/MPR), where thousands of students already there.

Though they were many Indonesian become victims, majority of women’s who being raped were from Chinese origin. They became vulnerable target, to be destroyed by certain military figure of men. At the time of riots and rape, police were never there to stop. If they were there, they do nothing to stop.

The human tragedy was brought again every element is society to questioning state responsibility. This time, I called, the citizen’s right to reconsider social contract. Women become more aware and more actively to act against state firmness to see violence against women. At this time media attention to brought to issue of May tragedy, where rape occurred. But again insensitivity of the media mostly only brought confusion to readers. The media wanted to exploit the victims. They convincing if there was no victim stand up to speak there was no rape occurred. What a male point of view.

Redefined Social Contract

Post May Tragedy become a turning point for women to really redefined Social (sexual) Contract. First trying to find the answer of the questions above in state affair. It began when women’s movement push the government to formed an institution support by state to protect women from any violence. It was then happened, the Habibie government formed a National Commission on Violence against Women (Women’s Commission). This institution is independently work and the decision making is make after the presidium of consist members agree upon certain disposition or proposal. They have support from state, from The Secretary of State Department. Yes, they should have, and actually more women’s organization or civil society organization deserve to have too. It suppose to be a part of State contribution of their responsibility in taking care of their people.

National Women’s Commisssion on Violence Against Women then become one of the breakthroughs the glass ceiling of silence state. Almost all the years of living in free country of Indonesia, women never been seriously acknowledge. Women is voiceless. If there is sound, it always been the voice of what State want from women but never in return. The state create Dharma Wanita, Persatuan Istri Tentara and PKK, all for women in relation with wife of civil servants, the wife of army and housewife.

Afterall, the state have already ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1984 . But though, in almost all that time the regulation seem has do nothing to help women. It is like discrimination is society become non discrimination in law. Law is a real moment in social connection of these mirror image inversion as truth. And most of all, if we could look back history, so long that men dominate effectively enough in society without the support of positive law nothing constitutional can be done about it. Seem like the liberal way of feminist struggle to gain women’s liberation become a wrong way of doing, especially in Indonesia, but of course all the work worth of trying.

Back to Women’s Commission, where the organization effort is trying to be more involved in national as well local level, where violence against women persevere. They find out solution or something to overcome in local level, and brought it to higher level to get more facilitate and support. This effort could be seeing as to empower state to be more effective and more aware of citizen needs (women). Central government is main target as resource support for women’s empowerment. This is too, could create re-function of institution in the government. One of the successful of work for Women’s Commission was brought issue of violence against women as citizen issues. This could bring discourse of women’s view of state rather different from what already exist.

This is too, could seen in context of decentralization system or regional autonomy. Within range of violence against women, women could not independently workout to be physical independence without state guaranty and acknowledge. Women’s member of parliament still has to be in situation where harrasshment is taken place. A woman activist and member of parliament said that, if she talked in forum, many of male member sometimes making a joke of her or saying thing to contempt her. At this point state should recognize that, what has happened within the noble institution, there are violation of citizen’s rights.

Women Commission could independently voluntarily advice government institution without being threat. But again, government institution too could choose take or leave the advice- voluntarily. As historically patriarch, this situation in Indonesia could seen as in some level already been embrace with power as citizen. Though still, women still surrounded by not independence situation.

Other women’s NGOs too continue to works on questions. The organizations sometimes work together to discuss and talk about certain issues. Especially where regulation to protect women is none. This is the law as tool they choose. Until today, the parliament still in conduct to legalized a regulation on Domestic Violence Law .

Those phenomena of women’s struggle is could be a conviction that women, no matter what they being oppressed they still have their power inside. Only the space and room to exercise that power is just not yet been discovered. And all the effort through the organizations could be seen as complimentary action through legal and mainstream politics sphere. There are three main part of state structure that always been static, seem that women could not do anything about it. There are; Parliamentary/Legislative, Judiciary and Executive. As we all know that around the world, the three main structure of state organizer is belong to men, or at least male stream. It is important point for women today to recognize this, and make some more notice about it. Though as I said above, that the spirit as citizen of many women is less, they are live in denial their right as citizen; to participate active as citizen. Again many women’s organization are expectedly to be more active to influence those three organizers. Especially after the Central Government has decided to have decentralization system in 2000. The autonomy issues itself is well known by government in all province, but again it is a male issue. Not many local/province government aware of what the impact might be on women.@Umi Lasminah

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