Jakarta’s new governor, Anies Baswedan, was inaugurated in a large and highly publicised ceremony on 16 October. After a highly racially and religiously charged gubernatorial campaign that saw Anies defeat incumbent governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama—a Chinese Christian since imprisoned on charges of blasphemy—many Indonesians had hoped for a period of calm. Anies might have contributed to that by delivering a moderately religious but clearly nationalist and inclusivist inauguration address in his first speech as governor.
This is not what he delivered. Instead, Anies has doubled down on the identitarian religious rhetoric that sustained his campaign and propelled him into office. One particular line from his speech as attracted particular attention among Indonesia’s liberals, progressives, and religious and ethnic minorities:
Jakarta ini satu dari sedikit, satu dari sedikit kota di Indonesia yang merasakan kolonialisme dari dekat. Penjajahan di depan mata itu di jakarta, selama ratusan tahun. Di tempat lain mungkin penjajahan terasa jauh, tapi di Jakarta bagi orang Jakarta yang namanya kolonialisme itu di depan mata. Dirasakan sehari-hari. Karena itu bila kita merdeka maka janji-janji itu harus terlunaskan bagi warga Jakarta. Dulu kita semua pribumi ditindas dan dikalahkan. Kini telah merdeka, kini saatnya menjadi tuan rumah di negeri sendiri. Jangan sampai Jakarta ini seperti yang dituliskan pepatah Madura: etek se bertelor, ajam se rameh, katanya. Itik yang bertelur, ayam yang mengerami. Kita yang bekerja keras untuk merebut kemerdekaan. Kita yang bekerja keras untuk mengusir kolonialisme. Kita semua harus merasakan manfaat kemerdekaan di ibu kota ini.
Jakarta was one of only a few cities in Indonesia that felt colonialism from up close. Colonisation was in front of one’s eyes in Jakarta, for hundreds of years. In other places, perhaps, colonisation felt far away, but for the people of Jakarta colonialism was right in front of their eyes. It was felt on a daily basis. Because of that, when we became independent, those promises [of independence, as Anies mentioned earlier: namely prosperity, protection, and knowledge—Ed.] had to be fulfilled for citizens of Jakarta. Previously, all of us pribumi [indigenous people] were oppressed and defeated. Today we are independent, and it’s time to become the hosts in our own country. Don’t let Jakarta like what is written in the Madurese saying: etek se bertelor, ajam se rameh. The duck lays the eggs, but the chicken broods. It was we who worked hard to contest independence. We who worked hard to drive out colonialism. We all have to feel the benefits of independence in this capital city.
There are three important observations from this excerpt.
Even after nearly seventy years of independence, colonial legacies matter. Anies is able to compose a powerful political message that invokes the socioeconomic effects of colonialism. Anies (or his speechwriters) believe that this is message that still resonates. In my view, he is right.
This is a presidential speech, not a gubernatorial one. The looks exactly like the speech of a candidate preparing himself for a 2019 presidential run, placing Jakarta at the centre of national politics and staking a claim for himself as a national politician. Elsewhere in the speech he invokes folksy sayings from ethnic groups around the archipelago (Acehnese, Batak, Banjar, Madurese, Minahasa, Minang), figuratively pushing a pin in each of Indonesia’s regions and saying “I am speaking to you too.”
Every Indonesian who hears this speech will understand that it is targeting ethnic Chinese Indonesians. Specifically, it is associating Chinese Indonesians with the long colonial period and its legacies on everyday politics. Pribumi is a term that connotes indigeneity, but specifically, it identifies those citizens of Indonesia who are viewed to be descended from foreign populations (Chinese, Arabs, Indians, Europeans, and others). Anies appears to have conveniently forgot that he himself is of Hadrami descent. Alternatively, he might not have forgotten at all, but rather he knows that Indonesia’s wealthy Arab Indonesian elite faces none of the discrimination that Chinese Indonesians face in places like Jakarta. (I have written about this here [PDF].)
The visual imagery surrounding Anies’s installation reflects similar kinds of politics. One notable banner that has generated much discussion appears below:
Source: Tagar News
The full banner reads Terpilihnya Anies-Sandi adalah Simbol Kebangkitan Pribumi Muslim, or “the election of Anies-Sandi is a symbol of the awakening of the indigenous Muslims.”
The long term consequences of this for Jakarta and Indonesian politics are hard to predict. However, anyone hoping that Anies would revert to the moderate Islamic persona that he had cultivated prior to his gubernatorial campaign must now be disappointed. His lickspittles might argue that his use of non-Muslim religious language at the beginning and end of his speech signals his understanding that Jakarta (like Indonesia) is a religiously diverse city. But this view ignores the reality of Anies’s inauguration: the pribumi/non-pribumi cleavage is alive and well in Indonesian politics, and a leading politician is betting that exploiting this cleavage is good politics.
Tom Pepinsky is an associate professor in the government department and a faculty member of the Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University. He studies comparative politics and political economy, with a focus on emerging market economies in Southeast Asia.
In pre-digital days journalists reporting inaction on critical issues favored the metaphor of a needle stuck on a record turntable. The revival of vinyl has kept the cliché circulating - particularly with new urgings to stop Australian-Indonesian relations from forever going round and round. The latest wind-up comes from a well-intentioned group of 21 academics, economists, business people, NGOs and public servants. They gathered in Perth, Australia in July for a closed-door session seeking better ways for the two nations to cooperate. This Track 2 (outside official channels) initiative was engineered by the USAsia Centre at the University of Western Australia. The result of the one-day “extensive in-depth discussions” is the just-released report “The Power of Proximity: Enhancing Australian-Indonesian Economic Relations. Grand title” - but that’s about all. The test of any think tank’s effectiveness is whether it articulates practical action or is struggling for traction. The latter is the case here - only half the 12-pages have much to say and even less that’s original. The words sound energizing but none have driving power. To be fair this was not the ambitious matchmakers’ fault. Their brief was worthy but flawed. The difficulties in getting Indonesia and Australia to develop a trustful relationship after years of hot-cold wariness are formidable. Repairs require firm political will on both sides of the Arafura Sea. Professor Tim Lindsey of Melbourne University once called the two countries the “odd couple” of Southeast Asia. The pair live in the same location but long-term marital tensions are too strained to share one bed. The one politician present at the workshop, and only as an observer, was Bill Johnston, the West Australian Minister for Asian Engagement. This is the smallest of the four portfolios. The two biggest names Marty Natalegawa (Foreign Affairs) and Mari Pangestu (Trade) are former ministers long out of office. All the report’s 10 recommendations carry auxiliary verbs rather than imperatives. Although many participants were more mid and regional than peak and central - Indonesia’s official reps were from consulates - most had long records in the game and their voices deserve the ears of government. In the current climate, those who get heard are inner circle ambassadors, cabinet ministers from Jakarta and Canberra, gold star corporate tycoons and party chess masters with the president or prime minister’s numbers on speed dial. When these giants murmur things happen.
The report’s author Kyle Springer from the USAsia Centre later commented that: “Australia simply has yet to see Indonesia as an opportunity... There is yet a narrative of Indonesia’s rise and what it could mean for Australian businesses... Instead of perceiving each other as a threat, they should choose to see each other as an opportunity.” The repetition suggests exasperation.
But why? The answers get nudged out as this room is full of elephants. The pachyderms which won’t leave include the growth of fundamentalist Islam, surging nationalism, whether the Indonesian military is playing political games, and human rights concerns in West Papua.
For the Indonesians it’s the fear that Australia is plotting to fracture the Unitary State by supporting secessionists, and promoting “liberal lifestyles” - code for acceptance of homosexuality. Any of these beehives could be tipped over by agents provocateurs in the lead-up to the 2019 elections. The closest the report’s language gets to reality is this comment: “Bilateral crises derail progress on economic issues and Australia and Indonesia lack a mechanism to manage and communicate during diplomatic crises.” That should be an all-stations alert.
To an outsider the equations look simple. One highly efficient exporter just over the horizon from 260 million people in an economy growing at three per cent annually. Why does Australia do more trade with tiny New Zealand (population 4.5 million) than the colossus that’s closer?
How come more than a million Australians every year holiday with the Balinese, but Indonesians don’t dart Down Under for a break? Just 156,000 made the short trip after negotiating a 15-page visa questionnaire and paying more than A$ 150. Australians have visa-free entry into Indonesia.
Outside the forum, participant Ross Taylor, president of the Australian-based Indonesia Institute, echoed exasperation. “We talk about building closer links,” he told Strategic Review. “But both governments still make it hard for young people to move between our two countries due to unnecessary red-tape.”
Why is the fourth largest country in the world desperate for infrastructure investment but Australian developers aren’t building? They see Indonesia as high-risk with a questionable legal system. Australia invested A$2.2 trillion overseas last year but only A$1.9 billion in Indonesia.
But as Springer points out, China: “with its lack of government transparency, shaky property rights, and bureaucratic corruption, it actually falls rather close to Indonesia on the World Bank’s ease of doing business index.”
For the record China ranks 78, thirteen points better than Indonesia.
The Power of Proximity leans on the trade trends report “The World” in 2050 by the international financial analyst PricewaterhouseCoopers.
This forecasts Indonesia overtaking Russia, Mexico and Brazil to become the fourth largest economy behind China, India and the US.
Fogging the USAsia group’s vision has been the awkward progress of the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA). Negotiations are supposed to be finalized this year.
The laptops were opened in 2013, closed over domestic disputes, and rebooted in 2016. Once called “free trade talks,” the term is now seldom heard, suggesting the results will not meet expectations.
In a separate forum, Mari Pangestu revealed that while trade minister she talked of “fair trade” to avoid antagonizing economic nationalists.
The Power of Proximity continues the trend of trade-or-fade auguries and muted responses. The conservatives in Canberra seem more concerned with defense and security, believing trade is best left to free-market entrepreneurs.
The experts who gathered in Perth are not so convinced, concluding: “In short, despite robust diplomatic, political and military ties, Australia and Indonesia have yet to fully take advantage of the power of proximity.”
The needle stays stuck.
Duncan Graham is a journalist based in East Java. This article was originally published in 'The New Mandala' on 14th October 2017
The app, called AyoPoligami, lets men and women scroll through users’ profiles, much like the popular dating app Tinder – in which members swipe right to indicate a romantic interest, left to reject. The maker of AyoPoligami claims to have registered 10,000 users since it launched in April, mostly men looking to engage in polygamous marriages.
Polygamy is legal in Indonesia; men are allowed to marry up to four women at once. The practice was once frowned upon, but now seems to be on the rise as religious leaders openly parade their wives in public and endorse the practice to followers, activists say.
A society that allows polygamy “is male-centred and insensitive towards women,” says Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, deputy chairwoman at state agency National Commission on Violence Against Women. “In reality, many women who are involved in polygamy reported to us that they were being treated unfairly. It is clear that polygamy is a type of violence against women that’s rendered possible by culture and religion.”
Polygamy is just one of many manifestations of gender inequality in the region. In Malaysia, civil and sharia law at times conflict, especially in family law. Brunei will soon fully implement sharia law, leaving women’s rights up in the air – interpretation of religious doctrines is usually from a male perspective, activists say.
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has issued a decree that will allow women to drive. Photo: EPA
Women in Southeast Asia fare better than counterparts in the Middle East and South Asia when it comes to human development. Saudi Arabia only recently decided to lift its ban on women driving, which will take effect in June 2018.
Women in Muslim-majority nations in Southeast Asia have long enjoyed more freedom of mobility than their counterparts in the Gulf and other Muslim countries. Brunei and Malaysia churn out more female graduates than males, while the rate is almost equal in Indonesia.
Gender-based violence, discrimination and low female political participation, however, remain prevalent. Nearly 260,000 cases of violence against women were reported to Indonesia’s state agency in 2016, mostly incidents of domestic abuse. Activists say the true number could be higher, since many victims – particularly those in remote areas – hesitate or face difficulties in reporting such crimes.
In Malaysia, the number of reported domestic violence cases jumped from 3,173 in 2010 to 5,796 in 2016, according to Selangor-based Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO).
Malaysian women wait for a bus as they return from work in Kuala Lumpur. In Malaysia, most university graduates are female. Photo: AFP
In Brunei, domestic abuse is a taboo issue, as women and children often withdraw reports against their abusers due to fear, activists say.
In Indonesia, there are 421 gender-based discriminative policies implemented by local officials, all derived from religious and cultural biases, according to the women’s commission.
These include requiring women to undergo virginity tests before joining the armed forces and enforcing night curfews for women in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia that has adopted sharia law.
“Indonesia has made headway in attaining gender equality. Women here have freedom of mobility, freedom of expression and we also have many female Muslim scholars,” Chuzaifah says. “Radical conservative groups disrupt all that.”
In Malaysia, “about 40 per cent of pregnant women were discriminated against by employers; this includes making their positions redundant, denying them promotions, placing them on prolonged probation, demoting them and terminating their jobs,” says Tan Heang-Lee, WAO’s communications officer. “Malaysia also lacks legal protections against gender discrimination, especially in the private sector.”
In Brunei, women are not allowed to participate in sports such as football, among other prohibitions.
Women attend a rally in Jakarta demanding the Indonesian government to protect overseas maids and migrant workers from abuse. Photo: AFP
“Why can’t we play football? Because our body parts moving is considered promiscuous. Why can’t women take up leadership roles? Because we won’t be able to take care of our children at home. Why can’t we be opinionated and independent? Because we won’t get a husband,” says Nur, a local activist.
Women are rarely leaders in Malaysia and Brunei, and thus have little say over laws and policies that affect their lives. In Malaysia, women account for only 10 per cent of parliamentarians and 9 per cent of cabinet ministers, while in Brunei women cannot hold ministerial positions, though debates about allowing them to do so crop up occasionally. This is in stark contrast to the Philippines, a Catholic-majority nation, where last year nearly 30 per cent of the seats in the country’s Lower House were occupied by women and more than 40 per cent of civil servants are female.
Gender disparity is also noticeable at the corporate level; the gender wage gap ranges from 30 per cent to 40 per cent in favour of men. Of 144 countries, Indonesia, Brunei, and Malaysia were ranked 88th, 103rd, and 106th in last year’s World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report. This is no doubt costly for their economies; the Asian Development Bank estimated income per capita in Asia could grow 30 per cent if female participation in the workforce jumped from its current 57.7 per cent to 66.2 per cent.
A customer holds a smartphone inside a Samsung showroom in Jakarta. The Asian Development Bank estimates income per capita in Asia could grow 30 per cent if female participation in the workforce jumps to 66.2 per cent. Photo: Reuters
Although all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have ratified or acceded the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, a treaty on women’s rights, they have yet to incorporate it into domestic laws, depriving women of legal protections in discrimination and sexual harassment cases.
Despite these challenges, women’s rights groups are committed to continuing the fight. Indonesia’s women’s commission is campaigning for better legal protections for, among others, domestic workers and victims of sexual harassment. It also wants to have the practice of female genital mutilation criminalised. In Malaysia, WAO and other women’s groups are seeking a Gender Equality Act to protect women from discrimination.
In the meantime, these campaigns would be more effective if male policymakers addressed the cultural and religious biases that are deeply rooted within the systems, the biggest stumbling block for gender equity, rights activists say. “The rate women are breaking barriers in Brunei is not in line with how fast we can shift cultural expectations,” Nur in Brunei says. “I think we’ve gender mainstreamed our policies quite well in some relevant areas such as education, workplace, and health, but since Brunei is such a small country that functions so much like a community, our culture dictates our actions more than the law.” ■
Ibu Theresia from Kupang has a small kiosk in front of her house. Her husband says that he turns over his salary to his wife at the end of each month and lets her take care of finances at home. For Ibu Theresia, it makes sense for her to manage household finances as she understands best what her family needs and what needs to be prioritised in terms of spending. She candidly notes that if financial decisions were left to her husband, “the money might just get spent on unnecessary items such as cigarettes”.
A recent survey conducted by Oxford Policy Management and part-funded by DFAT, called the Survey on Financial Inclusion and Access (SOFIA), revealed two findings that, at first, appeared contradictory about the roles played by men and women in Indonesian households. In particular, women appeared to both have, and not have, financial control. On the one hand, most Indonesian women in the provinces surveyed were unlikely to own certain key assets such as land, property or bank accounts; on the other hand, the SOFIA survey results show that women tend to play a critical role as ‘financial managers’ in the household.
The survey, which covers 20,000 respondents in the provinces of East Java, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), East Nusa Tenggara (NTT) and South Sulawesi, tell us that 61% of women make decisions regarding the management of finances independently, compared to only 24% of their male counterparts. Similarly, more than half of the men surveyed consult their wives when it comes to household management decisions, while less than a third of women consult their husbands. Moreover, a larger proportion (11%) of men stated that they are not at all involved when making financial decisions, compared to women (only 1%) who said the same.
Hidden financial managers
What does this tell us about women’s economic standing in Indonesia? While SOFIA does not primarily or only explore the use of financial services from a gender angle, the survey findings do present intriguing insights into household dynamics, and reveal the important role that women play as hidden financial managers. Although men own property or accounts, women are the ones who keep track of household income and make decisions regarding spending. “I allocate the monthly income for children’s school fees, savings in an arisan, pay for meals, and I save the rest in a cooperative,” explains Ibu Ariance from NTT.
For women like Ariance, money management at home is not just about budgeting to cover the cost of food and immediate or basic necessities; women’s role as financial managers in households can extend to money management to help families make long term investments – such as building a home. “I’m the one who plans and budgets everything for the construction of this house,” says Ibu Ariance. Her husband Ruben, a fish trader, calmly notes, “My wife manages the money; she knows best what to do”.
And it’s not just saving – these findings also help to reveal the entrepreneurial spirit of many Indonesia women. Ibu Theresia, for example, uses the extra income (from the salary that her husband allocates to her every month) to buy gold jewellery at pawnshop auctions. This is not for her own use, but primarily for savings and investment purposes. Other women, meanwhile, save up small amounts from their partners’ salaries or earnings from farming activities in order to run their own small businesses.
Arisans in place of banks
Interestingly, despite the central role played by women as financial managers in households, they are less likely than men to use banks, and a significantly higher proportion of women (particularly in rural areas) use informal financial services, such as saving and borrowing through an arisan (informal savings groups) or borrowing from other informal sources such as moneylenders.
Siti Nurmajid from Selayar, South Sulawesi organised an arisan in her village, and explained that “With an arisan, I can meet with the other women in my village regularly. If they saved in the bank, they have to travel all the way to town.” And it’s not just a matter of travel; Situ Nurmajid adds that with an arisan, she (as a community leader) can better monitor women’s financial behaviour, tracking whether or not women are actually saving, and ensuring that the money saved is used for its intended purposes. These include constructing simple structures that families in her village need, such as toilets and fences, or paying for kurban (the sacrifice feast).
The Indonesian government is keen to expand the reach of financial services in the country, and hopes to increase ownership of bank accounts to cover as much as 75% of adults in Indonesia by 2019. Financial inclusion rates, as measured by the Financial Services Authority, are currently around 68%, up from 59% in 2013. The increase is impressive, but also underscores the rather ambitious nature of the 75% target. The Director of Financial Services and State Owned Enterprises at Bappenas, Dr Muhammad Cholifihani SE, has stated that, in the long-term, financial inclusion will only be achieved if most people are able to access and benefit from various formal financial services: “Inclusive financial services should be easy to find, but also provided to consumers in a timely and easy manner, safely and at an affordable cost.”
In order to meet the financial inclusion targets, it will be important to consider developing financial products that cater to the particular needs of women. If women are acting as (hidden) household financial managers, shouldn’t they therefore have their own bank accounts? In principle, the answer would be ‘yes’, as ownership of bank accounts (as opposed to having husband-approved access) would allow women to exercise greater control over household finances, including making decisions on household savings. However, a deeper understanding of household dynamics and cultural norms is required before assuming this as a practicable proposition – or that women would indeed want to own bank accounts themselves, independent of their spouses. In any development, it will be essential to keep both social and economic contexts in mind and in balance.
What these findings do clearly suggest is that, in order to understand how money is used or spent in households, women are critical actors to engage with. This information on household income and spending can be important when designing financial products – whether these be savings, micro-credit, insurance, or payment services. For example, when appraising whether to extend a loan (e.g., a housing or small business loan), financial institutions should be encouraged to include women or consider their involvement in the appraisal process given their role as household financial managers.It will not be surprising to hear more of Indonesian women seconding what Ibu Theresia said, “It’s better if I keep the money, because I’m good at managing things.”