Indonesia: "Anti-Pornography" bill passed
It was never the subject of internal debate, but according to veteran legislator Marzuki Darusman, the stated reason was to “give the impression we weren't working at cross-purposes with Islamic voters”. It is not a reason he and others are happy about.
“There is no doubt this is mismanagement of party policy,” he said, tracing the history back to the start of Kalla's chairmanship in late 2004. “There has been a marked decline in and a lack of attention to the ideological line of the party, which is supposed to be nationalist and secular.
“It's a real setback for principles and best practices,” he added. “Even during the New Order, there was a clear separation between religion and politics. That is now blurring by the day.”
Darusman said that while there was a significant number of secularist Golkar lawmakers who opposed the draft Bill, it would have been difficult for them to register their views “without creating a misunderstanding within the party”.
Well-intentioned supporters of the new legislation have the impression it is only about protecting women and children from the evils of pornography — something that is already dealt with in the country's comprehensive Criminal Code.
But there are serious contradictions between the title of the law and its substance, with pornography defined broadly as anything “which may incite obscenity, sexual exploitation and/or violate the moral ethics of the community”.
Such a loose definition would invite only exploitation by religious zealots. A section of the legislation allowing for “public participation” would seem to offer zealots an open invitation to take matters into their own hands.
After initially insisting the law was not directed at imposing restrictions on dress and behaviour, the legislative committee removed provisions that would have prevented tourists from wearing bikinis on the country's beaches. Even so, Bali governor and former police chief Made Mangku Pastika, who headed the 2002 terrorist bomb investigation, has made it clear the provincial administration plans to mount a legal challenge to the law.
It is difficult to understand why the legislation was rushed through at all given other more pressing Bills languishing in the House, not to mention the opposition from wide sections of society, including outright rejection by Bali, Papua and North Sulawesi.
But even more puzzling is the way a seemingly irrational fear of Muslim voters drove Golkar and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's own Democrat Party to secure its passage. Ironically, it could well prove to be a political miscalculation.
The same fear was exhibited in Golkar's support for a slew of syariah-based by-laws across the country that may now be under threat following a change in leadership at the Constitutional Court.
Suharto did allow a Muslim resurgence in the final decade of his rule, led by the officially sanctioned Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals, as a way of keeping the military off-balance. While he was careful to ensure the resurgence did not lead to social tensions, his move did foster the emergence of a green faction within the ruling party whose influence has strengthened in concert with the Islamic revival.
Yudhoyono appears to believe that failing to support Islamic-branded issues will be held against him. He has done little to stop the persecution of the Ahmadiyah sect and has often demonstrated a weak response to other radical excesses.
Democrat Balkan Kaplale, who headed the committee deliberating the Bill, is a Maluku-born educator representing a northeast Java constituency populated by conservative Madurese voters.
The opposition Indonesian Democrat Party-Struggle (PDI-P) and the minority, Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party walked out of the Oct 30 parliamentary plenum in protest, allowing the law to pass without even the formality of a vote. Many other legislators simply stayed away.
The strongest backing for the law came from the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). Only days before the law passed, deputy party leader Hilman Rosyad Syihab offered encouragement to a Muslim cleric who had controversially married a 12-year-old girl.
Taken together, the two issues may have given pause to mainstream voters, who up to now at least have been attracted to PKS because of its platform of good governance and an emphasis on education and political reforms.
The PKS' future depends on its centrist credentials. It won 7.3 per cent of the vote in the 2004 elections, and is ambitiously aiming for 20 per cent next year — about five percentage points more than most analysts feel it can realistically attain. Any hint that it has a hidden agenda, beyond using syariah as a moral compass, will only doom it to a peripheral role in Indonesian politics.
Voters have demonstrated time and again that while Islam may be a major influence in their lives, it will not be at the price of a creeping process of Arabisation that robs them of their social freedoms.
16 November 2008
Source: The Malaysian Insider
Indonesian Muslim clerics who claim to be protecting vulnerable women by backing a new anti-pornography law have come out in defence of a fellow preacher who has married a 12-year-old village girl.
The issue of child brides for religious men in the mainly Muslim country has became a subject of national debate since little-known cleric Pujianto Cahyo Widiyanto, 43, married junior high school student Lutfiana Ulfa in August. His case went virtually unnoticed until Muslim conservatives started lobbying parliament to pass a new anti-pornography bill which was opposed by a broad spectrum of civil society groups and non-Muslims.
Passed in October with the backing of the very clerics who are now defending Widiyanto, the law criminalises all movements and works, including poetry and music, deemed obscene and capable of violating public morality.
"These clerics are hypocrites," lawmaker Said Abdullah, from the Democratic Party of Struggle of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, told AFP.
"They say the anti-porn law will protect young women, but yet they dehumanise them by marrying underage girls and supporting child marriage."
Under Indonesian pedophilia laws, Widiyanto could face 15 years' jail for having sex with a minor. He is under investigation but openly talks about his love of pubescent girls and his plans to marry more.
"There is no coercion. The girls like me and their parents have given their blessings," Widiyanto was quoted as telling Detikcom news website.
And no one should interfere because child brides are allowed under Islam, according to Muslims such as Hilman Rosyad Syihab, the deputy head of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party which backed the pornography law.
He said Islam allowed marriage regardless of whether a girl had reached sexual maturity.
"But the husband can only have sex with her once she reaches puberty," he explained, in contravention of the law which sets 16 as the minimum marriage age for women and 18 as the age of consent.
The issue highlights the ongoing battle in Indonesia between the law of the land, debated and passed in a democratic parliament, and the law of God as defined by a tiny minority of Islamic leaders.
"Indonesia is not an Islamic state so why is Syihab citing Islamic laws? By supporting Widiyanto, he is breaking state law," Abdullah said.
Child Protection Commission head Seto Mulyadi said there were "thousands of cases like Widiyanto's" in Indonesia.
"Islamic laws may have positive values, but state laws must be followed. There must be stronger law enforcement to stop these cases," he said.
But Syarifuddin Abdul Gani, a senior member of the country's highest Islamic body, the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, said he saw no problem with Widiyanto's marriage.
"This man has not broken any Islamic rule. The couple's marriage is still valid," he said.
Widiyanto, the principal of a Muslim boarding school in Semarang, central Java, isn't happy with only one child bride. He reportedly plans to marry two other girls aged nine and seven.
Forced to act only after his case hit the headlines, the police are now investigating him for possible breaches of the 2002 child protection law, which covers forcing or trading a child into sex and marrying a minor.
Care Foundation Indonesia director Saiful Hadi said child marriages were typically rural affairs, sealed in unofficial religious ceremonies not recognised by the state.
The groom is "almost always someone religious" and old enough to be the girl's father, he said.
"Often they manage or teach at religious boarding schools and find wives from their pool of female students. These men are considered gurus, respectable people, so the girls' parents can't say no to their proposals," Hadi said.
The girls usually have no say in the matter. Most are sold by their impoverished parents or given away to ease the economic burden on their families.
"The girls' families are usually poor," Hadi said.
Tackling the problem should be simple, said lawmaker Abdullah.
"Every sub-district has a religious affairs department that oversees marriages. Simply demote or sack officials who allow child marriages to take place," he said.
26 November 2008
Source: The New Straits Times
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