Lombok Women March for Tradition

Mar 12th, 2006, in News, by

About 300 people, mostly women, took to the streets on Saturday in a loud protest against the antipornography bill, which they said degraded women, insulted many local cultures and threatened tourism.

They marched through the main streets to the provincial council building to file their petition, demanding that the House of Representatives in Jakarta toss the bill in the nearest rubbish bin. Grouped in the oddly named Alliance of United People (ARB), the demonstrators expressed concern that the bill would provide a legal basis for the suppression of women’s rights and kill the principle of gender equality, sentiments echoed by Sinta Nuriyah.

The bill is full of anomalies, especially in its definition of key issues. Why does the state want to serve as our morality police and repress women.

said Nyayu Erawati, the protest leader.

The protest caught some locals off guard because Lombok is known as a staunchly Muslim island and the bill has found its strongest support among Muslim groups in other parts of the country. Three councillors met the protesters, but refused to sign a statement rejecting the bill. However, they conceded that they would discuss the demand with the other 52 council members.

Like neighboring Bali, Lombok depends heavily on tourism. Bali, where local culture has always been tolerant of discreet nudity in the fine arts, has fiercely rejected the bill for similar reasons. Some Balinese are so upset, they are now threatening to secede from Indonesia and become an independent state.

Many people in Lombok fear that if the bill, which carries a maximum jail term of 10 years and a Rp 2 billion fine, was passed, it would practically kill off the tourism industry and threaten the indigenous cultures.

We would no longer be allowed to wear our traditional dresses

said Suhaili Mahsun, a respected local figure.

Local traditional attire for both women and men does not entirely cover parts of the body that the bill defines as “sensual”, which mostly applies to women, such as thighs, hips, the navel and breasts.

If that’s what they (advocates of the bill) want, then Lombok would eventually lose its indigenous culture and identity.

added Suhaili.

The government and the house should focus on more pressing issues than this bill. The real pornography issues in the bill have been adequately addressed by the Criminal Code and other regulations.

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