The Indonesian women campaigning to ‘uninstall feminism’ and oppose anti-sexual violence laws

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They refer to feminism as “poison”. They ridicule the LGBT community.

Key points:

  • Social media-savvy conservatives claim “my body is not mine, but Allah’s”
  • Observers say they are responding to a proposed landmark anti-sexual violence law 
  • Women have become increasingly mobilised by hard-line Islamic groups and political parties in Indonesia

Indonesia Tanpa Feminis or Indonesia Without Feminists — a campaign started just before the country’s April 17 elections — recently went viral for its opposition to feminism as a supposed Western import incompatible with Islamic values.

Their rejection of feminism is based on the assertion that “my body is not mine, but rather Allah’s” and has sparked public debate over the role of women in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Indonesia Without Feminists’ slogan #UninstallFeminism reflects a growing, tech-savvy ultra-conservative movement that appeals to millennials with memes and graphics, that more mainstream, moderate organisations have failed to emulate.

“I don’t need feminism because it demonises traditional family constructs,” one post on the account said.

“If we’re talking about anti-feminism, that’s not new,” said Dr Dina Afrianty, a research fellow at La Trobe University, who added that feminist movements in Indonesia are only about 20 years old, emerging after the 1998 overthrow of former president Suharto.

What is new — argues violence against women campaigner Yuni Asrianty — is anti-feminists’ clever use of digital platforms and policy advocacy to push their puritanical and conservative ideas.

Meanwhile, experts have highlighted recently that the movement also signals a marked shift towards women becoming more involved in explicitly anti-feminist activities.

A growing coalition

Indonesia Without Feminists has gained several thousand followers through its social media platforms since its creation three months ago.

It is also associated with other established conservative social movements including Indonesia Without Dating, where memes and merchandise promoting chastity have attracted almost 1 million followers.

“This movement [Indonesia Without Dating] was indeed initiated by young people for young people,” Dyah Ayu Kartika, a researcher for the Jakarta-based Centre for the Study of Religion and Democracy (PUSAD Paramadina), told the ABC.

“This movement is huge. There are already branches in several major cities in Indonesia.”

Women have become increasingly mobilised by hard-line Islamic groups and political parties in Indonesia.

Women in black and white hijabs march down the street in Indonesia.

A recent report from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict argued the mass movement against former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama had “activated women’s political agency along conservative lines”.

“[These campaigners believe] mothers must mobilise against Jokowi in order to protect their children from un-Godly communism, homosexuality and other moral threats associated with Jokowi’s camp,” the report said. 

More recently, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s opponent Prabowo Subianto and the Gerindra Party mobilised female volunteers in a bid to unseat Mr Widodo in the elections.

“[Mothers] are seen as the educators and the guardian of the family’s — even the nation’s — morals,” Ms Kartika said.

For Australian medical anthropologist Linda Rae Bennett, the Indonesia Without Feministsmovement and other women-led conservative activism is a response to a proposed anti-sexual violence bill.

Importantly, the bill would outlaw marital rape.

All parties in Parliament have expressed support for the legislation, except for the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Women, mostly dressed in white, undertake evening prayers for Ramadan, while a man stands smoking.

Dr Bennett described new anti-feminist activism as a “proxy war” against the law backed by powerful male figures, who would stand to lose their right to have sex with their wives whenever they like.

Meanwhile, Azizah Nur Tamhid, a female candidate for PKS, appears to have secured another seat for the party in the recent Indonesian elections, which saw the party’s vote increase.

But women’s activists remain optimistic that the law will be passed eventually, pointing to a number of victories for women’s rights, including the country’s landmark anti-domestic violence law of 2004.

“The women’s movement in Indonesia might be young, but it’s not weak,” Dr Bennett said.