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Bold Indonesian guys needed

Editorial Board The Jakarta Post  Sat, March 7, 2020

We need bold men who are not afraid of being sneered at when they stand up for policies and measures that are sensitive to the needs of diverse genders, including sexual and gender minorities. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

The annual celebrations of International Women’s Day, which falls on Sunday, will see people marching in cities worldwide for diverse battles: global, local and personal. More men are needed in these campaigns for better policies, attitudes and realities to guarantee a safe environment for all genders, young and old.

Indonesia has much to celebrate on Women’s Day, such as the recent landmark increase in the legal marriage age, which is now 19 for males and females, while it was earlier 16 for girls. While it took three female child-marriage survivors to finally win a second legal challenge to increase the marriage age, officials and activists have said we need more male clerics, fathers and officials, and other male local leaders to actively educate society on the harmful effects of child marriage.

From the last legislative elections, we also have the highest female representation in the House of Representatives at more than 20 percent, 118 of 575 lawmakers. The figure is still way under the 30 percent women that is considered the minimum needed to enable gender-sensitive policies. Today, however, the relatively high number of women lawmakers is not being celebrated amid the controversial family resilience bill, which is seen as an attempt to domesticate women rather than strengthen families. The latest bill merely confirms what many knew from the beginning of the campaign for affirmative action; that having more female lawmakers does not necessarily translate into gender-sensitive policies, and that both women and men need intensive training on values that might differ from our patriarchal societies.

Therefore, we need bold men who are not afraid of being sneered at when they stand up for policies and measures that are sensitive to the needs of diverse genders, including sexual and gender minorities. Similar Asian patriarchal societies like South Korea and Japan can be among our models, to expand fathers’ parental leave entitlements, currently still limited to civil servants, for instance.

Despite this landmark policy in 2018, Indonesian male civil servants may be reluctant to apply for the one-month parental leave for fear of being mocked for nursing the baby and taking over domestic chores. Changing attitudes takes time; reports say South Korean male private employees who took paternity leave exceeded 22,000 last year, up 26 percent from the previous year.

Our normalization of violence against the weak has partial roots in acceptance of male authority, however abusive. Indonesia’s women’s movement has successfully resulted in the Domestic Violence Law, yet the wide range of sexual harassment and violence outside home remains unaddressed. Again we see cynicism toward and the dismissal of the sexual violence eradication bill in the House, particularly surrounding reported fears of men being punished for catcalling.

Lawmakers need only look to the Religious Affairs Ministry, which last year issued guidelines on preventing and handling sexual harassment and sexual violence in Islamic higher education institutions. The guidelines, which followed reports of rampant harassment and sexual abuse even in Islamic institutions, show state acknowledgement of a previously ignored problem, and determination by male and female decision-makers to bring Indonesia closer toward ensuring a humane, secure society for all.

From: THE JAKARTA POST, INDONESIA Sat, March 7, 2020

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