The Women's Movement in Postcolonial Indonesia: Gender and Nation in a New Democracy (Asian Studies Association of Australia: Women in Asia)

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The Women's Movement in Postcolonial Indonesia: Gender and Nation in a New Democracy (Asian Studies Association of Australia: Women in Asia)

The Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Indonesia This book examines women’s activism in the early years of independent I

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The Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Indonesia

This book examines women’s activism in the early years of independent Indonesia when new attitudes to gender, nationalism, citizenship and democratization were forming. It questions the meaning of democratization for women and their relationship to national sovereignty within the new Indonesian state. Among other things, this work discusses women’s organizations and their activities; women’s social and economic roles; and different cultural, regional and ethnic attitudes towards women. As a detailed account of women’s activism in a new democratic state, this book shows the failure of such political change to fully address women’s gender interests and needs. Ongoing nationalist struggle and the contested relationship between women and nationalism provide part of the reason for this failure. Furthermore, the author argues that the role of nationalism in defining gender identity and the role of gender in defining national identity both need equal recognition. Elizabeth Martyn completed an MA in History at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand in 1993 and a Ph.D. in Politics at Monash University, Australia in 2001. She is an Honorary Research Associate of the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University and has an extensive research record in the areas of women's political participation, women and development, children's rights and global justice issues. Based in New Zealand, she currently works in the international aid and development sector.

Asian Studies Association of Australia: Women in Asia Series Editor: Louise Edwards (Australian National University) Editorial board: Susan Blackburn (Monash University) John Butcher (Griffith University) Vera Mackie (Curtin University) Anne McLaren (Melbourne University) Mina Roces (University of New South Wales) Andrea Whittaker (Melbourne University) Mukkuvar Women Gender, hegemony and capitalist transformation in a south Indian fishing community by Kalpana Ram, 1991

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The Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Indonesia Gender and nation in a new democracy by Elizabeth Martyn, 2005

The Women’s Movement in Post-colonial Indonesia Gender and nation in a new democracy Elizabeth Martyn

First published 2005 by RoutledgeCurzon 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Simultaneously published in the USA and Canada by RoutledgeCurzon 270 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016 This edition published in the Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. “To purchase your own copy of this or any of Taylor & Francis or Routledge’s collection of thousands of eBooks please go to” RoutledgeCurzon is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group © 2005 Elizabeth Martyn All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN 0-203-29919-1 Master e-book ISBN

ISBN 0-203-34169-4 (Adobe eReader Format) ISBN 0–415–30838–0 (Print Edition)



Series editor’s foreword Acknowledgements

ix x


Theoretical and historical background



Missing images: Approaching Indonesian women’s activism



Emergence of a women’s movement: Nationalism and women’s rights in Indonesia, 1900–1949



Women’s mobilization in the 1950s: The national level 3





The promise of independence: Women’s mobilization in a new nation–state


Addressing practical gender interests: Women’s organizations’ socio-economic activities


Representing women in a new democracy: Women’s organizations and national politics


Confronting the state: The fight for a marriage law



Challenging the national-level perspective 7

Women’s international interests: Representing gender and nation at the international level






Unity in diversity: Women’s regional interests in 1950s Indonesia



Conclusion – constructing womanhood in a new nation-state: Indonesian women’s experiences of independence and democracy in the 1950s


Appendix: Women’s organizations of the 1950s Glossary Notes Bibliography Index

211 222 227 236 261

Series editor’s foreword

The contributions of women to the social, political and economic transformations occurring in the Asian region are legion. Women have served as leaders of nations, communities, workplaces, activist groups and families. Asian women have joined with others to participate in fomenting change at the micro and macro levels. They have been both agents and targets of national and international interventions in social policy at the level of the household and family. In the performance of these myriad roles, women have forged new and modern gendered identities that are recognizably global and local. Their life experiences are rich, diverse and instructive. The books in this series testify to the central role women play in creating the new Asia and re-creating Asian womanhood. Moreover, these books attest to the resilience and inventiveness of women around the Asian region in the face of evolving patriarchal social norms. Scholars publishing in this series demonstrate a commitment to promoting the productive conversation between Women’s Studies and Asian Studies. The need to understand the diversity of experiences of femininity and womanhood around the world increases inexorably as globalization proceeds apace. Lessons from the experiences of Asian women present us with fresh opportunities for building new possibilities for women’s progress the world over. The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) sponsors this publication series as part of its ongoing commitment to promoting knowledge about women in Asia. In particular, the ASAA women’s caucus provides the intellectual vigour and enthusiasm that maintains the Women in Asia Series (WIAS). The aim of the series, since its inception in 1992, has been to promote knowledge about women in Asia to both academic and general audiences. To this end, WIAS books draw on a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, political science, cultural studies and history. The series could not function without the generous professional advice provided by many anonymous readers. WIAS, its authors and the ASAA are very grateful to these people for their expert work. Louise Edwards (Australian National University) Series Editor


This book is based on my Monash University Ph.D. thesis. I was extremely fortunate to work under the supervision of Dr Susan Blackburn in undertaking the original research. Sue offered remarkable professional and personal support, shared her vast knowledge and range of sources on Indonesian women, and challenged me to think more broadly about the political context of women’s activism. I thank Sue for all her help and her continuing support. While at Monash I benefited greatly from the specialist knowledge of Helen Soemardjo, Senior Librarian at the Asian Studies Research Library (Monash University). I thank the staff and postgraduates of the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies for sharing their interest in, enthusiasm for and knowledge about Indonesia and the region. Financially, the original research was supported through the award of a Monash Graduate Scholarship. Fieldwork in Indonesia was made possible with a travel grant from the Monash University Overseas Study Grants-in-Aid scheme. An ASAA Asian Studies Library Award funded research in Canberra. Six months fieldwork in Indonesia was conducted with a LIPI research visa and I am grateful to the staff of the Perpustakaan Nasional (Jakarta), Arsip Nasional (Jakarta), Arsip Nasional Sulawesi Selatan (Makasar), Pusat Dokumentasi Kebudayaan Bali (Denpasar), Bali Post (Denpasar), PDIILIPI (Jakarta) and Perpustakaan Perwari (Jakarta) for permission to consult their collections. I appreciated the opportunity to meet with scholars from the Pusat Studi Wanita (Women’s Studies) and History faculties at Universitas Indonesia (Jakarta), Universitas Gadjah Mada (Yogyakarta), Universitas Udayana (Denpasar) and Universitas Sam Ratulangi (Manado). I am very grateful to the women’s organizations that I visited in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Manado for being so welcoming and providing what assistance they could. I am especially indebted to the women activists of the 1950s who gave of their time so willingly and generously. It was a privilege to meet them and enjoy such a unique perspective on Indonesian history. Although my interpretations may differ from their recollections, my aim has always been to treat their memories and stories sensitively and respect the work they have done. Special thanks to Damai Pakpahan who assisted me with interviews in



Jakarta, introduced me to a younger generation of Indonesian feminist activists and gave advice on Indonesian translation. Thanks to my friends in Australia and New Zealand who encouraged me to pursue research in this area and for their sustained interest and support. Special thanks to Debbie Kirkwood, who shared the Ph.D. experience. Her friendship has meant a lot and goes far beyond her much-appreciated contribution to this research. In seeking publication, I am grateful for the encouragement I received from Associate Professor Krisha Sen, Dr Anton Lucas and Dr Louise Edwards. Louise has offered invaluable editorial assistance as this book was prepared for publication. Thanks to my parents Julie and Roger, and to my sister Rachel, for always believing in this work and for their ongoing support and patience. Finally, my greatest thanks to Greg Ryan, who continues to give me an incredible level of academic and emotional support. Greg, thank you for your valued suggestions, for your commitment to my work and for challenging me to complete this book.

Part I

Theoretical and historical background


Missing images Approaching Indonesian women’s activism

National independence and democratization give women important new opportunities to act as citizens of a democratic polity. For Indonesian women, this opportunity came in 1950 when the newly independent republic began a process of post-colonial nation-building and democratic transition. Indonesian women had to define their roles, citizenship and participation in the new state, tasks largely met through their vigorous social-movement activism. One Indonesian woman proudly introduced her new nation to foreign audiences by claiming: Indonesia can pride itself with a women’s movement, which is considered to be one of the most dynamic and advanced in the less developed countries and even more advanced than in some industrialized countries. (Ismail 1959: 304) Visiting journalist Ruth Woodsmall supported this praise, describing Indonesian women’s organizations as being among ‘the most vital forces in the life of Indonesia’ (Woodsmall 1960: 228). Yet there are few images of Indonesian women as political actors, especially for the first decade of independence, and the 1950s Indonesian women’s movement has received little attention in scholarship on Indonesian politics and history. This lacuna is surprising given the importance of the 1950s in Indonesian political history and the fundamental questions this period raises about gender, nationalism, democracy and women’s citizenship. This book challenges notions of apolitical Asian womanhood and the dominance of Western experiences in the literature on women’s movements by recovering Indonesian women’s activism and their self-proclaimed concerns. Since the UN Decade for Women there has been increasing recognition of the problematic way in which Third World women have been excluded from theorizing around women’s interests and movements or have been constructed symbolically as victims. Mohanty (1988) argues that Third World women have been homogenized as poor, uneducated, tradition-bound, domesticated, family-orientated and victimized, in contrast to Western feminists’ self-presentation as modern, in control of their bodies and sexuality,


Theoretical and historical background

and free to make their own decisions. Basu (1995: 2) notes that comparative literature on women’s movements mainly ignores post-colonial societies. Studies of the Third World fail to consider women as agents and activists in their own right. There are ongoing calls to ‘make visible and intelligible (to the West) the organizational practices and writings of Third World women’ (Alexander and Mohanty 1997: xix), thereby broadening understandings of ‘other’ women and the diversity of experiences and lives often generalized under the monolithic label ‘Third World women’. Yet simply recovering women’s history and ‘adding in’ their stories is no longer enough. Feminists contend that ‘such a process of recovery must take place alongside further theoretical developments and co-exist with them’, while noting that ‘the very process of recovery can yield important theoretical insights’ (Offen et al. 1991: xxx). Women are not outside history and politics. Recovering images of women as political actors must also incorporate theoretical analysis of the political and historical processes women act within. This makes the 1950s an interesting period within which to study Indonesian women. It was the first period of national independence, and women participated both in the development of a new state and in a democratic political system. Their participation raises important theoretical questions about women’s engagement with these gendered political processes. Democratization and national independence are rarely analysed for their impact on women or for the extent to which such political transitions meet women’s interests, even though these political processes are critical to women’s activism. This book analyses the roles these processes have in defining womanhood and political participation in a new nation–state, and the extent to which democracy and national sovereignty address women’s interests. This book is a response to both the need to make visible other women’s movements and to examine women’s movements within the political systems they operate. Part I examines the theoretical and historical background to the 1950s Indonesian women’s movement. This first chapter discusses the dominant images of Indonesian women, showing the need to examine the women’s movement, the reasons for focusing on women’s organizations and the political processes that impact on women’s activism. Women’s movements are a principal agency for women’s participation and representation in political processes. Indonesian women’s organizations in the 1950s defined women’s issues, set the movement’s agenda, and developed strategies and actions to advance the position of women. This activism was circumscribed by the dominant political processes of nationalism and democratization; this chapter begins to consider what these meant for Indonesian women, especially the role of nationalism in defining gender identity and interests and the role of gender in defining national identity. Chapter 2 explores the emergence and development of the Indonesian women’s movement from

Missing images 5 the early twentieth century to the end of the nationalist struggle in 1949, looking at the early influences of nationalism and colonialism, and pointing to the new opportunities national independence and democracy offered. Part II explores the membership and activities of the national-level movement. The national movement is the focus because of the importance of national forms of organizing during the 1950s, the dominance of these organizations within the Indonesian women’s movement, and the available sources. The national organizations can be categorised by the identities they represented (wives, Islam, Christianity, socialism, nationalism, professions and broad-based membership groups) and these formed three significant streams: a secular, non-aligned women’s rights stream, a socialist stream and an Islamic stream. Focusing on women’s organizations in general rather than a single organizational case study highlights the influence of religious, political and other identity interests on understandings and concepts of Indonesian womanhood and women’s activism. The diversity of Indonesian women is evident when we consider each major stream’s approach to the agenda of the women’s movement and its other political activities. Chapter 3 introduces the women’s organizations of the 1950s and identifies the agenda women organized around, the implications of national independence and democracy, and the complexities of women’s organization. Chapters 4 to 6 are thematic, addressing priority areas of women’s activism. In 1953 these were summarized by Maria Ulfah Santoso, the chair of Kongres Wanita Indonesia, the umbrella organization for Indonesian women’s groups, as: stimulating the organizations to take part in the forthcoming general elections; urging the Government to pass a new marriage-bill giving protection to women and children; founding consultation bureaus for marriage and inheritance cases; concentrating on adult education among women labourers; organising health weeks; founding day nurseries and child welfare and health centres. (Santoso 1953: 12) Based on congress resolutions and depth of coverage in women’s magazines of the era, the main areas of women’s activism were education, health, welfare, national elections and marriage law. Chapter 4 addresses socio-economic activities. It discusses the conceptualization of women’s educational, health, welfare and economic needs in an independent Indonesia and shows how these were grounded in gendered concepts of citizenship. In these areas the women’s movement did not challenge the roles of women but sought to empower women within those roles while contributing to the continuing nationalist agenda. Motherhood, duty to the nation–state and commitment to the new nationalist goal of development were promoted by all streams of the women’s movement. There was


Theoretical and historical background

close cooperation with the state and among women’s organizations in the provision of services, although sovereignty did not fulfil women’s basic needs. The Indonesian women’s movement was at its most unified over these activities, constructing Indonesian women in an independent nation–state as equal citizens who had a responsibility to meet the needs of the state as mothers of the nation. Chapter 5 explores how women’s organizations engaged with national politics, focusing on the 1955 elections and constitutional debate. Concepts of motherhood and citizenship duty are again dominant themes within the discourse of the period. Women’s organizations prioritized the need to encourage women’s participation in the political processes of the new state. Greater differences among women emerged as women’s organizations pursued ideological, religious and party interests as well as gender concerns. These differences were to become increasingly significant as the movement fought to reform marriage law. Chapter 6 analyses the 1950s campaign for marriage law, the most important issue to most women’s movement activists. It shows the divisions within the movement, based on political and religious interests, which hampered efforts to represent women as a united political force. This case study documents the struggle for women to get a ‘women’s issue’ onto the political agenda and the and the failure of the national independence movement to deliver to women the societal and legal change they fought for. Part III challenges the national-level approach by examining how women’s organizations operated at the international and regional levels. Chapter 7 asks whether Indonesian women had gender interests that transcended national boundaries. It examines the activities of representatives of the women’s movement at the international level to see if ideas of universal feminism or transnational gender interests inspired these contacts. It shows instead the importance of these activities to the construction of national identity and the legitimization of the nation–state, indicating that national and nationalist interests dominated. Chapter 8 discusses regional differences in women’s interests and agendas as the different cultures, religions and ethnicities of Indonesia were moulded into a single nation–state that proclaimed unity in diversity. This chapter questions the extent to which women in the regions were incorporated into the national-level movement and contrasts the concerns of women’s organizations in three regional areas with the trends and interests identified at the national level. The regions discussed are Bali, South Sulawesi and the Minahasa region of North Sulawesi. Bali and Minahasa are considered as examples of minority-religion communities (Christian and Hindu) and both North and South Sulawesi were areas involved in the regional rebellions of the 1950s. This shows that regional diversity was downplayed within the national movement and highlights the need for further research on the outer islands. The experience and perspectives of regional Indonesian women have been lost within the national movement in the same way as the national

Missing images 7 Indonesian women’s movement has been overlooked in women’s studies and Indonesian political history.

Representations of Indonesian women There are few images of Indonesian women in women’s studies and history. One of the only comparative studies on women’s movements to include Indonesia is Chafetz and Dworkin (1986). Their brief account summarises the main issues of Indonesian women’s organizing from the first decades of the twentieth century to the Japanese occupation in 1942. It then asserts that ‘the Japanese invasion ended the women’s movement’ (Chafetz and Dworkin 1986: 147), thus illustrating the dangers not only of ignoring the experiences of Third World women but also of misrepresenting their movements. There was a vibrant and active Indonesian women’s movement in the 1950s, but this is not recognized or acknowledged in most analyses of women’s movements. The invisibility of Indonesian women can be attributed to three factors. The first is the dominance of Western women’s organizational experience in the literature on women’s movements. There is an assumption of ‘sameness in the forms of women’s oppression and women’s movements nationally’ (Basu 1995: 1) derived from Western realities. The Western women’s movement has been classified into two distinct periods of activism: the first-wave (suffrage and ameliorative) movement and the second-wave (feminist) movement. As a result, women’s movements have traditionally been analysed within this first-wave/second-wave schema (Bystydzienski 1992: 6) and the 1950s are viewed as a period spent in the doldrums (Rupp and Taylor 1987). Such a periodization does not fit the experience of the Indonesian women’s movement, which was expanding within the newfound political freedoms of the 1950s. A second factor is the isolation of non-English-speaking women’s movements within academic and activist networks. The absence of English-language studies has created difficulties in seeking to include the voices of a wider range of women. A further reason for excluding images of Indonesian women is linked to both these points. Because of their isolation and the assumption of sameness in women’s oppression, the differences between Third World and Western women have not always been explored or respected. Third World women have been viewed as somewhat ‘less feminist’ because they do not always organize around the same issues as Western women, thus invalidating their organizational history. The charge of being ‘less feminist’ derives from the close link between nationalism and Third World women’s movements. To many Western feminists, Third World women’s movements seem to be ‘co-opted’ by the nationalist movements. There has been a failure to recognize the varied interests of Third World women’s movements and the traditional Western feminist emphasis on gender as the sole source of women’s oppression ignores the roles played by Third World women in class, religious and


Theoretical and historical background

nationalist struggles. Feminism has had to confront the notion of difference and is beginning to challenge the implicit assumptions within past activism and research that suggest the experiences of Third World women have little relevance or make little contribution to women’s studies and broader political discourses. National case studies such as this one are needed to broaden understandings of women’s interests and mobilization. Images of Indonesian women as political actors are also missing from much of the political and historical literature on Indonesia, another important reason for this book. It is not new to claim women are excluded or marginalized within political science, a point increasingly well-documented and challenged since the 1970s. However, it remains a recurring theme. Blackburn (1991, 1994), Locher-Scholten and Niehof (1992), and Taylor (1997) are just some of the writers who have shown that women remain largely absent from the texts and literature on Indonesian politics and the history of nationalism. They are rendered invisible in the photographic records, in male memoirs of the nationalist struggle and in official Indonesian histories, and continue to be marginalized within Southeast Asian political studies. The activities of Indonesian women, like women everywhere, have traditionally fallen outside conventional definitions of ‘politics’ and are therefore rarely included in mainstream analysis. The years between 1950 and 1959 are critical in Indonesia’s political development. They mark the attainment of national independence (with international recognition of Indonesian sovereignty) and the transition from an electoral democracy to Sukarno’s dictatorship, which he labelled ‘Guided Democracy’. Indonesians had their first opportunity to engage with their own nation–state and participate freely in a democratic political system. It was a period of asserting national identity, building the nation and constructing the state, and in each of these processes gender played an important role. Despite their political importance, the 1950s themselves have fallen outside Indonesian historical and political consideration, making women doubly invisible. McVey (1994) refers to the 1950s as the ‘disappearing decade’, a period that has been avoided in historical and political studies. The relatively brief period of parliamentary democracy and political freedom had until recently seemed of little relevance to Indonesian political culture, especially during the entrenched authoritarian regime of Suharto’s New Order, which was instituted in 1965. The New Order itself imposed limits on exploration of 1950s politics, especially in regard to the role and influence of communism. Histories were rewritten in line with New Order ideologies and while any telling of history is tainted by distorted memories and constructions of the past in terms of the present, many Indonesians have had to be wary of openly discussing certain aspects of their past. The period needs revision, especially as the meanings of democracy, citizenship and national identity in the Indonesian context are increasingly debated as Indonesia enters a new period of transition and democratization.

Missing images 9 The impact this will have on women is now being questioned (Robinson 2000) and the 1950s make a poignant comparison. Not only was it Indonesia’s first democratic experiment, but the growing political and regional instability and the challenges to the concept of Indonesian identity by the reassertion of regional and ethnic identities in areas such as Aceh, Kalimantan, Irian Jaya and Maluku reflect similar trends in the 1950s. This too was a time of post-transition instability, revolt and questioning of how diverse religious and ethnic communities could be integrated into a democratic nation. There has, however, been very little investigation of women and democratization during this era (Blackburn 1994). The seminal accounts of Indonesian politics of the 1950s (Feith 1962) have no gender analysis and few references to women’s activities. Women’s organizations fall outside their conventional definition of politics. There are, however, two important studies of the 1950s Indonesian women’s movements: Vreede-de Stuers (1960) and Wieringa (1995). Both of these were presented as sociology theses by Dutch women who had close relationships with Indonesian women activists and both are invaluable sources on the activities of women’s organizations. Cora Vreede-de Stuers’ thesis was published in 1960 as The Indonesian Woman. It is a pioneering study and the focus on women’s activism is unusual for the era. Vreede-de Stuers remains a unique source and for many years it has been viewed as the definitive account of the history of the women’s movement (Locher-Scholten 2000: 14). It is used by most historians of the women’s movement to describe the colonial and immediate postindependence movement, and is an invaluable account of the issues of the era and the main activities of women’s organizations. However, like many of the initial feminist texts recovering women’s history, its focus is predominantly descriptive and, while examining the workings of the women’s movement and identifying the close relationship between women’s emancipation and the nationalist struggle, it leaves many of the questions about nationalism, citizenship, democracy and diversity unasked. The second major study of women’s organizations in this period is Saskia Wieringa’s history of Gerwani, the communist women’s organization. Written during Suharto’s New Order regime, it has a less optimistic focus than Vreede-de Stuers’ work and does not embrace the nationalist fervour that dominated 1950s Indonesia. Gerwani was one of the largest women’s organizations of the 1950s, but it was ruthlessly destroyed in the post-1965 anti-communist crackdown. Wieringa gives excellent coverage to the organization and its relations with other women’s groups, political parties and international organizations. She located a wide range of sources and conducted many interviews in Indonesia during the 1970s and 1980s, including in her account the passionate voices of former Gerwani members which would otherwise have been lost. Wieringa’s study is another valuable history for the period. Her


Theoretical and historical background

focus, however, is to explain why Gerwani became a target of post-coup demonization and a backlash from state and society, arguing Gerwani overstepped the boundaries of accepted feminine roles. By Wieringa’s definition, Gerwani is different from the rest of the women’s movement; she portrays it as the most ‘legitimate’ women’s organization. Whereas Vreede-de Stuers had close connections with the secular and politically non-aligned sections of the women’s movement, Wieringa demonstrates a closer affinity with the communist stream, although she remains able to critique their work. She contrasts Gerwani’s strong feminist values and agenda with New Order organizations that became, in her words, a ‘perfumed nightmare’. Her aim is to explain New Order reactions to Gerwani and compare the active and lively Gerwani with the passivity of women’s organizations in post-coup Indonesia. This leaves much of the wider 1950s movement uninvestigated. The questions of women’s roles in creating the 1950s Indonesian nation– state are also ignored, as Wieringa is using the 1950s to explain the 1970s and 1980s. Vreede-de Stuers and Wieringa have approached the 1950s Indonesian women’s movement in different ways, reflecting their relationships with different sections of the women’s movement, the political ideologies of the time and the questions of most interest to their understandings of Indonesia. They leave a space in which to approach 1950s Indonesian women’s organizations from a political science perspective and broaden the image of 1950s women’s activism, exploring the diversity of the movement and the impacts of the era’s dominant political forces. Indonesian sources on women’s activism in the 1950s also leave space to examine these theoretical concerns and broaden representations of women’s mobilization. Indonesian women’s organizations themselves have little by way of documentation for this period. Most Buku Peringatan (anniversary histories) give only a few notes, mainly recording committee members and congress dates (Muslimat NU 1979; Wanita Katolik 1995; Aisyiyah 1996; Persit 1996). These are not academic histories but general studies primarily for organization members and focus on their successes. Suryochondro’s (1984) survey of the women’s movement is another descriptive account, listing the women’s organizations active in the 1950s but with little commentary or analysis of the meanings of women’s activism. The 1950s women’s movement needs further research to recover a lost history and to address how women mobilized in a new nation–state and the impact of sovereignty, citizenship and democracy on definitions of womanhood and women’s interests.

The research process The focus on women’s organizations embraces a feminist definition of politics, recognising that women are treated differently than men by political processes and that politics includes the range of activities women engage in

Missing images 11 outside male-dominated institutional politics. Women’s movements that seek to empower women and advance their interests are an important way of viewing women’s political action. Defining women’s movements Women’s movements seek to represent women’s collective identity, articulating women’s demands and acting to address specific female disadvantage within society. Implicit in women’s movements is an understanding of gender inequity (Basu 1995: 2). Women’s movements can include informal groups, formalised associations and individuals. Because a movement’s membership is often difficult to identify, studies usually focus on organizations as the most visible and formalized part of a movement, and it is the organizations and their leaders that determine agendas and strategies. Yet there remains diversity among women whose experience of gender operates through religious, ethnic, political, socio-economic, educational, age and life-stage differences. Therefore women belonging to different classes, races or geographical locations perceive their identity differently (Khan et al. 1994: 1; Alvarez 1990: 26). Their differences based on these other subjectivities will affect how their concerns as women are framed and the change and strategies they seek. This makes speaking of ‘women’s interests’ difficult. It should also be noted that the label ‘Third World’ has similar difficulties. We cannot speak of a singular Third World view/identity/nature, just as we cannot speak of a unitary category ‘women’. The Third World encompasses a range of societies, cultures, races, political systems and levels of development, and the term itself can now seem outdated. It was used during the early Cold War to describe the newly emerging and developing states of the postcolonial world, which constituted a third, non-aligned group against the capitalist First World and the communist Second World (Cammack et al. 1993: 5). With some so-called Third World states now having become major economic powers and the end of the Cold War, the validity of the term is questioned. Nevertheless, to be manageable academic analysis needs to use some forms of labels and categorization. As Bulbeck (1998: 4) puts it, ‘patterns must be sought, lines of distinction drawn, or nothing much can be said’. The Third World is a recognizable group and in the context of 1950s politics the term is the most appropriate. We can use the labels ‘Third World’ and ‘women’ if we acknowledge the diversity they encompass. To acknowledge and analyse the diversity among women, Molyneux (1985, 1986) has conceived of women’s issues not as women’s interests but as gender interests. Interests can be defined as ‘prioritized concerns’ (Moser 1993: 37) and the focus on gender interests rather than women’s interests recognizes that women are not a homogenous group who will always share the same concerns in any particular place and time; rather, they will have important similarities and shared experience based on existing gender relations. In this context, gender is defined as constructed social roles based


Theoretical and historical background

on biological difference (Yuval-Davis 1997: 9). Molyneux (1985, 1986) differentiates between practical gender interests and strategic gender interests. Strategic interests involve some analysis of women’s subordination in society, question gender-defined roles and propose some formulation of a more satisfactory alternative. This can lead to demands such as political equality, reproductive rights and abolition of the sexual division of labour, issues usually defined as feminist. Practical gender interests involve no challenge to gender-constructed roles, rather they are concerned with women’s ability to carry out those roles. They arise from the concrete conditions of women’s lives based on gender positioning and respond to a perceived and immediate need. Demands may include better health care, education and poverty alleviation, and these will vary by class, ethnicity and religion. Some practical interests may be in conflict with some strategic interests. This is a useful distinction. It is important to differentiate between the types of analysis involved in practical and strategic demands. In the socalled ‘strategic areas’, we see women’s organizations in overtly political roles lobbying the state to change its laws and therefore its definition of women. This explores a more sophisticated understanding of women’s interests, as the diverse views and beliefs that the category ‘women’ represents make it difficult to agree on what those changes should be. Although ‘practical gender interests’ do not challenge gender roles but assist women to fulfil them, the types of roles promoted for women will again reflect other identity concerns. This demonstrates the complexities of women’s issues without privileging any one area of activism. It is also useful because it allows us to speak of national and other identity interests as a legitimate area for women’s activism while recognising specific gender interests within these. Women’s movements are therefore defined here as female-membership groups plus individual women who seek to represent women’s interests, including practical and strategic gender issues, as well as nationalist, class, ideological, religious and other identity issues. They have women-centred objectives and are involved in articulating women’s demands, documenting women’s conditions and endeavouring to make changes to society that are beneficial for women. Research approach Focusing on women’s organizations, the most identifiable part of a women’s movement, allows Indonesian women to be seen as political actors and privileges their concerns and interests over an outside analysis of gender oppression within Indonesian society. The women’s movement’s agenda signifies the demands and roles of women in the new nation–state, and how women’s organizations mobilized to meet their stated objectives, highlighting in particular the success (or not) of their campaign and examining

Missing images 13 the impact of the post-transition political climate on the outcomes of women’s mobilization. The focus on national organizations can result in an elite and Java/ Jakarta bias, thereby silencing the voices and experiences of women in other classes and other regions of Indonesia. However, the politics of 1950s Indonesia means that women’s organizations were primarily Western-educated, elite women. As Feith (1962: 108–111) has argued, 1950s Indonesian political power was in the hands of a small, urbanized, Western-educated elite. It was predominantly women of the upper classes who had the resources – time, education, pre-existing networks and experience – to become involved in the women’s movement. However, class issues are explored as far as possible. As most national women’s organizations were based in Jakarta, there is a danger, as in much research on Indonesia, of viewing Javanese concerns as the prototypical Indonesian experience (Sianipar, cited in Wallace 1992: 15). To counter this bias, Chapter 8 considers regional differences, highlighting the diversity of cultures, languages, religions and customs in Indonesia. This research draws primarily on documentary sources, with interviews to supplement material. Five months of fieldwork (December 1996–April 1997) was undertaken in Indonesia to collect data for a Monash University doctoral thesis, on which this book is based (Martyn 2001). Fieldwork was carried out in Jakarta, Denpasar, Yogyakarta, Manado and Ujung Padang (now Makasar). Source material from the 1950s was located in libraries and archives, and 30 women’s organizations were visited. Thirty-six former activists were interviewed about their activities during the 1950s. The main sources for this book are women’s magazines from the period. Some of the women’s magazines used were those published by women’s organizations, including Ibu (1958–1959), a publication of Persatuan Wanita Keluarga UGM; Mekar (1954–1956), a publication of Persit; Suara Perwari (1950–1959); Suara Aisjijah (1952–1955), with only a few issues still remaining from the 1950s; the Women’s International Club Journal (1953– 1959); and Madjalah Kedudukan Wanita Indonesia (1959), published by Kongres Wanita Indonesia. These magazines contain articles on issues of concern to the women’s movement, Indonesian current affairs, information on organization events and congresses, cooking and sewing instructions, and entertainment in the form of short stories and ‘gossip’ pages. There were also a number of magazines aimed at women that were not aligned to a particular organization. These included Wanita (1949–1960), Dunia Wanita (1956–1957), Karya (1948–1950) and Keluarga (1953a). Women’s magazines functioned to educate women about important issues (Gerwani 1955: 16–17; Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997; Diah, interview, 14 January 1997), as well as having an entertainment value, and are therefore an important source for exploring women’s demands. Newspapers and journal articles, congress proceedings, parliamentary debates, Antara news reports and files from the National Archives have also been consulted. Archival sources included


Theoretical and historical background

letters, petitions and resolutions sent to the government by individuals, political parties and community organizations, speeches and congress proceedings, and the constitutions of new organizations. These were held in the Arsip Kabinet Presiden (1950–1959) and Arsip Konstituante collections of the National Archives in Jakarta. The main difficulty is locating material from the 1950s. Many records and publications were not kept, or have since been lost or destroyed. Former activists acknowledge that little documentation was archived from this time (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997; Afiff, interview, 10 January 1997).1 Even during the 1950s, women’s leaders had difficulty accessing reliable statistics and information. Jetty Rizali Noor, a leading figure in the women’s movement and a prolific writer in women’s magazines, quipped ‘in Indonesia . . . figures? They are never available’ (Noor 1957: 451).2 It was not possible to locate or access records from women’s organizations. However, the thirtieth anniversary commemorative history of the Indonesian women’s movement (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958), outlined the congress agendas and resolutions for the 1950s, and so has been a valuable source. Some congress summaries were located in the Indonesian national archives and women’s magazines carried reports and statements of other women’s conferences. Few women’s magazines have issues spanning the whole decade and inevitably the views of those few dominate this analysis. There are significant gaps in sources for Islamic women’s organizations and the Outer Islands. In dealing with 1950s sources the change in Indonesian spelling needs to be noted. Old versions of spelling were still in use and many people used both the old and modern spelling alternatives for their names. I have used the old spelling for organization and party names, to emphasize the time period under review, and modern spelling for most individuals, as this is how most are now known. When authors are cited, I have used the spelling version that appears in the source. In cases such as Soewondo/Suwondo and Poedjoboentoro/Pudjobuntoro it needs therefore to be remembered that this is the same person.

Theorizing Indonesian women in political processes As already discussed, women’s activism does not occur in isolation and needs to be examined in relation to the governing political processes, cultures and institutions of a society. The political system and dominant ideologies of a nation–state impact on and constrain women’s ability to organize, determine women’s interests and often set the agenda. Women’s mobilization in turn influences these processes and contributes to identityformation. The most significant political processes for Indonesian women of the 1950s were nation- and state-building, developing a sense of nationalism and citizenship, and democratization, all important features of the transition to a newly independent nation–state. It is therefore important to briefly consider what these major political concepts mean for women.

Missing images 15 National identity: symbolizing and (re)producing the nation Third World feminism has usually developed alongside and as part of anticolonial movements. Third World women claim ‘our consciousnesses were thus shaped by the burden of persistent colonialisms and the euphoric promise of nationalism and self-determination’ (Alexander and Mohanty 1997: xiii; see also Gandhi and Shah 1991: 2). Understanding nationalism is crucial to understanding Third World women’s movements. The nation and nationalism are a form of identity, defining a collectivity or community to which the individual belongs (Enloe 1989: 49). They define an ‘us’ and by implication a ‘them’, emphasizing the assumed uniqueness and difference of a certain group of people who constitute the nation, based on ideas of shared attributes that differentiate one national group from other nations. The nation is a concept that exists in ideas rather than in concrete form. It is ‘an imagined political community’ because in no nation will every member meet or know each other, yet ‘in the minds of each lives the image of their communion’ (Anderson 1991: 6). Collective commitment underlies the nation. The nation differs from other forms of identity such as gender, religion, region, political ideology and kin because it claims a sovereign state (Yuval-Davis 1997: 16). The nation therefore becomes a community that demands its own political and territorial representation (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: 2; Gellner 1996: 1). This claim is the basis of nationalism through which support for the nation and national interests is mobilized. The intensity of people’s identification with the nation is an important component of nationalism. The nation has become, as Smith argues, ‘the most compelling identity myth of the modern world’ (Smith 1991: vii; see also Anderson 1991: 11; Tonnesson and Antlov 1996: 15). For colonized nations, the commitment to nationalism is especially significant. As Indonesia’s nationalist leader Sukarno argued, ‘you who have never known colonialism can never appreciate what it does to a man’ (Sukarno 1956, cited in Kennedy 1968: 201). Algerian feminists have explained that the need to prove the existence of and fight for the nation has a large impact on women’s activism (Enloe 1989: 45). Nationalism evokes impassioned responses and national identity is one of the most important differences among women (Yuval-Davis 1997: 11). Emotional allegiance is often the basis of Third World women’s activism as they work for the nation they believe in. Belief in and allegiance to the nation is developed through the symbolism of its distinctiveness. As an ‘imagined’ community, the nation needs to be defined to represent its unique identity, determine membership and generate recognition of its existence, by both members and outsiders. Certain attributes are promoted, including shared culture, origins, history, destiny, and admired goals and attributes. Nations are modern phenomena (see Anderson 1991; Gellner 1996), yet their claim to uniqueness is often based on tradition. Pre-modern and


Theoretical and historical background

ancient traditions are invested with the symbolism of indigenous (or national) culture, and are used to represent national identity and its claim for a separate state. At the same time, colonised nations have had to ‘prove’ their readiness to be modern states and national progress has been based on development and modernization. The inherent contradiction, whereby the nation seeks to be modern yet appeals to tradition, has particular implications for women who are often the symbols of tradition and thus excluded from the modernist project. The links between modernity and the nation also help to explain the development of nationalism in the Third World. Colonial subjects were exposed to the ideas and principles of nationalism through features of imperial rule that included modern education and communication projects and exclusion from the imagining of the metropole nation.3 Anderson (1991: 113–117) points to greater mobility through railways and motor transport, the need for bureaucracies, the spread of modern education and the marginalization of indigenous people as preconditions for the growth of nationalism. These contributed to the imagining of new nations that reacted to European rule and fought for national independence, a national identity and a modernized society for the benefit of all subjects, not only the imperial rulers (Guibernau 1996: 123; Charles and Hintjens 1998: 3; Smith 1983: 37; Tarling 1998: 74). Nationalism in the Third World is not only a movement against colonialism, but also a political ideology. It renews itself after independence, Smith (1983: 38) argues, ‘to provide a basis and rationale for new social and political units and institutions’. Anti-colonial nationalist struggles are based on the assumption and expectation of benefits and progress when national sovereignty is won. Defending and developing the nation–state, and the ongoing ‘imagining’ process, are a continuation of nationalist struggle. Indonesian nationalism The Indonesian experience of nationalism supports these theories. The concept of an Indonesian nation only developed in the twentieth century, and matched Dutch colonial borders. There was no common identity within the archipelago before the various islands and regions were incorporated into the Dutch East Indies (McVey 1996: 11). There was no shared ethnic or religious identity, with at least 14 major ethnic groups, each with their own language, region and culture, being assimilated into an Indonesian identity (Legge 1980: 4).4 There was no shared historical background. Pre-colonial states and empires, such as Srivijaya and Majapahit, did not include all the territory of the independent Indonesia and even the colonial encounter was experienced in different ways. The state of Indonesia was never ‘an integrated whole’ under Dutch colonial administration (Tarling 1998: 4–5). Yet by 1913 the idea of ‘Indonesia’ was emerging, and the symbols of a nation developed throughout the 1920s and 1930s with the adoption of a national

Missing images 17 language, national emblem, national dress and development of a national culture through the new native press and nationalist associations (Scholte 1995: 191). Anderson (1991: 121–123) argues that the education system of the Dutch East Indies provided necessary preconditions. The government schools gave the indigenous population throughout the Indies a uniform and standardized education. The geography of higher education institutions concentrated people from various islands and ethnic groups in Bandung and Batavia, the only sites of tertiary institutions. Through this the indigenous intelligentsia developed a sense of ‘otherness’ and solidarity in relation to the Dutch, who defined them as ‘Inlanders’ (natives). They began to think of themselves as Indonesians. But, as McVey (1996: 11) points out, the Indonesian nation–state was not a Dutch creation. It was something for which Indonesians actively fought. Something had ‘engaged the imagination of a significant portion of the populace, making it willing to follow new leaders in the name of a quite new idea, that of a collective Indonesian personality’. The Indonesian nation, leaders such as Sukarno acknowledged, existed ‘in the minds and hearts of men’ as ‘an imagination, . . . a spirit’ (Sukarno 1956, cited in Kennedy 1968: 201) and it was this spirit that mobilized the population to support the nationalist struggle. Nationalism continued to be a force through the 1950s, dominating domestic politics, development and international relations while the imagining of the Indonesian nation was challenged by regional movements and by the Darul Islam insurgency, which was fighting for an Islamic state (Scholte 1995: 199). These nationalist projects mobilized Indonesian women, raising the questions of how nationalism and the ongoing process of defining, defending and advancing the nation affected their activism.

Women and nationalism Women and their bodies play a central role in imagining the nation, symbolizing its uniqueness and difference, and supporting nationalist struggles. Feminist understandings of nationalism are posited on the assumption that nationalism and nationhood carry with them specific ideas of womanhood and manhood. Gender relations are central to ways in which nations are imagined or constructed (Yuval-Davis 1997: 1; Steans 1998: 65). Women’s motherhood role is emphasized. Through motherhood, women are responsible for the physical, cultural and social reproduction of the nation and are expected to take on roles of nurturing as they do within the family. Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1989: 7) have identified five roles for women in nationalism that demonstrate these points. Women are: 1 2

biological reproducers of the nation’s members; reproducers of the boundaries of the nation;


Theoretical and historical background


participants in the ideological reproduction of the collectivity and transmitters of the nation’s culture and tradition; signifiers of difference and symbols of the nation; and participants in nationalist, economic, political and military struggles.

4 5

These are the basis of most feminist analyses of nationalism. As biological reproducers, women are conceptualized as ‘mothers of the nation’, which has implications for how women’s reproductive health and rights are perceived. Reproduction can become a matter of national interest and policy, where women are either encouraged to reproduce or discouraged from doing so for the national good rather than on the basis of women’s freedom of choice.5 This becomes an important area of women’s relationship with the nation–state. Linked to women’s biological role of reproduction is the role of reproducing the boundaries of the nation. Women’s sexuality and access to their bodies become important in defining membership of the nation, determining who is and is not a member. The groups of men whom women are encouraged or forbidden to marry or have sexual intercourse with may be proscribed. If a woman marries into another group, giving up her religion or nationality, this threatens the nation and can mean her children will be members of another group (Jayawardena and De Alwis 1996: xiii). The control of women’s sexuality becomes important in maintaining the boundaries of the nation. If ‘other’ men have access to the nation’s women, it not only damages the honour of the family and community but ‘sullies the purity of the nation’ (Charles and Hintjens 1998: 10). Women’s role in cultural reproduction and transmission is also linked to the role of motherhood. ‘Women’s contribution to nation building was not only through giving birth to future citizens but also through educating them in the values and attitudes appropriate to a modern nation–state’ (Charles and Hintjens 1998: 4). Because women as mothers are the first educators and socializers of young children, they can participate in the ideological construction of the nation through these roles. Women are often ‘required to transmit the rich heritage of ethnic symbols and ways of life to the other members of the ethnic group, especially the young’ (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: 9). In most nations and nationalisms women also act as the symbols and signifiers of the nation, representing its uniqueness. Again, this is part of the process of imagining the nation. In most cases ‘women are the symbol of the nation, men its agents, regardless of the role women actually play in the movement’ (Feminist Review 1993: 1). Being ‘symbols’ of the nation imposes codes of acceptable behaviour on women. Women’s embodiment of indigenous/national tradition and culture also has important implications for women’s rights. Feminists have noted the dilemma around the so-called ‘women’s question’, where the status and position of women is caught between the need for national progress (modernization) and the maintenance of traditional culture and values that signify the uniqueness of the nation

Missing images 19 (cultural conservatism). Arguments about the proper role of women have occurred in almost all nationalist movements (Enloe 1989: 54). The final role for women in nationalism has been their mobilization in independence movements and other nationalist projects advancing and defending the interests of the nation. Women have embraced a variety of roles to support nationalist causes in the twentieth century, with mixed outcomes for themselves. Mobilizing women to defend the nation promotes a legitimate public role for women and an opportunity for political participation and role expansion (Enloe 1989: 55; West 1992: 567). However, it also carries a danger of women’s interests and identity being manipulated through concepts of national womanhood to further nationalist agendas and attract necessary support (Heng 1997: 31–32). The trend for women to be written out of official national histories or to be shown as supporting men rather than active participants (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: 10) suggests their involvement is marginalized. The possibility of co-opting women to work for national gains at the expense of gender interests has been a major concern of feminist analyses of nationalism. This is one of the dilemmas nationalism poses for women. Nationalism is a contested process for women. Women’s and nationalist movements coexist ‘in a complicated relationship of sympathy and support, mutual use and mutual cooperation, and unacknowledged contestatory tension’ (Heng 1997: 30). Nationalism allows women an active and expanded role, while simultaneously reinforcing female roles of motherhood and conformity to traditional values of femininity (Pettman 1996b: 195; Jayawardena and De Alwis 1996: x). Women are caught in the modern/tradition tensions inherent in nationalist discourses. As markers of difference and the symbolic embodiment of the nation, women have usually been expected to preserve cultural traditions and practices. Women are ‘guardians of cultural identity’ and as such symbolize stability (Charles and Hintjens 1998: 4). Because of this, it becomes very difficult for women to mobilize against discriminatory or restrictive cultural practices. Women critiquing or opposing cultural practices can be accused of betraying their national culture, adopting alien values and threatening the imagining of national identity (Charles and Hintjens 1998: 20; Heng 1997: 34). Conversely, representing the nation can, in some cases, lead to the advancement of women’s issues and reforms. In a colonial context, women became the markers not only of national difference but also of national progress. Imperial powers used the ‘backward’ and ‘degraded’ position of women as part of the justification for their rule. Traditional practices such as sati, purdah, foot-binding, child marriage and clitoridectomy symbolized the need for the civilizing influence of Europe (Thapar-Bjorkert 1997: 494; Rai 1996a: 9). Some nationalist movements, such as that in India, began social-reform movements on these issues, to protect the nation’s women (Jayawardena and De Alwis 1996: xi) and thereby prove their


Theoretical and historical background

ability/maturity and readiness to become an independent nation. Postcolonial Third World states have prioritized the ‘status of women’ in their nation-building projects (Pettman 1996a: 13). These provide women’s organizations with the opportunity to advocate improvement in women’s condition in the interest of national progress and status. Women’s roles as cultural transmitters can also be used to support claims for improvements to women’s literacy, health and so on, as this enables them to better educate the nation, thus improving the national condition. But this creates an important tension for women in nationalism, as the need for women to progress is based on promoting the nation rather than on their own rights (Yegneh 1993: 5–6). Feminists have been concerned with the extent to which nationalism offers the promise of women’s progress or co-opts women’s mobilization. The nationalist goal of political emancipation for the nation has often been presented as the prerequisite for women’s emancipation. Nationalist leaders seeking women’s contribution promise that women’s progress will and can only be addressed by an independent nation–state (ThaparBjorkert 1997: 494; Seidman 1984). There may be an implicit belief that women’s oppression will disappear with the attainment of nationalist goals (Rai 1996a: 11; West 1992: 567). Women are discouraged from confronting their same-group men over gender issues to maintain the national unity needed to fight for independence. The extent to which women’s interests are sacrificed for the national good is questioned. Women are ‘often sent “back home” after the fighting or campaigning is over and their contributions are “forgotten” and removed from the national stories’ (Pettman 1996b: 195). Their gender objectives remain unfulfilled. But women can also use their participation in national projects to legitimize claims to political equality and participation. Service to the nation becomes a basis for demanding women’s rights. Yet a central question remains: is ‘nationalism . . . “progressive” or “liberating” and, if so, from whose perspective’ (Steans 1998: 69)? This raises the issue of difference between Third World and Western women’s movements. We have to be wary of seeing the emphasis on motherhood as a sign of weakness or potential oppression of women. Motherhood carries different cultural meanings and can be a legitimate and powerful strategy (Bulbeck 1998: 21). Reflections on the 1995 Beijing women’s conference highlight the continuing centrality of difference. It was observed that in Asia ‘women’s emancipation is never just about individual rights, but fundamentally about culture, community, and the nation’ (Ong 1996: 111). Women’s movements emphasize ‘the need for collective good of the family and nation’ but West (1992: 574–576) argues against seeing women ‘pressed into’ or ‘compelled’ to defend religion, nation or family over gender. Third World women’s experiences of colonialism and structural inequalities in the global political economy make uniting with men to work for the nation their own choice (Sedghi 1994: 94).

Missing images 21 Nationalism, therefore, confronts women with a number of contradictions and dilemmas. These have made nationalism a difficult concept for feminist theorists to embrace. McClintock (1993: 63) has criticized the ‘lamentably few’ feminist analyses of nationalism. However, West (1997) is working on developing a theory of feminist nationalism that incorporates the contradictions already noted. She observes that feminist movements operating within nationalist movements share their desire to work out the contradictions in women’s struggling for women’s rights within contexts that have denied them rights as citizens at the same time that they are working on various nationalist struggles rooted in their kin, ethnic, religious, or regional group. (West 1997: xxx) Thus feminist nationalist movements concurrently seek both women’s and nationalist rights. West (1997: xxx) argues that ‘work, and the struggle for nation are not prioritised over family/leisure and the struggle for women. They are dealt with simultaneously.’ This leads us to consider the corresponding idea to the assertion that gender is central to construction of nation: the nation may also be central to construction of gender. As Kandiyoti has observed, ‘feminism is not autonomous, but bound to the signifying network of the national context which produces it’ (Kandiyoti 1991a: 433). Although Indonesian women have been largely excluded from Indonesian nationalist histories (see Taylor 1997), Indonesian histories of the women’s movement embrace nationalism and highlight the nationalist roots of women’s organizations (Kartowijono 1976: 3–4; Suryochondro 1984). Nationalism has been important to Indonesian women, as will be explored further in Chapter 2. There is now a growing literature on Indonesian women and nationalism during the colonial and republican eras (Taylor 1997; Coppel 1997; Blackburn 1999a, 1999b; Locher-Scholten 2000). These examine the ways in which women have been mobilized in the nationalist roles identified by Anthias and Yuval-Davis and the dilemmas nationalism can pose. However, there has been little analysis of the relationship between women and nationalism in post-colonial Indonesia. Vreede-de Stuers’ study of the 1950s women’s movement argues that it ‘cannot be separated from the nationalist movement’, but raised concerns about the outcomes for women (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 16). She suggested Indonesian women had gone from being ‘indispensable helpers’ to ‘competitors’, making it difficult for women to advance their interests in the independent nation (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 163). The ways in which women defined nationalism and mobilized for national interests in the new era of national statehood requires further analysis. The following chapters will address these central issues.


Theoretical and historical background

The transition to a new nation–state A central tenet of nationalism, as discussed above, is the claim to a sovereign state where the boundary of the state includes the majority of the nation’s members. This goal of anti-colonial nationalist struggles, with its promise of independent statehood and the benefits that will bring, is used to mobilize support for the imagining of the nation. For Third World women it has meant the promise that their position will improve and their interests will be addressed once the nation is ‘free’. The question of what a new nation–state means for women’s interests and activism becomes important in analyzing the relationships between women and nationalism, and in understanding women’s political participation. Some feminist writers argue that ‘nationalist revolutions are certainly not watersheds for women’ (Steans 1998: 72). There is plentiful evidence that many anti-colonial movements repeat gender relations of the imperial regimes they seek to overturn. Nationalist gains, it is argued, are often at the expense of women’s interests. Women’s concerns are marginalized in the new government’s policy and women face difficulty getting their demands on the political agenda (Benton 1998: 27; Heng 1997: 31). Although nationalists frequently promise to improve the status of women, most of these promises remain unfulfilled. These arguments, however, are not only based on certain assumptions about women’s interests being separate from national interests, but view the state as having a specific role in ‘oppressing’ or ‘liberating’ women. A state is a set of institutions, including most importantly the monopoly on legitimate violence, coercion and enforcement of order (police, courts, military); a state has a geographically bounded territory; and a state monopolizes rule-making within that territory (Gellner 1996: 4). Feminist theorists accept these definitions of the state. However, they argue that, like nationalism, gender is central to conceptualizing the state and understanding its machinery of government. Feminists view the state as an area where women have different access and relationships than men to the institutions and rulemaking of the state (Yuval-Davis 1997: 14; Pettman 1996a: 5). This can therefore make the state an agent in gender control and an arena of political practice to change gender regimes. Although the literature speaks of ‘the state’, it must be remembered that as a set of institutions and networks of power and control, the state is not a single body with a single agenda. The state operates through a number of social policies, laws, institutions and discourses, and it is neither monolithic nor unchanging. Any analysis of women’s relationship with the state needs to take account of this and be aware that there may be differences depending on which arms of the state women are dealing with. For newly emerging nation–states, such as 1950s Indonesia, the issue of nationalist embodiment within the state raises several important issues. Following independence, nationalist leaders in Asian and African postcolonial states prioritized development, national dignity and the nation’s

Missing images 23 progress, often initiating modernizing agendas (Cammack et al. 1993: 7; Rai 1996a: 10). These become new nationalist projects, mobilizing women to continue working for the nation. In the case of 1950s Indonesia, this was represented as continuing the nationalist spirit of the revolution. ‘The need for the people to sacrifice for the good of the nation, and for domestic social unity to be maintained in front of the foreign enemy’ was emphasized (McVey 1996: 20). Again the issues and dilemmas for women that surround nationalism are brought to the fore, including women’s symbolic roles and the questions of whether national interests are prioritized over gender or whether gender and national interests are addressed simultaneously, combining to produce women’s interests. Chapter 4 will discuss these issues for Indonesian women in the 1950s. However, it should be noted that the modernizing agenda of new states has been linked to the failure of newly independent nation–states to deliver on their promises of raising women’s status. The modernizing and development plans in new nation–states highlight again the tensions between the modern and the traditional that are inherent in nationalism. Male nationalist leaders looked to develop the state to advance national interest while needing to promote national identity that, as already discussed, women are often called on to symbolize. National identity is usually grounded in ideas of indigenous tradition and post-transition women have often been urged to embrace traditional lifestyles. While the modernizing agenda can offer women opportunities (including progress and role-expansion), it is constructed by a male nationalist leadership that uses women and women’s bodies to represent national tradition against Western decadence (Rai 1996a: 10; Molyneux 2000: 67). The tension is well documented. Third World women take on roles to assist the state that give them a space for political participation and the opportunity to advance women’s status. However, they do not always appear to challenge gender oppression, which in feminist analysis points to the possibility of co-option. Steans notes that women do not always attempt to change gender relations in a new state, rather they give priority to issues affecting their children, men and the wider community. They do so because of ‘the enormous pressures women are under to consolidate and stabilize new orders’ (Steans 1998: 74). Is it a matter of choosing priorities and being co-opted or are development and national interests of equal importance to women as gender issues? This question needs to be addressed in the analysis of Indonesian women’s engagement with their new state. The issue of women and the state extends beyond women’s roles in development projects. We need to examine other relationships women have with the state. While a coherent feminist theory of the state is yet to be developed, Western feminism has primarily approached the question of the state in terms of the degree to which the state is essentially good or bad for women and whether women should participate in the state or remain outside mainstream political processes (Randall 1998: 186). Feminist approaches to


Theoretical and historical background

the state have largely made use of Marxist analysis, viewing the state as a tool of oppression of women, or welfare analysis, looking at the welfare state’s control of, and benefits for, women (Rai 1996a: 6). However, this good/bad dichotomy is now viewed as too simplistic. The state is ‘evolving, dialectic and dynamic’ and needs to be seen, argues Waylen (1996b: 15), as a ‘site of struggle’ that ‘partly reflects and partly helps to create particular forms of gender relations and gender inequality’. Feminist studies have suggested that ‘women’s position is constructed through various dimensions of state policy’ (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: 10). Others question the assumption of the state’s effectiveness in subordinating women (Stivens 1990: 102). This is especially pertinent to the question of Third World women and the state. As in other areas of political theory, analysis of the state, including feminist interpretations, have ignored the Third World experience, using universalizing language to describe Western patterns and relationships. As Yuval-Davis (1998: 178) notes, in the Third World the state only partially penetrates everyday life, so ‘social relations continue to be determined by the cultural and religious customs of the national collectivity’. The focus on the welfare state, in particular, has little relevance in the post-colonial Third World, where welfare is left largely to family and community networks. Third World states can be categorized as ‘weak’ states whose regulatory powers have little direct impact on women. They do not provide the safety networks of Western states (including health, education, child care, income support), with their enshrinement of gender roles and relations. The limited ability of ‘weak’ states to disseminate information also brings into question the state role in constructing gender relations. Nevertheless, the state remains important to Third World women. Based on the Brazilian experience, Alvarez argues that, although the state is neither a mechanism of social control nor a vehicle for social change, it has potential to perform both functions at different times under different regimes (Alvarez 1990: 273). Rai maintains that the state is important to Third World women ‘to formulate, legislate and enforce laws regarding equality between men and women’, making law and public provision of education and health important concerns (Rai 1996a: 11). Legislation and its implementation often indicate the relative position of women and reveal gender relations. Women’s movements often direct action at the state, either lobbying government for change or opposing policies and laws (Molyneux 2000: 33). While women’s movements seek attitudinal and behavioural change outside the state, there are some areas that need to be challenged through the state, such as changes in laws on marriage, family, contraception, women’s work and women’s education (Alvarez 1990: 28). In post-transition situations, women’s organizations tend to focus on gaps in legislation to improve the legal framework for women (Sorenson 1998). Marriage and family laws in particular have been central to women’s interaction with the state; lobbying for resources to be directed to women is also important. In

Missing images 25 these ways the institutions of the state can help determine the agenda and form of women’s activism. Women’s relationship with the state is, therefore, complex. Women can be mobilized by the state for its own purposes, leading to the contradictory outcomes of increased participation and risks of co-option. The state can also define womanhood and gender relations while simultaneously providing an arena within which to challenge such notions. It is a two-way relationship, with women’s activism impacting on the state and the state impacting on women’s movements (Waylen 1998: 1). The important questions are how women’s movements can influence the state and policy agendas, and whether women’s movements bring their own agendas when incorporated into the state or simply get co-opted. Chapters 4 to 7 will address these issues in the context of 1950s Indonesia. Gendering citizenship With the transition to a new nation–state, questions of citizenship become increasingly important. Citizenship mediates the relationship between the individual and the state, defining legal membership of the nation–state (Yuval-Davis 1991: 58). In the post-colonial context, national independence offers indigenous populations their first opportunity to experience full citizenship. Citizenship contains three essential elements: membership, rights and responsibilities of membership, and political participation (Blackburn 1999b: 189; Yuval-Davis 1991: 59). It is an extension of nationalism, since the nation-creating process establishes not only shared membership of a collectivity but also the recognition of ‘certain mutual rights and duties to each other in virtue of [that] shared membership’ (Gellner 1996: 6–7). Feminist theorists argue that in all states the duties of citizenship have been gendered and the ways in which men and women have been incorporated as citizens is different (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1989: 6; Steans 1998: 61).6 Motherhood has been a basis for excluding women from full and equal citizenship, while simultaneously being central to concepts of women’s duties to the state and nation. Although women are incorporated as ‘equal citizens’, there is a body of regulations that relate to women specifically as women, throwing into doubt the notion of ‘equality’ as citizens (YuvalDavis 1998: 178). In a new state, nationalist projects can use citizenship to continue the work of forcing diverse groups into a single national collectivity. But, as Kandiyoti (1991a: 436) notes, this has not always extended to family and personal law. In these areas, the Third World state has been reluctant to treat women as individuals. ‘The legal equality granted to women under the constitutions of modern states is more often than not circumscribed by family legislation privileging men in the areas of marriage, divorce, child custody, maintenance and inheritance rights’ (Kandiyoti 1991a: 436). Although Kandiyoti is drawing from Middle East and South


Theoretical and historical background

Asian examples, Blackburn (1999b) has noted similar practices in the Indonesian context. The colonial and post-colonial states have been reluctant to deal with women as individuals, seeing them as part of the familial, religious and ethnic communities they symbolize. Support of widows, divorcees, the elderly, and single mothers remains with local communities. The idea of ‘Indonesian women as equal citizens is undercut by the government’s recognition that their membership of subordinate groups in society actually overrides their “equal” membership of the polity’ (Blackburn 1999b: 192). This can be linked to the dominance of family and local community over state in daily lives and to nation-building on the basis of ‘traditional’ community, religious and family practices. Chapter 6 will explore this issue further by examining Indonesian women’s lack of equal rights under marriage law and the difficulty of addressing women’s rights in the context of a new nation–state attempting to consolidate a fragile national unity. Related to this is the extent to which women enjoy full citizenship rights. This question, however, raises a final important point about citizenship in the Third World. Citizenship theory has developed to explain Western (and usually masculinized) experience and has been transplanted to analysis of the Third World. Not surprisingly, the Third World experience has been different. In the liberal Western tradition, citizenship has been constructed through individual rights and responsibilities. This can be compared to communitarian concepts that emphasize responsibilities to the collective or common good (Mouffe 1993: 83; Demaine 1996). Through communitarianism, community rights are privileged over individual rights. Citizenship becomes based on responsibility and duty as opposed to the liberal values of individual rights. For Third World women, the idea of duty has been strong. The ‘political practice of service to community and to nation’ has been a dominant discourse (Alexander and Mohanty 1997: xiii). While Western feminism has tended to operate in opposition to the state/collectivity, Third World women have fought with men for national interests (Yuval-Davis 1997: 117–118). The responsibilities of citizenship thus become another way of mobilizing women. Appeals to the nation and national interest through citizenship are used to generate women’s support and work for nationalist projects. As discussed in relation to nationalism and the state, this can be portrayed as co-opting women. But it also provides a legitimization for women’s political action. Participation in the state continues to confront women with difficult choices and ‘the tension between co-option and engagement is never fully resolved’ (Rai 2000a: 12). However, Blackburn claims the 1950s Indonesian state did not necessarily exploit women’s responsibilities of citizenship, women ‘voluntarily organized themselves to perform duties which they largely interpreted for themselves’ against a background of civic pride and nationalist spirit (Blackburn 1999b: 196). The following chapters will test this assertion, which raises again West’s (1997)

Missing images 27 concerns about conceptualizing a feminist nationalism that recognizes a simultaneous commitment to both the nation–state and women. Democratization Another important consideration in analyzing women’s engagement with a new state is the type of regime within which women act. In post-colonial Indonesia a democratic system was embraced. Democracy shares with nationalism the same basic tenet of ‘location of sovereignty with the people’ (Greenfeld 1992: 10). When a nation seeks a sovereign state, it is based on the assumption that the governing structures will represent national interest. In principle, democracy enables ‘the people’ to inform ‘the state’ of ‘the will of the nation’. Because democracy is also associated with modernity, it has almost always been a prerequisite for colonial handovers (Haynes 1997: 1). Democratization has therefore become a feature of post-colonial transition. Democratization is the process of replacing an authoritarian regime, which does not represent all members of the nation, with a democratic system. It has three phases: the initial breakdown of authoritarian rule, the transition to democratic systems and the consolidation of competitive electoral politics (Waylen 1996a: 115–116). As Third World countries gained their statehood in the 1950s and 1960s, they inevitably adopted at least the trappings of a democratic regime, including free elections. Indonesia followed this pattern. Initially, no one questioned whether Indonesia would have a parliamentary democracy (McVey 1996: 18). There was support for the principles of people’s sovereignty and equality, an independent parliament, the promise of elections, freedom of the press and assembly, and an active party system (Feith 1962: 38–45; Bourchier and Legge 1994). The modern educated elite in Indonesia viewed democracy as a ‘sign of maturity as a modern state’ and adopting democracy attracted outside support for Indonesian claims to independence (McVey 1996: 18). While there has been some debate as to the extent to which this was a democracy, there has been little analysis of what this system meant for Indonesian women.7 Case studies have shown that women’s organizations had to work as an interest group and were marginalized by party politics. Women have not been able to translate their participation in overthrowing authoritarian regimes into full and equal access to power and leadership in post-transition democracies (Jacquette and Wolchik 1998; Alvarez 1990; Rai 1996b). On the contrary, women are often expected to return to the home, their rights may be eroded and their participation is marginalized. Feminists warn that democratization ‘does not necessarily entail a democratization of power relations in society at large’ (Waylen 1994: 329) and that active participation in national struggles does not result in women having effective political power in an independent nation (Hall 1993: 100). Important questions in the analysis of women and democratization include the impact women’s


Theoretical and historical background

movements have on the design of post-transition institutions, how political practices include or exclude women, and how differences among women enable or reduce access to political influence (Rai 2000b). When democracy is analysed from a gender perspective, it is shown to exclude women or deny them full and equal participation. Women have had difficulty using electoral strategies to acquire political influence in new democracies. Studies show ‘women are simply not being elected’ and remain under-represented everywhere in state hierarchies, political party leadership and decision-making positions (Schmitter 1998: 227; Waylen 1998: 9; Jacquette and Wolchik 1998: 9). Even if women are elected, there is no guarantee they will serve women or pursue women’s interests. Female MPs do not necessarily come out of the women’s movement, may be conservative and usually represent political party interests that take precedence. Some feminists question the effectiveness of democracy as a system for meeting women’s interests and suggest it may need to be changed to include direct democracy, selecting by lot or categorical representation (Schmitter 1998: 227–228). To explain women’s marginalization, feminist political theorists have examined stereotypes surrounding women’s political participation. Women have been considered to be apolitical, passive, conservative and uninterested in using their right to vote, all assumptions that are shown to be groundless when tested (see Randall 1987). However, certain barriers preventing women’s full participation have been identified. These include cultural values, lower literacy rates, deference to male political opinion, lack of political experience, the structures of political parties (their style, for example, or meeting times), and family and domestic responsibilities that reduce the mobility, independence and energy needed to participate as party leaders, as MPs and in other leadership roles (Pettman 1996a; Sorenson 1998). This again returns us to the contradictions nationalism holds for women. It is their familial roles that provide the basis for active participation in nationalist projects, but these also become a means to exclude women from post-transition decision-making, particularly in a post-colonial context where national identity is being constructed on a basis of notions of appropriate womanhood. Another important consideration for women in post-transition politics is the so-called autonomy versus integration dilemma. Should they remain independent from the now-institutionalized political parties and risk losing influence, or should they integrate with mainstream politics and risk being co-opted (Waylen 1994: 339–340)? This is especially relevant in Third World contexts where there has been a trend towards political parties utilizing women’s auxiliaries. The questions of what women’s wings in national parties mean for women’s representation and how they benefit women need to be examined. However, we need to expand our interpretation of democratization beyond mainstream politics and state-leadership to consider other roles and

Missing images 29 opportunities for women in a post-transition democracy. There has been surprisingly little attention paid to how women contribute to rebuilding countries after conflict. Of particular interest is how women use their new political, social and economic rights in post-transition regimes and contribute to political, economic and social reconstruction (Sorenson 1998). As understandings of democracy are grounded in the idea of freedom, democracy promises the opportunity for increased participation in all aspects of public life. Lobbies are able to pursue policy/resource allocation (Molyneux 2000: 40). For Indonesia in the 1950s, the democratic system gave women greater scope to engage in activism compared to the authoritarian regimes of the colonial and Guided Democracy/New Order eras (Blackburn 1999b: 198). Indonesian women were therefore able to pursue their own interests. This is an important reason for analyzing this period. How well democracy served Indonesian women’s interests and the extent to which Indonesian women were able to translate participation in the transition movement into participation in the new political structures are important questions addressed throughout this book. The nation, state and democracy never exclude women, although women have been marginalized within them. These processes are gendered, treating women differently to men, and are based in ideas of womanhood that stress motherhood and duty to the nation. The tensions confronting women within nationalist projects and as they engage with the state, citizenship and democracy have all been highlighted. It is these tensions that require further analysis. The important questions are the roles and meanings nationalism had for Indonesian women – and how these impacted on definitions of womanhood and female citizenship – and women’s engagement in a new democratic state. Chapter 2 will examine the roots of Indonesian women’s activism to demonstrate its links and commitment to nationalism and national interests. The following chapters then explore the extent to which Indonesian women were able to translate participation in the nationalist movement into political influence in the new state, and what democracy and national sovereignty offered women.


Emergence of a women’s movement Nationalism and women’s rights in Indonesia, 1900–1949

Individuals can do something by themselves to raise the development of our people, but if we come together, unite our energies, work together, then we could work more profitably. (Kartini, in Cote 1992: 127)

The modern Indonesian women’s movement emerged during the first half of the twentieth century, alongside and as part of the nationalist movement. Women’s gender interests and nationalist sentiment were closely linked. Women with an interest in one often became active participants in the other. These links with nationalism characterize most Third World women’s movements and have a major impact on their subsequent growth and development. To understand the Indonesian women’s movement of the 1950s, we need to first consider the legacies of the colonial/nationalist era of 1900 to 1949. To that end, this chapter discusses the historical background to the postindependence women’s movement, tracing the history of women’s activism from its beginnings in the 1900s to the Proclamation of Independence in 1945 and the revolution that followed. It examines the structure and agenda of the women’s movement in the decades prior to independence, and the influence on women’s mobilization of the colonial state and nationalism. It also considers the impact of the Japanese occupation and the fight for national independence. The nature of the colonial and revolution-era women’s movement can then be contrasted with 1950s organizations to show how women’s issues and activism changed or remained the same in an independent democratic nation–state. This discussion will explore women’s roles in the anti-colonial struggle and in the emerging Indonesian nation, highlighting their commitment to the nationalist cause.

The roots of women’s activism Historical accounts of the Indonesian women’s movement often locate the roots of women’s activism in nineteenth-century women warriors1 who fought against Dutch rule. Participant histories (Kowani 1986: 29–34; Noor

Emergence of a women’s movement 31 1959a: 4) and state publications (Murpratomo 1989: 447; Department of Information 1985: 1) recall them as early tokoh, or prominent persons, of the women’s movement. These women did not pursue any programme of women’s rights and cannot, therefore, be considered founders of the women’s movement. But they demonstrated that women could and did have a public role. Although their activities predated the concept of Indonesia, representations of their struggles against colonialism have made them national heroes of a nation they could never have imagined.2 Their representation is interesting because it illustrates the close links between nationalism and Third World women’s movements. They have become symbols of a tradition of strong and active Indonesian womanhood. There are two important aspects of this symbolism. First, the tokoh took on what are, in almost all societies and cultures, the male role of soldiering. This is a reminder of women’s active participation in the struggle for Indonesian sovereignty and can be viewed as a claim to citizenship. By linking the women’s movement to these ‘warriors’, the idea that Indonesian women have earned their place in the nation is reinforced. Related to this is the need for Third World women’s movements to ‘prove’ their ‘nativeness’. Women’s movements are often attacked for being little more than an imitation of Western feminism, but by claiming nationalist heroes as predecessors, Indonesian women represent their movement as the descendant of indigenous tradition. This mirrors nationalist myth-creation, by which an essentially modern phenomenon is given a traditional character. However, women’s movements need certain social and political preconditions to evolve, and these did not exist in the first wave of anti-colonialism. The movement’s roots lie not with anti-colonial warriors, but with a new class of educated women who, from the beginning of the twentieth century, began to analyse their societies in terms of the unequal status and treatment of women. A defining characteristic of women’s movements is an analysis of society that identifies a system of female disadvantage. This is the basis of the movement’s beliefs and objectives. A women’s movement cannot develop without the recognition and articulation of the problems women encounter as women in their society. In Indonesia, this phase is inextricably linked with Kartini (Vreede-de Stuers 1960; Kowani 1986), who has been mythologized as a symbol of both nationalism and the awakening of the Indonesian women’s movement.3 Largely based on letters written to Dutch friends between 1899 and 1904, Kartini’s reputation is that of ‘the pioneer of the emancipation of the Indonesian woman’ (Mangoenkoesoemo 1956: 19). Although Kartini recognized the need for collective action to achieve social change, she did not establish any women’s organizations. Her letters, published posthumously in 1911, are her lasting legacy to the movement.4 But these were never meant to ‘speak’ to other Indonesian (or, more accurately for the time, Javanese) women. It is therefore difficult to conceive of Kartini as the movement’s


Theoretical and historical background

founder. Nevertheless, her letters are important because they represent emerging discontent with prevailing norms of women’s roles, the injustices faced by women, and growing calls for ‘freedom, independence and emancipation’ (Cote 1992: 27). While the thoughts and feelings of most of her contemporaries are lost, Kartini’s letters are a passionate account of the new women’s consciousness. The ideas she expressed have provided, to some extent, an agenda and checklist for women’s progress.5 Kartini saw education, marriage and employment as the most important issues facing women. These concerns were debated in the emerging women’s and nationalist media, in the women’s organizations that were established from 1912 and in submissions to colonial inquiries.6 They dominated the new discourse on women’s interests. While Kartini wrote as a member of the elite Javanese priyayi, the issues similarly affected women from other classes, regions and ethnic groups. The agenda evolved throughout the colonial period, but before discussing its development we need to consider why women began to speak out. Social movement theories offer social-structural change as an explanation. They argue this creates tensions that lead to mobilization. Writers who support notions of pre-colonial traditions of Indonesian women’s ‘high status’ explain the emergence of the movement in similar terms. They argue women’s position in Indonesian society declined during colonialism (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 47; Baried 1986a: 141–143), a decline that could become a social tension. For this interpretation to hold true, the position of women in Indonesian society must be established and the extent of deterioration clearly demonstrated. This is extremely difficult to determine. Class, regional, religious, ethnic, educational and other differences between women in both pre-colonial and twentieth-century Indonesia make statements on ‘position’ problematic. The notion of ‘high status’ and what that translates into for women is also contentious. More importantly, articulations of women’s interest did not suggest a decline or promote a return to a utopian pre-colonial situation.7 In the case of colonial Indonesia, it is more useful to consider the role of social and political change in creating the necessary preconditions for nationalism and women’s mobilization. The most important of these forces was Western-style education. Although education was an important demand of the first women activists, most had already received some level of formal education.8 Education gave women the ability to analyse and articulate their concerns. What is surprising, as Blackburn (1997b: 5) has noted, is that so few years of schooling were required to challenge notions of gender. While most women were drawn into activism because of the experience of female disadvantage, it was education, the new Indonesian press and greater communication that enabled the ideas to spread, and indicated a growing collective commitment to improving the status of women.9 These were crucial for the development of a women’s movement.

Emergence of a women’s movement 33

The first phase: articulating women’s interests The first stage of developing a social movement is the identification and promotion of its core beliefs, the set of values and ideas to which participants agree to adhere. For the Indonesian women’s movement, these were grounded in concepts of female advancement. Education and marriage reform in particular were viewed as fundamental to women’s progress. These ideas became the basis of women’s mobilization and were conceptualized as women’s interests. Education Calls for education dominated the early phase of women’s activism. Few girls had access to formal education in the early twentieth century.10 This was partly due to the limited number of educational facilities, which prompted individual women to establish girls’ schools. However, there were also important social norms that discouraged female education. Boys were given first priority in schooling. A basic home education was considered sufficient for girls who were usually destined for marriage. Among devout Islamic and Javanese priyayi communities, the practice of seclusion when girls reached puberty often halted their formal education (Cote 1992: 29; Whalley 1993: 183). The lower classes faced economic barriers and girls had to work to help support the household (Williams 1991: 15). In the Outer Islands, girls fortunate enough to receive primary schooling were usually unable to pursue higher studies. Higher educational facilities were concentrated in Java and, while it was socially acceptable for sons to leave the family home, it was unusual for daughters to be allowed the same freedom (Blackburn 1997b: 13). These factors limited women’s educational opportunities. Education was an important gender interest because it was a means of empowering women, of increasing their autonomy, financial freedom and status.11 In submissions to the Native Welfare Inquiry (published in 1914), women argued for girls’ education so they could ‘become competent in an occupation by means of which they can later become financially independent’ or learn housekeeping, child-raising, hygiene and health skills (Blackburn 1997b: 7). Ignorance was a danger to women’s health and contributed to women’s lower status. Education also had the potential to broaden women’s employment opportunities, providing an alternative to marriage and dependency on a man (Soebadio 1981: 7; Blackburn 1997b: 16). However, marriage and motherhood were also important reasons for girls’ education, with women arguing there was a need to teach girls housekeeping and child-rearing skills so they could become better mothers (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 175; Blackburn 1997b). Education demands were largely expounded within a discourse of motherhood and vocational education reinforced traditional roles through notions of ‘suitable’ jobs for women.


Theoretical and historical background

Education, therefore, was conceptualized primarily as a practical gender interest. It would enable women to better fulfil their gender roles, and receive greater respect for them, but did not challenge societal constructions of gender. There are several explanations for this. First, education for girls was still a contentious issue. For conservative sectors of Indonesian society, even training in housework held the potential for girls to be exposed to modern ideas that would conflict with their parents’ beliefs (Blackburn 1997b: 10). Contemporary colloquial Malay literature was often antagonistic to female education (Coppel 1997: 35). Framing demands within the concept of motherhood may have made it less threatening. Second, the reality of women’s lives was that most would become wives and mothers. Education to better prepare women for these roles addressed an important basic need. Finally, the focus on motherhood drew on the emerging nationalist discourse. The cry of the period was for kemadjoean or progress for the nation (Shiraishi 1990: 43). Women were able to subvert their role as ‘mothers of the nation’ in such a way as to use nationalist arguments to advance their gender interests. Women, as mothers, were the first educators of the next generation. They needed to be educated so the nation would ‘progress’. In her 1903 memorandum ‘Give the Javanese Education!’, Kartini asked ‘how can Javanese mothers educate their children if they themselves are uneducated? The education and development of the Javanese people can never adequately advance if women are excluded’ (Cote 1992: 530). Other women also argued that the progress of the Javanese people depended on the education of girls who become the mothers of the next generation (Blackburn 1997b: 9). Siti Soendari’s submission to the Native Welfare Inquiry warned ‘the Javanese people will not progress if Javanese women remain ignorant’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 175). In the 1916 Colonial Education Congress, she further pushed nationalist arguments, claiming women’s education was necessary for the respect of the Javanese nation (Blackburn 1997b: 13). This suggests women were not only mothers of the nation but were becoming symbols of the nation. By 1928, nationalist leader Sukarno was raising concerns about the ‘women’s question’ and the fact that their low status showed Indonesia was being ‘left very far behind’ (Sukarno 1928: 92). The degree of backwardness or maturity of the colonized nation was often judged by the status of women. Marriage Marriage practices, like education, were also an indication of the lower status of women and constituted another dominant theme in the first articulations of women’s interests. Kartini spoke of marriage as one of the repressive factors in women’s lives, describing her sister’s wedding as the day of execution (Cote 1992: 137). She drew attention to the subordination of wives, the humiliating practice of polygamy, arranged and child marriages, and arbitrary divorce (Cote 1992: 46, 121, 135, 208). Polygamy and divorce

Emergence of a women’s movement 35 in particular were indicative of women’s unequal position in society, with divorce bringing shame on the woman and her family (Soebadio 1981: 7). Submissions to the Native Welfare Inquiry called polygamy and child marriage a ‘gangrene on society’, and noted women suffered more than men could imagine (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 174–175). These issues faced women of all classes and in almost all regions and communities in Indonesia. Non-elite Javanese women, like their elite counterparts, were subject to forced marriage, child marriage, arbitrary divorce and polygamy. Child and forced marriage were practised in most regions. Polygamy occurred in Hindu Bali as well as in Islamic areas, although it was less common among lower classes due to financial constraints. Women, it was claimed, lived in fear of divorce, desertion or a second wife, and lost their independence when married (Soendari 1916, cited in Blackburn 1997b: 17). These practices were distressing for the individual women involved and highlighted constructions of gender that disempowered women. Activists advocated marriage reform, demanding monogamy, free choice of marriage partner, regulated divorce and the abolition of child marriage. In challenging marriage practices, women questioned societal norms and marriage reform became a strategic gender interest. As such, it was a more difficult and contentious issue than education. Whereas education captured nationalist imagination and women were able to use nationalist discourse to advance their claims, this was not the case with marriage. The PNI (Indonesian Nationalist Party) did include elimination of polygamy, child marriage and forced marriage in its 1928 platform (Brown 1981: 70), but there seems to have been little real commitment. Polygamy in particular was often downplayed as an issue. PKI leader Semaun, for example, told a 1922 international communist congress that ‘polygyny is almost non-existent among our people, it amounts to not more than 2 per cent’ (Semaun, in McVey 1966: 64). It was a difficult and potentially divisive issue. Nationalists needed women’s support and as such addressed the issue, but they also needed unity and feared alienating the numerically strong Islamic groups. Marriage issues were to be problematic for decades to come, but remained at the heart of the women’s movement. Broadening the agenda Other issues, however, were also incorporated into the movement’s agenda. One of these was employment and the independence it offered women. There was a class bias to this. Elite women seemingly envied peasant women who were actively engaged in the workforce. Kartini campaigned within her own family for the opportunity to pursue employment, whereas non-elite women had little choice. They were already engaged in a number of economic roles as agriculturalists and traders: it was a question of economic survival. Because they had to enter the public sphere, peasant women were not subject to the restrictions placed on women of Kartini’s class, including


Theoretical and historical background

seclusion. But their public, economic roles did not give non-elite women greater power. The Native Welfare Inquiry heard demands for the regulation of female labour in factories and equal pay for equal work (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 174–175). Dewi Sartika told the inquiry: ‘As a woman it cuts me to the quick that such women, although performing the same duties as men, earn less wages than them’ (cited in Blackburn 1997b: 8). While elite women demanded the right to work, they also fought against the exploitation of women’s labour. Other issues raised by Indonesian women included calls for the abolition of concubinage, combating prostitution and venereal disease, and adequate information on sex, hygiene and childbirth (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 174–175). Heath and sexuality were also women’s interests. Concubinage is an interesting issue in relation to class and nationalist beliefs. Educated women and men condemned it. During the 1910s, Indonesian press attacks against Indonesian women living as concubines with Chinese and European men were often reported in the Inlandsch Persoverzicht. The women were reviled as traitors to the nation for their sexual relations with ‘other’ men (Blackburn 1999b: 190). One of the nationalist criticisms of this practice (which had been encouraged by colonial authorities) was related to the European men having legal rights over any children (Stoler 1996). This shows that women were perceived as boundarymarkers for the nation (discussed in the previous chapter as one of the central roles for women in the nation) and is another example of the influence of nationalist discourse on women’s interests. The first voices of Indonesian women’s activism identified several areas of women’s interests. They recognized women’s subordination and developed an agenda aimed at improving women’s everyday lives and status. A women’s movement was emerging. It addressed both practical and strategic gender interests, drawing strongly on nationalism to support women’s rights. For educated and politically active Indonesian women, nationalism and nationalist goals became increasingly important as they began to establish organizations to address women’s interests.

‘The world of movement’ 12 : organization-building in the nationalist era Women’s organizations were an important part of the strategy to advance the position of women and address the issues identified in the emerging agenda. The first formal Indonesian women’s organizations were established from 1912, developing in the midst of the nationalist movement. The new organizations represented a significant stage in the emergence of the Indonesian women’s movement. Organization-building enabled the fledgling movement to engage larger numbers of women, consolidate their activities and mobilize greater support when lobbying the state and society. The birth of modern organizations in Indonesia is dated to the period from 1908 to 1912. In what Shiraishi (1990) vividly describes as an age in

Emergence of a women’s movement 37 motion, organizations to advance the interests of the local people proliferated. Women’s organizations developed as part of this new political trend. Indonesian women’s organizations describe their founding leaders as representative of the nationalist spirit of the time (Wanita Katolik 1995: 35; Muslimat NU 1979: 39), again ‘proving’ the Indonesian roots of the women’s movement. But the influence of nationalism was more than symbolic. Nationalism was the dominant political process of the period and, in addition to shaping the discourse on women’s rights, it influenced the structure of the movement. The nationalist movement itself established many women’s organizations, with nationalist leaders recognizing the need to engage women’s support for the cause (Sukarno 1928: 91). The first women’s organization, Poetri Mardika, for example, was established under the auspices of Boedi Oetomo, the first nationalist association. Most of the nationalist, religious and political organizations from the 1910s and 1920s continued this practice and established women’s wings or sections. This had some important consequences. First, it assigned women auxiliary or supportive roles rather than leadership positions, portraying women as assistants to men in the new nation. However, women’s wings did provide a legitimate public space in which to discuss their gender interests. These concerns were sidelined in mainstream organizations, where women’s voices were largely unheard. In the secular PNI it was noted that women ‘just became the obedient followers of men’ (Sedar 2 1932: 9–10, cited in Blackburn 1999c: 34). Women in Aisjijah, the women’s auxiliary of Moehammidijah, were separated by a tabir (curtain) at public meetings because it was not acceptable for women and men to mix in public or for women to speak before men (Blackburn 1999c: 4).13 In women’s sections, by contrast, women had freedom to develop their own ideas and activities, ensuring women’s interests were not lost. The nationalist-led trend towards collective action also encouraged independent women’s organizations to emerge, by legitimizing political action within Indonesian communities. Indonesian women’s relationship with the nationalist movement was therefore contradictory, a common tension as discussed in the previous chapter. The practice of male-dominated organizations establishing women’s sections also meant that women increasingly mobilized around various ideological, religious, ethnic and nationalist identities to address non-gender interests. A layering of identities was evident. Women organized by their gender and nation, and then by their religion or political affiliation, especially as political parties developed from the 1920s. Women often carried a double burden in this, supporting the nation and their religion/ideology. In Aisjijah, for example, women were not just the educators and reproducers of the nation but also had to teach women about Islam so they would produce good Muslims (Aisyiyah 1996: 30). This became problematic when they then attempted to address gender interests. Many Muslim women had to confront tensions between Islam and gender, especially in regard to


Theoretical and historical background

polygamy, which they defended as a religious belief (Wieringa 1995: 81). This stance brought them into conflict with anti-polygamy activists. The complexity of women’s identity meant women’s interests remained central to all women’s organizations but their other identities influenced interpretations on how best to advance the position of women. The final consequence of women’s organizations forming as part of the nationalist movement was the similarity of their organizational structures. Both autonomous women’s organizations and women’s wings shared the modern forms of organization and concepts of ‘native solidarity’ that characterized nationalist organizations (Shiraishi 1990: 48). The growing importance of what would later be articulated as Indonesian identity was a major feature. These organizations rejected marginalization as natives and sought new identities based on the sense of belonging to the archipelago. These new identities were initially regionally and locally based, with appeals to Javanese, Ambonese or Minangakabau identity, for example. The first wave of women’s organizations shared this structure and they were usually regionally rather than nationally orientated. It was not until 1928, following the Sumpah Pemuda (Youth Oath), that Indonesia as a nation captured the imagination. Indigenousness and nationality were now defining womanhood and this meant women who were not part of the nation were excluded. Organizations were reluctant to admit non-indigenous members. The Chinese had been excluded from the imagining of nativeness and most Chinese women remained outside the Indonesian women’s movement because of their perceived ‘otherness’ (Blackburn 1999b: 190). Chinese women and women of the Arab community were also excluded by the men of their communities. Whereas Indonesian organizations had established women’s wings to mobilize women, the Chinese and Arab communities were much slower to do so, restricting women to social and charitable activities (Blackburn 1999c: 4, 12, 58). Neither group was engaged in a nationalist project and so had no need to mobilize women. This further demonstrates the importance of nationalism in providing opportunities for women’s political participation. Dutch women also had a separate movement, one that was mainly concerned with suffrage (see Blackburn 1999a). Indonesian women appeared reluctant to cooperate with Dutch women during the nationalist era. The new organizations also excluded the lower classes. Membership of the women’s associations came primarily from the elite classes of Indonesian society. It was these women who had the time to devote to the movement and the education to read the ideas espoused in women’s journals. Blackburn refers to them as an ‘exceptional group’, unrepresentative of most women for whom illiteracy, poverty and societal disapproval were barriers to political participation (Blackburn 1999c: 74). Most organizations charged membership fees, another barrier to the lower classes. Dutch restrictions on grass-roots political organizing (Feith 1970: 7) also made it difficult to broaden movement membership.

Emergence of a women’s movement 39 It is not possible to explore the history of all women’s organizations. Many were informal and few records survive. Table 2.1 gives some examples of organizations in the first phase of organization-building (1915–1928). It shows the variety in identities, the practice of women’s wings and the common emphasis on education as a strategy to advance women and improve their status.

Table 2.1 Early women’s organizations 1915–1928 Organization




Poetri Mardika



Focused on women’s education, with the objective of educating girls so they would acquire skills to make them financially independent. Offered scholarships to enable girls to attend school.

Keradjinan Amai Setia 1914

Kota Gedung, West Sumatra

Aimed to raise women’s status through teaching literacy, established the first school for girls in West Sumatra.

Pawiyatan Wanito



A general, unaffiliated women’s organization.




Islamic, women’s branch of Muhammadiyah.




Aimed to improve women’s education in Minahasa.

Poetri Boedi Sedjati



Ran day and boarding schools for girls.

Wanodyo Oetomo



Women’s branch of Sarekat Islam, with a programme to improve the position of women in general.

Keutamamna Isteri Minangkabau


Padang Pajang

Operated schools teaching domestic science.

Sarekat Kaoem Iboe Soematera



A federation of women’s associations in Sumatra that produced the journal Al Sjarq.

Wanita Taman Siswa



Women’s section of Persatuan Taman Siswa.

Wanita Katolik



The women’s wing of Partai Katolik.

Damesafdeeling Jong Islamieten Bond



Women’s section of Jong Islamieten Bond.

Ina Toeni



A section of Sarekat Ambon set up to assist SA in advocating Ambonese interests in the army.

Poeteri Setia



A welfare organization.

Sources: Suryochondro 1984: 207–210; Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 64–67; Kowani 1986: 42–44; Ohorella et al. 1992: 7–9; Emilia 1995: 3, 7–10.


Theoretical and historical background

These women’s organizations were mainly involved in education and social welfare. They ran literacy campaigns, education in domestic sciences, sewing classes, courses on child care, first aid courses and welfare for the poor. Through service provision, organizations began to address women’s practical gender interests. A number of organizations established journals that allowed further discussion and dissemination of ideas on women’s emancipation. However, the success of women’s organizations was limited. They faced some community opposition and the ongoing difficulty of reconciling differences among women. Although nationalism legitimized their activities, some sectors warned politics was incompatible with women’s domestic responsibilities and threatened their honour (Kemadjoean Hindia, 27 April 1923, in Blackburn 1999c: 5). Conservative sectors of the population opposed the 1928 women’s congress, arguing that it was men’s responsibility not women’s to discuss public matters and suggesting that ‘women’s only place is in the kitchen’ (Suratmin et al. 1991: 12). Women’s organizations also operated within a hostile state. Their association with nationalism made them enemies of the Dutch and many women activists spent time in jail.14 It was not until 1928 that women began to work together on their common gender objectives and thus became stronger as a political force effecting change.

Women’s congresses and collective action: consolidating the movement United collective action began in 1928 when the first women’s congress was held. This gave women’s organizations a forum in which to meet and discuss women’s issues. By supporting congress resolutions, women’s organizations acknowledged their common objectives. This did not mean they were always in agreement or that all women’s organizations necessarily participated. But for the first time collective action around a formalized agenda was evident and a movement had therefore emerged. The date of the first congress, 22 December 1928, continues to be commemorated and celebrated in Indonesia as the anniversary of the women’s movement. Over 1,000 delegates, including representatives from 30 women’s organizations, attended the first congress (Suratmin et al. 1991: 9). The aim of the congress was to bring together women’s organizations to discuss important gender issues and establish a formal relationship so there was a united voice with which to represent Indonesian women.15 The Indonesian women’s movement continued to operate through congresses for the remainder of the colonial period and into independence. The first congress agreed to form a federation of Indonesian women’s associations, the Perikatan Perempuan Indonesia (PPI). Twenty organizations joined. The name was changed to Perikatan Perhimpunan Isteri Indonesia (PPII) at the 1929 Jakarta congress. The PPII declared itself to be non-political, secular and based its activities on the aspirations of Kartini.

Emergence of a women’s movement 41 Further congresses were held in 1930 (Surabaya), 1932 (Solo) and 1933 (Jakarta). However, this strategy of federating women’s organizations into one association was unsuccessful, with many organizations remaining outside the PPII’s jurisdiction. A second general women’s congress was held in Jakarta in 1935, attended by PPII members and non-member women’s organizations. PPII was disbanded in favour of permanent, ongoing congresses for all women’s organizations, which were held in 1938 (Bandung) and 1941 (Semarang). This less structured coalition allowed women’s organizations to maintain their separate identities and pursue religious or political interests as well as their gender concerns. The women’s movement defined itself as non-political, social and nationalist. In 1935 the congress formally adopted nationalism and social activities as its basis. Women’s organizations had to commit themselves to working toward national independence (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 27). This shows the contradiction inherent in the women’s movement’s perception of politics. The movement declared itself non-political, but embraced the politics of nationalism. ‘Non-political’ meant ideologically non-aligned and with an emphasis on social welfare rather than overtly political activities. Social work activities were based on women’s duty, as Ibu Bangsa (Mother of the Nation), to improve conditions for Indonesian society. The final resolution of the 1935 congress formalized this by stating ‘Indonesian women had the duty, as mother of the people, to make the new generation conscious of its duties towards Indonesia’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 31). The family imagery implicit in this comment, and in most nationalist discourse, was strong and women continued to draw on it to subvert the role of motherhood and demand education and marriage rights in terms of the nation’s progress. In the process, they increasingly defined Indonesian womanhood in terms of motherhood. The congresses continued to discuss and expand the issues first raised by Kartini. The status and progress of women, marriage and divorce laws, child marriage, women and Islam, social work, child care, education, health, economic and labour issues, nationalism, suffrage, and the responsibilities of women, especially as mothers, were all included in the programme (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 19–34). Education remained important, with calls to the government for more schools and the eradication of illiteracy. Congresses also developed research and information services for women on health, marriage and welfare issues. Marriage continued to dominate the agenda and brought conflict between secular and religious women’s groups. Because of the importance of this issue in the 1950s, we need to give some attention to the debates of the colonial period. At the 1928 congress, debate raged after a Muslim delegate defended polygamy on the grounds that it stopped ‘surplus’ women entering prostitution. When challenged on why unmarried women would necessarily become prostitutes, she revised her position. Discussions were then carefully steered around polygamy and divorce to avoid further conflict and maintain a


Theoretical and historical background

fragile unity. A meeting was held in 1929 to protest the failure of the congress to fully debate these issues (Brown 1981: 73–74), but the movement was finding it difficult to reconcile the views of secular and Islamic women’s organizations.16 Isteri Sedar (established in 1930) refused to join PPII, believing it would be unable to act on the issue of marriage because of the diverse religious and social interests within the federation. Isteri Sedar felt attempting to work with Islamic women’s groups would weaken its strong stance against polygamy. Various Islamic women’s groups, on the other hand, were opposed to working with Isteri Sedar and protested against its demands for the abolition of polygamy (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 91). To appease Islamic women’s groups, the 1930 congress did not discuss polygamy or divorce, confirming Isteri Sedar’s concerns. At the 1935 congress, polygamy continued to be contentious. Ratna Siri (PERMI, West Sumatra) defended polygamy as women’s duty in a paper that shocked most delegates. It sent Soewarni Pringgodigdo into such a rage that she stormed to the podium announcing Isteri Sedar was walking out of the congress. Maria Ullfah Soebadio sought the middle ground, instructing the congress not to debate this paper in order to maintain the unity necessary to fight colonial rule (Soebadio 1981: 10). In a 1983 interview she explained that ‘I also wanted monogamy, but I didn’t want to antagonize all Islamic women. After all we still needed them for the struggle for independence’ (Wieringa 1995: 80). The congress agreed to sidestep the issue once more. Instead of challenging religious and cultural constructs of gender, women’s organizations were instructed to give assistance to individual women suffering injustice in marriage. Setting up consultation bureaus was a strategy acceptable to both Islamic and non-Islamic groups. The marriage issue was watered down in the interests of nationalist unity. That nationalist interests of unity were now placed ahead of gender interests concerning polygamy was clearly demonstrated in 1937 when the Dutch colonial government proposed a new marriage ordinance. They proposed a voluntary registration of Muslim marriages, which would mean the husband accepted monogamy and his wife could demand a divorce if he took a second wife. Islamic groups rejected this on religious grounds. Isteri Sedar, Poetri Boedi Sedjati and the Pandang Pajang branch of Sarekat Kaoem Iboe Soematera supported the ordinance as a step toward outlawing polygamy (Blackburn 1999c: 36). Most other women’s organizations refused to support it, even though it addressed some of their objections to polygamy, viewing the move as a divide-and-rule tactic (Doran 1986: 26). The women’s congress rejected the proposal, prioritizing the needs of the nation (Soebadio 1981: 11). Nationalist priorities also influenced emerging political interests. As discussed earlier, congresses described the women’s movement as nonpolitical but embraced nationalist politics. They also increasingly addressed the political interest of suffrage. Suffrage was first discussed at the 1935 congress and was raised again in 1938 when the Governor General appointed

Emergence of a women’s movement 43 a Dutch woman, but no Indonesian women, to the Volksraad (Blackburn 1999a: 211). Protests followed, and in 1941 the congress demanded votes for women. The campaign for women’s suffrage had been primarily a concern of Dutch women. With no elected legislatures exercising any real power, the issue of suffrage failed to ignite the imagination of the Indonesian women’s movement. When they did act, it was out of nationalist concerns, opposing the appointment of a ‘foreign’ woman and supporting the nationalist campaign for an Indonesian parliament (Blackburn 1999a: 215–216). Institutional political interests had little relevance in the colonial context, but would become more important in an independent state. Engagement with the international women’s movement was another area of little importance in the colonial context, although the PPII did select delegates to attend the 1931 Congress of Asian Women in Lahore (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 23). This was the first time Indonesian women were represented at an international level. International activities became more significant after independence, when the new nation–state sought world recognition of its statehood, as Chapter 7 discusses. Between 1928 and 1941, the Indonesian women’s movement had located itself within the nationalist movement. It was now seen as ‘the younger full sister of Indonesian nationalism’ (Keutamaan Isteri, April 1939, in Vreedede Stuers 1960: 67). Nationalist interests had been prioritised, with nationalist leaders arguing that women needed to strive with men ‘for our rights as a nation’ and not merely ‘change their status from that of a small slave into that of a big slave’ (Sukarno 1928: 93). Despite the argument that only independence could bring women’s progress, women never completely abandoned their own gender interests. The issues first raised by Kartini dominated congress discussion and decision-making. It was only the Japanese occupation that brought a temporary halt to activism around women’s particular interests.

Women’s organizations and the Japanese occupation The Japanese occupation of Indonesia (1942–1945) has been viewed as an important phase in nationalist history because it brought about changes that made the nationalist revolution possible (Ricklefs 1993: 199; Legge 1980: 138). However, histories of the women’s movement view it as having less significance. Indonesian women’s organizations were banned, along with all Indonesian organizations, and replaced with Japanese-sanctioned groups. Although some organizations tried to keep meeting informally, the only way to continue public activity was through Japanese-authorized organizations. The military administration set the agenda, mobilizing women to pursue the interests of the new regime. It was dangerous to act outside prescribed activities. Women who did so were blacklisted, detained or imprisoned (Kartowijono 1976: 7; Taylor 1993: 9). The movement was constrained by the Japanese regime and was no longer able to focus on Indonesian women’s


Theoretical and historical background

interests. However, the period had some important effects on the structure of the women’s movement and strengthened women’s nationalist feelings. The basic structure of women’s mobilization remained largely unchanged. Women’s participation in the public arena continued to be auxiliary, with each of the Japanese women’s organizations established as a wing of larger organizations.17 Japanese concepts of Asian womanhood, like Indonesian nationalist discourse, defined women’s duties as assisting their husband, children and the community (Birandi 1943; Kai 1945). For the first time, however, the state mobilized Indonesian women and women’s wartime roles were developed. Women’s organizations were used to support the Japanese war effort. Fujinkai was the main women’s organization of the Japanese era. Its frontline activities included first aid, dapur umum (communal kitchens) and sewing uniforms. On the home front they tended crops, wove yarn, popularized a simple lifestyle, and ran literacy campaigns, social welfare and health care (Suryochondro 1984: 134; Rachmat-Ishaya 1993: 51–53). These roles effectively trained women for the activities they took on during the revolution. The Japanese organizations did not only broaden activities, they also involved more women. Membership in Fujinkai was compulsory for wives of the civil service and this brought women of different class and educational backgrounds into community work for the first time (Nurliana et al. 1986: 11; Lucas 1993: 3). But it did not necessarily change the nature of the movement. Lucas has shown that village women recall Fujinkai as an elite organization that ‘didn’t do much for the poor people’ (Lucas 1993: 3). The importance of Fujinkai was its introduction of large-scale organization across Indonesia on a secular and politically non-aligned basis. Organizational developments, however, made little difference to most women. They were preoccupied with the difficulties of sustaining everyday life: food and clothing shortages made a lasting impression. Activists recall ‘during the Japanese occupation we were very poor, we had no clothes, especially the people in the villages. They were wearing sarongs made out of rubber, it was very sad to see’ (Diah, interview, 14 January 1997). There were no textiles and food was very scarce. Women’s organizations held exhibitions to demonstrate how to prepare meals and make clothes from the produce that was available (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). Wartime self-sufficiency displays included textiles made of pineapple and hemp fibres, and dishes of substitute foodstuffs (Radio Tokyo 1945). The levels of poverty brought about by Japanese exploitation of natural resources (Sato 1994) strengthened nationalist feeling and became significant when independence was declared. Imperialism, it was argued, meant scarcity, whereas an independent nation–state would provide for all its citizens. Exploitation of labour also contributed to growing nationalist sentiment. Women were among the forced labourers utilized by the Japanese authorities. This experience, often still too distressing to be talked about, fired nationalist

Emergence of a women’s movement 45 feelings (‘Dewi’, interview, 14 December 1996). Women also feared the sexualized roles promoted by the Japanese, including the ‘comfort woman’ system of forced prostitution. There were stories of women abducted from river banks. Some people hid their daughters (Melati 1986: 128) or made them marry so the Japanese would not take them as a mistress (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). Women often tried to choose non-sexual work for the Japanese to avoid being sent to the brothels (‘Dewi’, interview, 14 December 1996; Melati 1986: 131). Sexual relations between Indonesian women and Japanese men would have raised issues of marking the nation’s boundary, as the concubinage issue had done earlier. However, there is no record of forced sex work being publicly discussed in the 1940s and 1950s. It remained hidden after the war, possibly out of shame and the desire to move on from the brutality of war. At the time it was a feature of a cruel system of rule that also included beatings, forced labour, requisitions and economic chaos. A combination of these injustices led to disillusionment with an Asian colonial master and strengthened nationalist feelings. Nationalism, however, was also more positively promoted by the Japanese. Some women recall the Japanese nationalist propaganda and training for military emergencies as preparing ‘the Indonesian population for independence’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). The growing use of Indonesian language also contributed. The Japanese period was for some an awful period but there was one [great] thing within that and that is bahasa Indonesia. . . . Suddenly bahasa Indonesia is throughout Indonesia, that’s a great experience you know to hear the radio, the official radio which had always been in Dutch . . . . Then suddenly you hear Indonesian on the radio . . . it’s a fantastic kind of feeling. (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997) Indonesian schools replaced Dutch ones and many girls found themselves being Indonesian for the first time (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). In these ways, commitment to the nationalist cause grew. For Indonesian women, the Japanese occupation strengthened nationalist feeling and prepared them for their roles in the revolution. In terms of nationalism it was an important period, as historical studies suggest. However, in terms of advancing women’s interests it was less significant. Women’s activism was forcibly put on hold and women had to await independence to begin pursuing specific gender interests again.

1945–1949: supporting and defending the republic Aspirations for national independence began to be realized in August 1945 in the confusion and the power vacuum left by the Japanese surrender. On the morning of 17 August, Sukarno proclaimed independence to create the


Theoretical and historical background

Republic of Indonesia. This led to the four-year fight (through armed confrontation and negotiation) against Dutch attempts to re-establish authority. Women took on many roles in this struggle and it was a defining moment in their life stories. It was this period that the women interviewed for this study recalled with the most emotion and excitement. Many believed it was more significant than the years that would follow. Most official histories, however, have largely ignored the roles and activities of women in this revolution, or given them only a passing reference or footnote. Taylor has cited the example of 30 Tahun Indonesia Merdeka, which has two mentions of women – in photo captions only. The most telling is ‘Services of Indonesian women were so great they are indescribable’ (Taylor 1996: 12). As Taylor argues, in the official histories women’s participation in the revolution remains just that: without description. As discussed in the previous chapter, nationalism mobilizes women and then expects them to retreat to the home and adhere to traditional lifestyles. Male recollections of the revolution reflect this process by writing women out of nationalist history. It is therefore important to recover women’s roles, especially as nationalist roles became the basis of citizenship claims in the new nation–state. Women’s roles in the revolution18 Women initially took a symbolic role through photographs of the independence proclamation and flag-raising ceremony, as Taylor (1996, 1997) has demonstrated. In these photographic representations of the new nation– state, the men wear suits or Western-style jackets and trousers as trappings of political power. The two women wear traditional clothing, symbolizing the unique identity of Indonesia. Taylor has located an uncropped version of the flag-raising photo that shows two additional women who are wearing Western-style dress (Taylor 1997: 99). Their exclusion from the official visual record shows women being used to symbolize and mark the nation’s difference. The importance of costume is a theme returned to in Chapter 7, showing how women’s traditional dress was used to represent Indonesian identity when the women’s movement engaged in international activities. However, in the period following the proclamation there was little opportunity to further orchestrate women’s images to symbolize the nation. The transition from Japanese rule to a fight for independence had been very swift and the new republic needed all the resources it could mobilize. Women recall the confusion and emotions of the time, the overwhelming need to be involved, and the uncertainty about what to do. It was another ‘age in motion’, with women swept along with the general euphoria. In talking about this period with Indonesian women I was struck by how strongly they felt the need to do something. ‘It seemed to be in the air . . . some chemistry we can’t explain’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997) and

Emergence of a women’s movement 47 ‘you feel obliged to follow’ (Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997). It was clearly their revolution too, and the first response of women was to organize so they could assist the cause. The days after the proclamation were full of ‘committee meetings, public meetings, demonstrations and community organizations’ as ‘women busied themselves founding organizations “in defence of the country” ’ (Subandrio 1957: 295, 296).19 Resolutions were often vague. Pemuda Puteri Indonesia (PPI), for example, decided ‘we will defend our independence no matter what’ although a founder now recalls that ‘we didn’t really know what to do’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). Tasks were addressed as they arose. One of the first tasks was the assertion of Indonesian identity. There was a ‘need to have some identification’ and some sign ‘that we were very serious about independence’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). Women’s groups produced hundreds of red and white badges, distributing them to villages, and made republican flags and uniforms (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997; Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). These trappings of statehood were important in imagining the nation–state. There was also a need to explain the meaning and significance of independence. Many villagers had not been part of the nationalist movement and women organized public meetings to tell them ‘what it was all about’ (Subandrio 1957: 295). The shortages and hardships of the Dutch and Japanese periods became important propaganda tools in defining the new republic. Japanese warehouses were raided for food, textiles and other supplies that were distributed to villages. Sarongs were given to villagers who had worn rubber during the Japanese occupation. The pemuda (young revolutionaries) told people ‘this sarong is from Bung Karno and Bung Hatta. We are independent! It’s not from the Dutch Queen, it’s not from the Japanese state, it is from the Republic of Indonesia’ to demonstrate the benefits of sovereignty (Diah, interview, 14 January 1997) and give real meaning to statehood. ‘Independence is not only words but independence means that your needs will be met’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). As the revolution became a war, women mobilized into roles for which the Japanese had trained them. Women worked in the Indonesian Red Cross, organized dapur umum, acted as couriers, smuggled weapons and money from Dutch to republican territories, supplied republican soldiers, sewed the symbols of nationhood and engaged in social welfare activities to combat new hardships.20 The communal kitchens, which have become synonymous with women in the revolution, served soldiers, refugees and families in need. Women were successful couriers, as their traditional roles as market traders and operators of warungs (food stalls) enabled them to pass information and meet contacts without raising suspicion (Wahyuni et al. 1991: 40, 43). They were able to hide notes in their hair when it was worn up and in sanitary napkins, which the Dutch were reluctant to search (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Women’s organizations also provided food, clothing and shelter for refugees (Woodsmall 1960: 228). The roles were


Theoretical and historical background

similar throughout Indonesia (see Nurliana et al. 1986), but women’s support was even more critical in Dutch-occupied areas. They collected food and medicine for the guerrilla troops, visited the prisons and supplied intelligence reports (Wahyuni et al. 1991). Women were trained for military action, but few actually took up arms. The Lasykar Wanita (women’s guerrilla units) mainly had supporting roles, including nursing, sewing, cooking and teaching, rather than joining the fighting (Taylor 1997: 100). Nevertheless, women believed they were fighting ‘with the men, together for independence’ (Diah, interview, 14 January 1997) in a ‘national genderless effort’ where the nation fought as one (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). They believed that this would be recognized when independence was secured and their participation would earn them equal citizenship. Implicit within this is a concept of citizenship that would underpin understandings of Indonesian womanhood in the 1950s. Participation was viewed as an essential component of citizenship in an independent state. The Indonesian women’s movement had based its identity on Indonesian-ness and with the Proclamation of Independence that transferred to Indonesian citizenship. A new aim was making women ‘full citizens’ who would ‘work for the interests of the revolution and independence’ (Salyo 1995: 2–3). Indonesian women had been politicized by nationalism and this sense of duty to the nation was an outcome. Women’s roles in state-building While roles in the nation had been expanded throughout the movement, roles in the state were a new development. Although the Japanese had mobilized women to address their interests, the revolution era was the first time Indonesian women took on roles in their own state. While fighting continued, the fledgling republic engaged in building the infrastructure of government and a diplomatic battle for international recognition. As discussed in the previous chapter, a nation–state needs to be recognized by the international community. The Republic of Indonesia had to present itself to the world as a functioning state. Women were involved in this through formal diplomacy. The first national offices in Singapore, New Delhi and Burma had women members of staff. ‘We were there to say “we are a state and we have the government and we have even diplomatic service” ’ (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). Women’s organizations also addressed this informally. They used women’s conferences to gain international recognition for the new state. The Indonesian delegation to the 1948 All India Women’s conference in Madras went there ‘to tell them we are an independent country, we are independent women’. Instead of addressing gender issues, the Indonesian report was ‘propaganda about Indonesia’s independence’ (Diah, interview, 14 January 1997). Another aspect of the state was its political system. Government was difficult under war conditions and the political instability of the 1950s was

Emergence of a women’s movement 49 foreshadowed in the 1945–1949 period, which had six different governments. Women’s organizations had no role in this system, but individual women held important posts (see Taylor 1996: 31). Maria Ullfah Subadio was Minister of Social Affairs between March 1946 and June 1947, the first Asian woman to serve as a cabinet minister (Rasid 1982). Trimurti served as Minister of Labour between July 1947 and January 1948 (Soebagijo 1982: 235). Although this seemed to be a good omen for women’s roles in politics, this level of representation was not replicated in the 1950s. The war conditions also meant that the government was unable to enact much legislation, another important area of the relationship between women and the state. Nevertheless, some significant laws were passed. Women were granted full citizenship in the 1945 constitution and equal voting rights in 1948 electoral laws (Taylor 1996: 31).21 An ‘instruction’ prohibiting child and forced marriage was issued from the Ministry of Religion in 1945, followed by a new law (UU 22, 1946) requiring registration of marriages and divorces in Java and Madura. These seemed to indicate progress on marriage-law reform, although there was reportedly little compliance (Soebadio 1981: 14–15). The state, however, prioritized immediate national needs as it fought for full sovereignty, and women’s organizations would have to wait until independence was secured before further pursuing women’s interests through the state. Women’s congresses, 1945–1949 Although the women’s movement based its activities on ‘helping the National Government’ (Santoso 1953: 10) it did continue to discuss gender issues. Women’s congresses recommenced following the Japanese surrender, again seeking to unite all women into one national organization. As in the colonial era, they failed. Only two organizations, Perwani and Wani, joined together at the 1945 congress, forming Persatuan Wanita Republik Indonesia (Perwari) (Kartowijono 1976: 6–7). In February 1946 a second attempt at unifying women’s organizations was made. At this congress, women’s organizations agreed to form a federation, integrated with the struggle for national independence, known as Kongres Wanita Indonesia or Kowani (Kartowijono 1976: 8). This allowed women’s organizations to retain their own identity while working together towards common goals. At the 1948 congress in Solo, it was agreed to base Kowani activities on the principle of pancasila, the new nation–state’s official doctrine (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 115). The women’s movement, as represented by Kowani, was thus aligning itself with the new state regime and nationalist ideology. Gender issues received full attention at the women’s congresses. Priorities were matrimonial law, female employment and social-welfare problems. Demands continued to be made for legal and political equality, marriage law, social-welfare provision and education (Soepeni 1949). The issues


Theoretical and historical background

remained largely the same as in 1928, but independence offered hope for a quick resolution. Women expected that their grievances would be addressed in recognition of their participation in and contribution to the nationalist struggle. This was the major legacy of the colonial/nationalist era.

Legacies of the colonial/nationalist era As Indonesia prepared to enter its first decade of statehood, Indonesian women had been mobilizing for nearly 50 years. During this period they had developed a women’s agenda, established organizations and structures of collective action, and committed themselves as full participants to the nationalist struggle. As this movement developed, the complexities of women’s mobilization became apparent. Women organized around diverse identities that prevented them federating into a single body. Indonesian women were not a homogenous category. Nevertheless, a movement of women working together to address common objectives had developed. This movement addressed women’s practical and strategic gender interests, in particular education, ideas of motherhood and the issue of marriage. Political and international interests were identified, but had less significance in the context of a colonial state. National goals and interests were also important. By 1949, however, the women’s movement appeared to have made few advances. Although national independence had been achieved, the demands of the 1949 congress were much the same as the first articulation of women’s aspirations recorded in Kartini’s letters of the early 1900s. The lack of progress in the colonial/nationalist era can partly be attributed to the political processes the women acted within. The Dutch colonial state restricted non-government mobilization and was hostile to Indonesian demands. It served the interests of the Dutch rather than the indigenous populations. The Japanese regime banned independent political action and controlled women’s activism to serve its own interests. The 1945–1949 republic was fighting for Indonesian survival and the needs of the nation monopolized women’s organizations. Therefore, the state was the overarching influence on the nature and shape of the women’s movement. An independent democratic state offered more promise. Women’s activism was also strongly influenced by nationalism. The Indonesian women’s movement shared similar roots as nationalism, was legitimized by its involvement in the nationalist movement and was able to adapt nationalist discourses to argue for women’s rights and citizenship. Indonesian women’s relationship with nationalism conforms to the trends and roles discussed in the first chapter. Nationalism pulled Indonesian women into political action and they fulfilled all the roles identified by Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1989). Whether acting as symbols, boundary-markers, mothers or assistants, Indonesian women fully identified with their new nation and

Emergence of a women’s movement 51 were committed to the national struggle. The links between nationalism, citizenship and women’s activism were important, and require further analysis. The extent to which independence delivered on its promise to women will also be discussed in the following chapters. Chapter 3 will begin by asking what independence and democracy meant for the structure and agenda of the women’s movement.

Part II

Women’s mobilization in the 1950s The national level


The promise of independence Women’s mobilization in a new nation–state

Achieving independence does not mean our fight is over. (Soetardjo 1952: 406)

By 1950 Indonesians had won their fight for independence, gaining international recognition of statehood. A new era of women’s mobilization began as the movement responded to the opportunities, structures and political changes brought by independence and democratization. This chapter examines how Indonesian women organized in an independent nation–state, introducing key features of the 1950s women’s movement and the implications of new statehood. The nature, agenda and complexities of women’s mobilization during this period will be discussed to give an organizational context for the issue-based analysis of the following chapters. The first section considers the advances for women under national independence and the changes in political life that impacted on women’s activism. I then discuss the women’s organizations that operated at the national level – those that sought to represent Indonesian women in the new nation–state and determine the character of the ‘national’ movement. It becomes clear that despite their diversity, Indonesian women continued to work together on women-specific issues. This chapter identifies the main areas of women’s activism that are analyzed in detail through the remainder of the book. It concludes by summarizing the areas of continuity and change as Indonesian women experienced their first decade of citizenship and democracy.

A new era begins National independence fulfilled two central demands of the Indonesian women’s movement. An Indonesian nation–state had been established and its constitution granted women full and equal citizenship rights. Social and education rights were guaranteed and women were able to vote, be elected, and access all trades and professions. These were all, Vreede-de Stuers observed, ‘indications of the complete emancipation of the Indonesian woman, at least in theory’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 163). The women’s press celebrated the fact that ‘we Indonesian women do not need to demand equal


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

rights’ (S.M. 1952: 194). However, as we saw in the previous chapters, political rights and independence were not the only objectives of the women’s movement. Although it was said that the leaders of 1928 could ‘certainly look with satisfaction upon the role of women in today’s Indonesia’, it was recognized that ‘the task is not complete’ (Noor 1959a: 6). Independence had not solved all the problems confronting women. Women’s organizations noted that although equal rights were won, not all the aspirations of the Indonesian women’s movement had been met. Many of the issues and demands articulated by Kartini and her contemporaries at the beginning of the century and later formalized as a women’s agenda at congresses between 1928 and 1949 remained unresolved, including child marriage, polygamy, women’s working conditions, illiteracy and women’s education. In marriage law, formal equality continued to be denied to women. Areas such as women’s standard of living also needed attention (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 142). The nationalist achievement was also questioned. Do women feel truly independent and satisfied with the level of people’s sovereignty and social justice in the new state? asked a Suara Perwari writer, answering ‘Not yet’ (Esdees 1952: 3). New nationalist struggles were emerging and women faced increasing hardships in their everyday lives as the young nation coped with the legacy of colonialism, war and revolution. ‘Our fight is not yet over’ (Persit 1954c: 2) became a new rallying cry. Women’s organizations perceived an ongoing need for activism (Suryadarma 1951: 171) and continued to mobilize around both gender and national interests to advance the status of Indonesian women. Indonesian women adopted a pattern of organizing similar to that used in the nationalist era. Organizations dominated the movement and women continued to meet together in congresses to form a common agenda and deliver women’s demands to the state. Their programme of national and gender interests addressed the same general areas and themes as the preindependence movement. Achieving national independence did not substantially change the need for activism or the basic structure and agenda of the women’s movement. It did, however, significantly alter the terms under which women mobilized and engaged in political processes. The biggest change was that Indonesian women were now citizens of an independent democratic state. This fact informed analysis of women’s interests and movement activism as women’s organizations engaged in a process of defining the rights and responsibilities of Indonesian citizenship and women’s roles within it. Citizenship was a new concept and citizenship education became an important focus. The new form of government was also significant. Compared to the authoritarian Dutch and Japanese regimes, democratization promised more open politics and participation. Women now had the right to organize, hold meetings and publicly protest. For the first time, Indonesian women (and men) were able to participate in representative government and

The promise of independence 57 decision-making processes, as will be examined in Chapter 5, and had opportunities to influence state policy that had not been available under colonial rule. They also felt a stronger commitment to the independent state and believed Indonesian leadership would be more responsive to their needs. While it was predominantly men who held power in the new state, the common bonds of nationalism and close participation between male and female leaders during the nationalist era offered hope of a state more receptive to women’s interests. The women’s movement expected that their demands would quickly be addressed by the new state and political system; as the following chapters demonstrate, this did not always transpire. This expectation was further fuelled by the nationalist rhetoric that women’s interests could only be met by an independent state. Women believed ‘they had proven that they were just as nationalistic and just as dynamic as their male counterparts’ (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). They had therefore ‘earned’ full and equal citizenship and deserved to have unfulfilled objectives met. The attainment of independence also gave women the chance to broaden their programme from the previous nationalist priority of fighting the Dutch and advancing the concept of an Indonesian nation. There was now more freedom and opportunity to advance gender issues in their own right. For the first time a women’s agenda could be actively pursued and achieved. The new political scene was full of promise and opportunity, but it also brought new challenges and potential obstacles to the advancement of women’s issues. Independence and democracy fostered increasing division within Indonesian society. Although there had always been ideological disagreement within the nationalist and women’s movements, a shared commitment to broad concepts of nationalism, Indonesian sovereignty and overthrowing the colonial regime had usually overridden these schisms. In most cases a public (albeit fragile) unity was maintained. Now that national independence had been won, there was no longer a central unifying cause to transcend sectional differences. The new political system, based on parties requiring popular support to win a role in government, further exacerbated these tensions. The 1950s were plagued by political instability based on the unresolved issues of the role and place of Islam in the state, the role of the army, and the place of communism in social, political and economic development. Indonesian society was, to some extent, polarised between Islam, secular nationalism and communism. This was duplicated within the women’s movement, making it difficult for women to unite and win the societal and political support necessary to achieve change. The challenge of unity in post-independence Indonesia was not easily surmountable. The continuing demands of nationalism added another difficulty. Although Indonesia had acquired formal sovereignty, new nationalist concerns emerged. A second aspect of independence was ‘the filling of that form with content’ (McVey 1994: 4). Nation-building in terms of developing


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

state infrastructure, developing national identity and uniting Indonesians as a nation became the new nationalist struggle and women’s organizations were mobilized for all these tasks. In the socio-economic and political sectors, the ‘fighting phase’ was replaced by the ‘development phase’ (Soetardjo 1952: 406). Women’s organizations such as Perwari, which had ‘enthusiastically defended the state’ during the revolution, now committed themselves to being ‘active in development’ (Esdees 1951: 17). The goal was ‘complete’ independence – the socio-economic development and construction of infrastructure necessary to provide for basic needs such as health, food, employment, education and welfare (see Chapter 4). Economic and social progress was linked to the benefits of independence and gave sovereignty meaning in everyday life. The political system and people’s participation within it had to be developed (see Chapter 5). Everyone worked ‘to make something out of this Republic; the teachers, the women’s organizations and even the government because we had to start our own government where we are the boss’ (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997). Another part of the process of ‘making something’ out of the republic was consolidating the nation–state and defining its identity. Indonesia was still determining its state borders, challenging the Dutch in a territorial dispute over West Irian (Irian Jaya), and had to develop an identity as a nation–state within the international community (see Chapter 7). Regional rebellions occurred as some provinces questioned their place in an Indonesian state (see Chapter 8). The biggest challenge, however, was defining Indonesianness, especially in the face of the political disunity noted above. At the heart of this was ‘the problem of how to bring a sense of national and perhaps cultural unity to the scores of diverse peoples, communities, tribes, clans and village organizations’ (van der Kroef 1956: 358). Women remember the importance of asserting identity in the 1950s. Salyo, a leader of PPI, claims ‘it was really a time for adaptation, for becoming yourself, and that was very difficult. What it is to be an Indonesian, what should Indonesia as a country be?’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). There was a tension between modernity and cultural identity as Indonesia sought to establish its independent character. ‘In our striving for a modern, happy and prosperous Indonesian community’, one women’s leader warned, ‘we should not sacrifice our rich, cultural heritage, that very precious characteristic of our oriental identity’ (Noor 1959a: 6). Women were very much a part of the identity-creation process and continued to symbolize the new nation’s identity and status. Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjojo stated ‘if the progress of Indonesian women is compared to the situation of women in other countries we need not feel ashamed because we have not been left behind and in fact may be said to be in a better position’ (23 October 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 111). Definitions of womanhood therefore became central to definitions of Indonesianness and became a significant area for women’s organizations.

The promise of independence 59 These nationalist struggles provided women with exciting new ways to participate in politics, but also encroached on the time and resources available to pursue a gender programme of action and threatened women’s unity. Democratization and independence offered opportunities for the fulfilment of women’s interests, but also brought increasing conflict and demands. This was the background to 1950s women’s mobilization, in what was to be an important period for Indonesian women.1 They worked hard to give national independence meaning for Indonesian women and to define both Indonesian womanhood and Indonesian citizenship. The next chapters will analyze in greater detail how women’s organizations addressed key areas of their agenda and responded to the conditions of the 1950s. Before undertaking these tasks, however, it is necessary to have an understanding of the women’s organizations that sought to represent women’s interests, how they formed a national movement and the women’s agenda they developed in the newly independent nation–state.

Women’s organizations: identity and difference As discussed in Chapter 1, a social movement incorporates individuals, informal groups and formal associations. Indonesian women participated in efforts to address women’s issues through mixed-sex associations and political parties, study groups, prayer meetings, localised self-help, cooperatives, social clubs and formalized organizations (with constitutions, governance structures and formal membership). It was the formal women’s organizations that continued to dominate women’s mobilization in post-colonial Indonesia, in particular those that operated at the national level as members of Kongres Wanita Indonesia, the national coordinating body of women’s organizations. These organizations were understood to represent women’s collective action and frame women’s interests at the public level, becoming largely synonymous with the movement and embodying its values, agenda and activism. Indonesian national-level women’s organizations shared strikingly similar objectives, activities and structures (see Appendix). By definition, women’s organizations identify issues or oppression that are specific to women and all Indonesian women’s organizations shared the broad objective of advancing the position of women. Perwari believed it was the duty of women’s organizations to ‘fight to improve the fate of women in all areas’ (Perwari 1958f: 4). For Gerwani, defending the rights of women and children was ‘the fundamental task of a women’s organization’ (Gerwani 1958: 51, cited in Hindley 1966: 205). Wanita Katolik worked for Catholic women’s advancement (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 319) and Muslimat NU wanted to make women aware of their rights and duties (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 361). Indonesian women’s organizations also shared a common nationalist objective, an important feature of Third World feminism. Muslimat, for example, aimed to ‘uphold the sovereignty of Indonesia’ (Kongres Wanita


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Indonesia 1958: 328). Pemuda Puteri Indonesia (PPI) wanted ‘young Indonesian women to pour their energy into the development of the Republic of Indonesia’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 330) and Partai Wanita Rakjat was committed to defending the independence of the republic (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 306). Nationalism remained an important force although the focus shifted from achieving independence to maintaining independence. Indonesian women’s organizations took a broad mandate to work in economic, social, educational, political, religious and sometimes international spheres. Their main activities were service provision, education, research and advocacy/lobbying. Most were modern organizations stressing democratic decision-making processes. Each had a central committee with elected office holders. This central committee was usually based in Jakarta and presided over the provincial, district, branch and sub-branch levels. Each level had a committee and held meetings on a regular basis. Provincial and national congresses were also a common feature and enabled members to decide on activities and objectives through individual or branch votes. Minimum branch-size could range from 5 to 50 members. Suryochondro (1975: 6) has noted that this form of organization was ‘a product of the influence of Western culture’ but that the women’s organizations were nevertheless accepted by Indonesian society because their activities were based on gotong-royong, ‘indigenous values of mutual-help’. This argument is again a reminder of the need for Third World women’s movements to prove their indigenous character. In the 1950s, this form of structure reflected the fact that the organizations were predominantly the domain of Western-educated elites. The main structural change among women’s organizations in independence was the trend towards national organizations. During the 1950s more local women’s organizations amalgamated into national bodies. Bhayangkari, for example, was established in 1952 after police wives’ associations from around Indonesia came together in coalition (Bhayangkari 1980: 12). Gerwis (later Gerwani) was founded in 1950 with the merger of six local women’s organizations across Java (Hindley 1966: 203). Persit (Persaudaraan Isteri Tentara, the army wives’ organization) was formed in October 1950 after local army wives and widows groups amalgamated to form a national body (Nasution 1954: 5). This tendency reflects the developing Indonesian identity. National organizations became the most desirable way to represent women of the Indonesian nation, trying to unite and instil a feeling of Indonesian-ness over local and regional identification. The Indonesian language was used for official business and Wanita Katolik, for example, changed from Bahasa Jawa to Bahasa Indonesia in 1951 (Wanita Katolik 1995: 45). As part of this nationalizing trend, most women’s organizations moved their headquarters to the new capital Jakarta, allowing them to lobby the central government and embrace the concept of Indonesia.

The promise of independence 61 Indonesian women’s organizations were based on membership. They were structured around full (voting) and affiliate (non-voting) membership, and fees were an important source of funding. This reliance on membership had several implications. Fee-based membership placed a limit on who could join the organization, making it predominantly the arena of middle-class and elite women. It also meant that organizations had to provide benefits and services to attract and maintain membership. There was, as one leader recalled, an ‘obligation to do something for the members’ in order to make joining the organization beneficial and attract membership (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). This affected the type of activism women’s organizations engaged in and accounts for the emphasis on service provision and on education courses for members. A former Gerwani activist believes the membership system enabled women to get assistance more readily than today’s NGOs because as members they had a place to go and make complaints (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Membership also gave legitimacy to organizations’ statements and it was common for resolutions to list the number of members on whose behalf the submission was made. The most significant feature of membership-based organizations, however, was the criterion of membership. Each organization had rules governing access to membership. This defined the identities the organization sought to represent and reflected the diversity of Indonesian womanhood, informing the content of activities and the way gender issues were analyzed. Although Indonesian women’s organizations shared many similarities, they had significant differences in the identities they sought to represent. Defining membership became important in defining Indonesian womanhood. Gender was, of course, the central qualifier. Women’s organizations, by definition, are based around a gendered identity. The majority restricted full membership to Indonesian citizens and had minimum age requirements, ranging between 15 and 18 years old. Most organizations would admit younger women as full members if they were married and in this way marriage was synonymous with womanhood. However, women did not just organize as Indonesian women but as Muslim women, as army wives, as secular non-aligned women, as university graduates, as doctors’ wives, as communist women, as Catholic women, as nurses. These reflect the multiple gendered subjectivities of women – by race, religion, class, political viewpoint, profession and education – and became the areas of difference and potential conflict. Categorizing women’s organizations The women’s movement categorized itself in terms of affiliation. The movement was divided into organizations connected to a political party, organizations connected to a religious party, independently established organizations and wives’ organizations (Soewondo 1959: 41–42). This typology


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

reflects concern about the political influences on women’s organizations, increasingly important in the power struggles of the late 1950s (Wieringa 1988: 76). It highlights the major political forces vying for power: communism, nationalism, Islam and the army (many wives’ organizations were associated with the armed forces). However, to understand notions of womanhood inherent in the different organizations, we need to focus more clearly on the central identity rather than just the degree of autonomy/affiliation. The central identities that women’s organizations were based on included: husband’s profession, religious identities, political identities (nationalism and socialism), secularism and non-alignment, women’s professions, and social groups. Membership meant both a commitment to the programme of women’s rights within the organization and meeting its identity criteria. Recognizing the different identities women organized around is a valuable way to explore the complexities of women’s mobilization and to avoid the trap of viewing women as a homogenous category. Wives’ organizations Wives’ organizations became the dominant form of women’s organizations in New Order Indonesia. They have been viewed as reactionary because they are based on an identification of ‘woman as wife’, on compulsory membership and on a hierarchy according to the husband’s position within the department/company.2 But this particular form of mobilization pre-dated the Suharto era, and in the 1950s did not always conform to the later model of Dharma Wanita. Many of the wives’ organizations, as will be discussed in Chapter 6, were active in protests against President Sukarno, and membership was not compulsory. Wives’ organizations mobilized women around their husband’s profession. Membership was open to women who were wives or widows of men employed in a certain profession, workplace, government department or the armed forces. Medicine and engineering were two examples of professions with wives’ organizations. Ikatan Isteri Dokter Indonesia (IIDI), was the association of doctors’ wives (IIDI 1979: 2) and Persatuan Isteri Kaum Tehnik was the wives’ association of engineers and technicians (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 353). Persatuan Wanita Keluarga Universitas Gadjah Mada was the wives’ organization for UGM officials. Government department wives’ organizations included Persatuan Wanita Lingkungan Djawatan Pelajaran (Perwali Djapel), established in 1951 as the wives’ association for the shipping department; Pertiwi, for the Ministry of Internal Affairs; and Ikatan Wanita Kereta Api (IWKA), the wives’ organization of the railways department. Each arm of the armed forces had a wives’ organization: Persatuan Isteri Polisi ‘Bhayangkari’ represented police wives; Persit was established for army wives; Persatuan Isteri AURI (PIA) for the air force; and Jalasenastri for the navy. Wives’ organizations were formed for two main reasons. The first was the special and unique problems facing the families of men employed in certain

The promise of independence 63 professions/services. Persit was established because army wives had particular interests that were different from wives in general (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 141). Army wives’ organizations began during the revolution to assist families if soldiers were killed, missing or evacuated, and families were left to fend for themselves (Nasution 1954: 4). In the 1950s these special needs continued, with husbands being posted away from home, soldiers’ families being transferred to remote areas with few services, the constant moving, facing pregnancy alone and so on (Simatupang 1954; Tahir 1954a: 11). The second main reason for the establishment of wives’ organizations was to enhance opportunities for socializing. When IIDI was established there was some argument over the need for the organization. Doctors’ wives were viewed as a privileged group within society and therefore did not to face special problems or needs (IIDI 1979: 2, 4). The main rationale for the organization was that so many of the wives were meeting informally at medical conferences. It also defined a small target group for the provision of welfare assistance and other services. Wives’ organizations stressed strengthening the relationship between wives within a profession, assisting the husband and improving the quality of the household in the social, economic and education spheres. There was a very strong focus on family imagery. Most wives’ organizations shared similar aims of reinforcing the family atmosphere within their service/profession and strengthening the ‘ties of fraternity’ among families of the particular ministry or service. The family was also linked to nationalism and the state. The 1954 Persit congress redefined one of the organization’s aims as giving ‘spiritual and material support to our husband to lighten his load in his duty of defending the state’ (Tahir 1954c: 21). Their main activities were in education, social welfare and economic areas. In particular, wives’ organizations focused on identifying problems facing women as wives and assisting them in overcoming them. IWKA and Perwali Djapel, for example, ran courses in household management. PIA ran kindergartens and cooperatives. Social welfare was important, with financial assistance being given to members in need. It is difficult to estimate membership strength of 1950s women’s organizations, but Persit seems to have been one of the larger organizations. In 1955 it claimed 250,000 members (Persit 1955d) and its regular publication of a magazine (with a colour cover and photos) suggests it was financially secure. This probably indicates the size of the army and hence the potential membership pool. Bhayangkari had 40,000 members (Woodsmall 1960: 232), while the wives’ organizations of the professions give the impression of a much smaller membership base. Islamic organizations Since the majority of Indonesian women are Muslims, so were most women active in the women’s movement. Some based their activism on secular or


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

political foundations, while many other Muslim women grounded their political participation in religious belief. These women joined the Islamic women’s organizations, which restricted membership to Indonesian Muslim women. These included Aisjijah, Gerakan Wanita PSII, GPII-Puteri, Muslimat and Muslimat NU. A central aim of these organizations was to increase women’s knowledge about Islam, making women aware of their rights and duties to both their religion and their nation. They included religious education as a central objective. Women’s roles were interpreted within Islam and nationalism. They drew on Qur’anic verses that promised women equality with men, for example Qur’an Al-Baqoroh Ajat number 228 that ‘they (wives) have rights which are equal to (men’s) rights’ (Gerakan Wanita PSII, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 329), and worked to put Islamic doctrines into practice (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 323). Women’s duties were emphasized, although these were extended outside the home. Muslimat, for example, had an objective of raising awareness of ‘women’s duties in the household, society and the state’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 328). Most Islamic women’s organizations were sections or affiliates of Islamic political parties. As such, they supported the political programme of the main party. The majority supported the campaign for an Islamic state, working to ‘bring about Islamic sentiments in affairs of the state’ (Muslimat, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 328; see also GPII-Puteri and Muslimat NU, Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 323, 361). The main distinction between the various Islamic women’s organizations seems to be the political parties and Islamic male groups of which they were a part. Wherever the male (or mainstream) section of the organization was based, a women’s branch was established. Islamic women’s organizations, therefore, reached into the village and regional areas and would have had a sizeable membership. Muslimat, for example, had 249 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 232). Christian organizations Like their Islamic counterparts, the two national-level Christian women’s organizations were affiliated with political parties. PWKI was the women’s wing of Parkindo, the Protestant party, and Wanita Katolik was aligned with Partai Katolik. Christianity was a strong minority political force in Indonesian politics in the 1950s (Feith 1962: 127) and the women’s organizations supported the Christian political programme. The need to educate women about their rights and duties within religion was again an important objective (see Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 318). Their activities included religious education and an emphasis on duties to the family and social/community work. Wanita Katolik would engage in all sectors as long as it was not in contradiction with Catholic principles (Kongres Wanita

The promise of independence 65 Indonesia 1958: 320), putting them in opposition to Muslim women defending polygamy and those women advocating family planning. The Christian women’s organizations had a smaller membership. In 1954 Wanita Katolik had 48 branches, mainly based in Java (Wanita Katolik 1995: 45). Like the Islamic groups, the emphasis of the Christian women’s organizations was on the duties of women as dictated by religion. These duties were very similar: women had a responsibility to the family, religion, community and nation–state. Socialist/communist organizations The secular political streams also had women’s sections and affiliated organizations. Communism and socialism were important political forces, widely supported by women. One of the most significant organizations was Gerwani, which began in 1950 as Gerwis but changed its name in 1954. (For consistency, the name Gerwani will be used even when referring to the period between 1950 and 1954.) Gerwani began as an organization open only to ‘fully conscious’ women, meaning women who were ideologically aware and committed. In 1954, however, it became a ‘mass organization’ in an attempt to gain support for the communist political stream, embarking on a membership drive that saw it become one of the largest and most influential women’s organizations of the 1950s. From 500 members, the organization expanded by 1956 to half a million members in over 150 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 231; Wieringa 1988: 78). Its leadership was politically committed to socialism and this affected the programme, which had a strong emphasis on peasant and working women. Other socialist women’s organizations included Gerakan Wanita Sosialis (GWS, affiliated with Partai Sosialis Indonesia) and Persatuan Wanita Murba (Perwamu, affiliated with Partai Murba). GWS was another large organization, with 115 branches in the late 1950s (Woodsmall 1960: 231). Their socialist foundations affected the way these organizations interpreted problems facing women. Gerwani argued women were ‘still victims of exploitation and discrimination’ because of the continuing exploitation of Indonesian society by ‘feudalism and imperial remnants’. Women’s issues could not be separated from the struggle of all Indonesian people ‘for a completely free, democratic, prosperous and progressive Indonesia’ (Gerwani 1954: 3). GWS believed society needed fundamental change because the colonial–feudal structure continued to cause ‘impoverishment, oppression and injustice’ and it was ‘not possible to have significant development if the foundations of society are not torn down and replaced with other foundations’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 359). Socialist women’s organizations also included political indoctrination and cadre education courses. They believed women’s advancement was guaranteed through socialism.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Nationalist organizations Several women’s organizations were linked to nationalist political parties. These included Wanita Nasional (affiliated with Partai Rakjat Nasional), Wanita Indonesia (affiliated with Partai Indonesia Raya), Wanita Demokrat (affiliated with Partai Nasional Indonesia) and Parkiwa (affiliated with Parki). Although all women’s organizations acknowledged duty to the state and a commitment to nationalism, these organizations stressed it as a priority. Parkiwa had the aim of securing the peoples’ ‘well-being and prosperity in a free, independent, democratic and just state’ and to ‘motivate Indonesian women to join work in all fields to fulfil Indonesian independence’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 300, 297). Wanita Indonesia asked members to ‘devote themselves to community, nation, and state’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 344). Nationalist women’s organizations supported the political programme of their associated party and their membership was open to all Indonesian women (citizens) who declared agreement with the organization’s aims. A level of commitment to political belief was implied. Nationalist women’s organizations were based on women as full members of the nation. Membership strength reflected the relative size of the political party with which the women’s organizations were affiliated. Wanita Demokrat, the women’s section of one of the largest and most influential parties of the 1950s (PNI), had 350 branches, which compared to Wanita Nasional’s 90 branches and Parkiwa with only 15 (Woodsmall 1960: 231–232). Broad-based membership organizations The organizations discussed above all limited their membership in some way, be it by husband’s profession or religious and political belief. Another important category of women’s organization was made up of those that embraced broad membership criteria. Organizations such as Perwari were open to ‘all female Indonesian citizens (without discrimination/irrespective of class and other differences)’ (Tambunan 1951: 22). Perwari was one of the largest (227 branches) and most active women’s organizations of the 1950s. An attempt to audit branch membership in 1952 recorded over 32,000 members, but with more than a third of districts returning no figures (Perwari 1952a, 1952c, 1952d, 1952f) it is difficult to give an accurate indication of size. Other broad-based organizations included the smaller PPI (Pemuda Puteri Indonesia – 60 branches) (Woodsmall 1960: 233), which was limited to women under 40 but otherwise politically and religiously neutral, as well as Puteri Budi Sedjati and Rukun Ibu, open to female Indonesian citizens ‘of any religion or race’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 355). These organizations defined themselves primarily as having no political or religious party affiliations. The exception was Partai Wanita Rakjat, a broad-based women’s organization that operated as an independent women’s political party.

The promise of independence 67 These organizations also stressed women’s duties to the state. Perwari included making women aware of their ‘position and obligations as citizens’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 321) as one of its objectives and PPI had as its aim ‘that all young Indonesian women pour their energy into the development of Indonesia’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 330). They also emphasized the progress of women (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 295, 303) more heavily than aligned women’s organizations. Perwari promised to ‘fight for women’s interests in social, economic and education areas’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 321). Being secular and nonpolitical was seen as enabling women to meet together with an open mind ‘because they are not hindered by the barriers of political and religious doctrines which sometimes form obstacles in understanding the point of others’ (Puradiredja 1954: 9). Broad-based women’s organizations did not have to negotiate non-gender interests and women’s duties within those areas, although their emphasis on being non-political and secular also affected the way in which they addressed and analyzed various issues. Professional women’s organizations Another form of women’s mobilization was around their professional identity and needs. Professional organizations, such as those for lawyers and doctors, were open to women practitioners and women employed in some workplaces/professions could join the relevant wives’ organization. The wives’ organizations were often more enjoyable because they were more social and active than the male-dominated professional associations (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). The female-dominated professions of nursing and midwifery had their own professional organizations, Ikatan Perawat Wanita Indonesia and Ikatan Bidan Indonesia (IBI). These organizations were members of the Kongres Wanita Indonesia, thus defining themselves as women’s organizations. The women’s section of Indonesian teachers’ association Wanita Persatuan Guru RI also worked closely with other women’s organizations. Professional women’s organizations aimed to advance that particular profession, improve women’s professional development and defend women’s working rights.3 These were all ways of empowering women and supporting development issues. The professional identities of these organizations dictated, to some extent, the type of activities in which their members engaged. IBI was largely concerned with women’s health needs in the new state (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 136) and Wanita Persatuan Guru primarily acted on educational issues (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997). The Women’s International Club The final women’s organization that it is important to note is the Women’s International Club (WIC). This organization was formed in 1950 ‘to foster


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

friendship and mutual understanding between women of different nationalities, and to promote the cause of education and social reform in the interest and welfare of women and children’ (Women’s International Club 1953: 3). The WIC opened membership to both Indonesian and non-Indonesian women. It attracted the leaders of women’s organizations and elite women from expatriate communities in Jakarta and other major cities. The WIC was viewed as ‘more or less a social organization, because its membership is different nationalities’ (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1997). The organization did not, therefore, act for Indonesian women and issue resolutions or petitions. It acted as a place for women activists to exchange ideas and information, comparing and defining Indonesian women in relation to the rest of the world. This was an important function in establishing a national identity, as Chapter 7 will argue. The WIC was important as its journal and meetings seem to have been a place for developing debate around many of the issues women’s organizations confronted in the 1950s. This brief survey demonstrates the diversity among Indonesian women and their organizations, introducing the various identity interests that impacted on the ways in which women’s issues and activism were defined. There was also considerable variety in terms of size of membership; however, with the shortage of reliable figures it is difficult to give an accurate indication of membership strength. It is also impossible to explore all these organizations in depth. Nonetheless, to ensure the diversity of organizations is duly noted it is useful to focus on the main streams within the women’s movement. These were Islam, socialism and women’s rights, which incorporated the broad-based women’s organizations, nationalist political groups, wives’ organizations and professional groups. Defining membership and participation Through their organizations, women contributed to a process of defining Indonesian womanhood in an independent state. The emphasis was on national organizations and Indonesian citizenship, seeking to unite ethnic groups into one nation acknowledging the religious and political differences that were part of the new nation’s motto of unity in diversity. Ethnic, political and religious diversity had a place within the movement, but it is interesting to consider who was excluded from membership of the movement on the basis of their race and class. The most obvious exclusion was the Indonesian Chinese population. There was little evidence of Chinese women joining the women’s movement of the 1950s. Former activists could not recall any Chinese women’s organizations. Women in the Chinese community were not very active (Oei, interview, 20 January 1997). Chinese women were theoretically able to join other organizations, but there was ambivalence towards their participation. A Perwari member, for example, stated that Chinese women could join if

The promise of independence 69 they wanted, but they were not actively pursued (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). This reflects the 1950s debates over Indonesian-ness and the difficult question of Chinese citizenship. It was noted at the time that although Chinese were equal citizens they were not viewed that way by the Indonesian population (van der Kroef 1954: 218). The question of citizenship for Indonesian-born Chinese challenged the nation-building process as the country sought a solution to avoid minorities ‘being allowed to disintegrate and balkanise Indonesia by the formation of a state within a state’ (Indonesian Spectator 1958: 15). There is little to suggest that Chinese women were included in the women’s movement or that issues of particular concern to Chinese women, such as choice of non-Chinese marriage partner, choice of religion and opposition to women working outside the home (Oei, interview, 20 January 1997) were addressed by Indonesian women’s organizations. The Arab community was more successfully assimilated after independence and became active participants in Indonesian politics and culture (van der Kroef 1954: 271). Arab women did not unite in one organization but joined organizations such as Masjumi or Perwari (S.P. 1950: 18), becoming integrated into Indonesian women’s organizations. Class was also a determinant factor in organizations’ membership. Indonesian politics and associations were observed to be the preserve of a small Dutch educated elite (Mysbergh 1957). Some women noted the problem of integrating lower class and village women into the movement. A 1952 article in Wanita noted that links between city and village women were ‘still far from satisfactory’ and progress was largely limited to the cities (Soetardjo 1952: 406). The writer urged women’s organizations to give more information and attention to women in the outlying areas. By 1956 there were complaints about the continuing ‘shortage of women cadre in the villages’. It was difficult for women to become active because of their household responsibilities and motherhood duties (Soewandi 1956: 445). Peasant and labourer women were not active movement participants and instead became a target of the movement. The exclusion of uneducated, peasant and labouring women was partly a result of how movement participation was defined. Most women I interviewed associated being a member of a women’s organization with office bearing positions or roles on the editorial committees of women’s journals, suggesting it was these women who mainly constituted the movement. This is supported by recurring comments in the women’s press about the difficulty of getting women to work for the organization. It was difficult for women to combine organizational activities with their ‘duty and responsibilities as mother, wife or household manager’ (Kartowijono 1956c: 6). As a former member recalls, ‘I had my family to take care of so worked only part time with the organization’ (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). The women who could were usually those with access to increased resources that allowed them household help. Women’s organizations were also viewed as a


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

way for privileged women to contribute to the community (Dunia Wanita 1952: 5). Because there were relatively few educated women, it was argued that they had an obligation to work for the community (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997). Movement activism was associated with privileged women’s duty to assist those less fortunate.

A national women’s movement To constitute a social movement, women’s organizations need to work cooperatively towards common goals, share underlying basic beliefs and form a loose coalition. This occurred in a number of ways during the 1950s. Women’s organizations often issued joint declarations, statements and resolutions on behalf of women in a particular town or district, indicating their combined support for various demands (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden RI). In the cities, ongoing cooperation was maintained through BPOWs (Badan Penghubung Organisasi Wanita, the coordinating bodies of the women’s organizations). BPOW Jakarta, for example, was established in 1954 as a liaison body to consolidate the social (including health and hygiene projects) and educational projects of women’s organizations in the Jakarta municipality (BPOW DKI Jakarta 1979: 55). At the national level, women’s organizations continued to join together in congresses, which were held in Jakarta (November 1950), Bandung (November 1952), Palembang (March 1955) and Surabaya (November 1957), and formed a national coalition, the Kongres Wanita Indonesia (Indonesian Women’s Congress). Kongres Wanita Indonesia was established at the 1950 women’s congress and was an important departure from pre-independence efforts at uniting the movement. Unlike its predecessors (PPI, PPII, Kowani), Kongres Wanita Indonesia ‘would no longer have the power to take independent and decisive steps’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 118) and would not act as a women’s organization in its own right. It would remain an umbrella organization, ensuring contact between affiliated associations and coordinating congresses. The umbrella structure better enabled organizations to maintain their own identities and programmes while still joining together on common objectives. Attempts to federate all women’s organizations into one formal association were finally abandoned. This change was a response to the new political environment. Political and religious differences became more important in a democratic state where power was contested and people had the opportunity to influence policy. With women negotiating a complex series of identity and political interests, it was not possible for them to overcome conflicting religious and political beliefs to form a single gender-based organization. In recognition of this, Kongres Wanita Indonesia was developed as a politically and religiously non-aligned body to unite all women’s organizations while respecting their diverse activities and ideologies (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 44). Although Kongres Wanita Indonesia would represent

The promise of independence 71 Indonesian women internationally, it would not join in any international federations because of their potential for political alignment (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 44). The growing emphasis on national organizations was another important change. Although local and regional organizations could join Kongres Wanita Indonesia, their power and representation within the organization was diminished. Larger organizations dominated the Kongres Wanita Indonesia leadership and inter-congress meetings.4 Initially local organizations (over 50 members) had one vote in the congresses and the number of branches determined the number of votes for national organizations.5 The maximum number of votes was 10, but this was increased to 15 in 1955 (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 45, 50). In 1957 the constitution was changed so that local women’s organizations could only become affiliate members with no voting rights (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 57), which excluded them from decision-making. ‘Indonesian’ identity was privileged over region or local area. The Indonesian women’s movement defined itself as a national movement with member organizations that had branches throughout Indonesia and were seen to represent all Indonesian women. The extent to which women in the regions felt served by the ‘national’ movement can be questioned and is explored further in Chapter 8; however, the emphasis on national organizations was an important feature of women’s mobilization in the new nation–state. Despite the differences among women, Kongres Wanita Indonesia did manage to maintain a level of unity during the 1950s. Women’s organizations supported a common programme and worked cooperatively in most areas. Observers noted that the women’s movement remained relatively united in its aims, in contrast to most other large associations such as the labour and youth movements (Mintz 1961: 163). Party politics created some divisions and Subadio later commented on having to mediate between the conflicting positions of Gerwani and conservative Islamic groups (Wieringa 1995: 150–151) but there was only one incident that threatened the national coalition’s unity. In 1958 Gerwani was involved in a coalition of ‘progressive’ organizations called the Gerakan Massa. Kongres Wanita Indonesia leaders viewed this as divisive and instructed women’s organizations to choose which group to join. None left Kongres Wanita Indonesia (Kowani 1986: 155). In the New Order era this was remembered as a communist plot, although Subadio admits that apart from this ‘Gerwani was always very cooperative’ (cited in Wieringa 1995: 151).6 The main consequence was a new item in the constitution obligating organizations to maintain unity and guard against actions that would threaten unity and cooperation (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 57). Uniting women remained an important strategy for advancing women’s interests and through Kongres Wanita Indonesia women’s issues were defined and represented to the community and government. As members of Kongres Wanita Indonesia, the major women’s organizations agreed to support and implement its programme. Kongres


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Wanita Indonesia statements therefore indicate the overriding concerns of the women’s movement in the new nation–state.

A women’s agenda At the 1950 women’s congress the marriage issue and elections dominated the resolutions. Kongres Wanita Indonesia urged the government to enact marriage legislation to protect women and instructed member organizations to investigate the position of women under religious and adat marriage laws and practices (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 45). The congress also demanded elections be held throughout Indonesia and urged women to actively participate in them (Kowani 1986: 136). The changed political circumstances generated by Indonesia’s independent sovereign status gave new significance to citizenship, facilitating the introduction of a new issue: political participation. Nonetheless, one of the central demands from the pre-independence women’s movement – the marriage issue – continued to be prominent. The 1952 congress reiterated these issues, with demands for marriage law and women’s participation in general elections forming part of the movement’s urgent programme. Other urgent issues were combating illiteracy among women workers, examining women’s wages and child-care provision, and providing information to women about labour laws, health, education and marriage regulations. A general programme incorporated these core areas and also addressed the need for women to be appointed to government offices and religious courts, sought the development of education courses for women (to be established by member organizations) and demanded government attention to the issue of pornography. Governance issues were finalized with Kongres Wanita Indonesia’s objectives listed as complete Indonesian independence (women were told to use their rights ‘for the development of the Republic of Indonesia’), implementation of women’s human and citizenship rights, and world peace (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 46–47, 49). These mirrored the aims of most of the member organizations (see Appendix). It was decided Kongres Wanita Indonesia would have three working sections to address the legal, education and socio-economic sectors. In 1957 a fourth section was added, which was to focus on women’s employment conditions (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47, 56). These areas represented the key issues for women, as defined by the national movement. The congress also chose delegates to represent the Indonesian women’s movement at upcoming international seminars and women’s conferences and support was given to the Tunisian nationalist struggle (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47–48). In 1955 the congress again addressed all these issues, as few of the demands had been met. It also urged closer cooperation between women’s organizations and government authorities (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 49).

The promise of independence 73 Between 1955 and 1957 Kongres Wanita Indonesia continued to focus on these key issues, but it also opposed beauty contests (including Miss Indonesia) and adopted a Women’s Charter (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 50–54). The charter focused on women’s legal position (constitutional equal rights and a marriage law), the position of female workers (equal pay, rights and promotion opportunities), mother and child welfare, and the position of women in civil society (emphasizing rights and responsibilities) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). New issues to emerge at the 1957 women’s congress were women’s involvement in the campaign to restore West Irian to Indonesian control, which escalated in 1958 and 1959, and demands that prices of everyday goods be lowered. Demands for a marriage law remained a priority for the remainder of the decade and women’s international representation became a significant issue in 1958 with the Asia– Africa Women’s Conference, of which Kongres Wanita Indonesia was an organizer (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 56; Kowani 1986: 154–158). Individual organizations reinforced the Kongres Wanita Indonesia agenda. The 1952 Wanita Demokrat congress included marriage law, education, cooperatives and health issues (Wanita 1952b: 55). Bhayangkari included implementing the Kongres Wanita Indonesia programme of educational and social welfare work in its constitution. Its main activities were running literacy classes and other community self-help education, offering health information, setting up kindergartens and fighting for a marriage law (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 133–134). Perwari’s 1953 congress focused on marriage law, cooperatives and education (establishing schools, kindergartens and community literacy campaigns) (Perwari 1953c). The 1950 Muslimat NU Congress included literacy courses in its urgent programme (Muslimat NU 1955: 48). Wanita Katolik issued resolutions to the government demanding marriage laws in 1954 (Wanita Katolik 1995: 47). While implementing the Kongres Wanita Indonesia programme, organizations also addressed the issues of most relevance to their members. Persit had education and consultation bureaus as part of its programme, but also demanded more military doctors and improved army hostels, as well as lobbying for pensions for army widows and orphans (Persit 1955b: 7). Gerwani’s agenda included women’s literacy campaigns, marriage law and kindergartens, but also focused on peasant women’s issues, advocacy on rape sentences, trafficking of women and political development (Wieringa 1988: 79). The issues discussed at the 1950s women’s congresses and by individual organizations illustrate the broad scope of the movement’s agenda. This included education, socio-economic issues, national politics, marriage law, international representation of Indonesian women, and supporting development and the West Irian struggle. The demands for marriage legislation, education and women’s rights as workers were unchanged from the preindependence era. With independence, however, came new demands in relation to women and the state. Women were urged to support the nation–state in development, political participation and international affairs. There was


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

also an important new focus on implementation of citizenship. As Vreede-de Stuers (1960: 163) vividly put it, ‘at once all rights were accorded to her [the Indonesian woman]’. Women had to learn how to use these rights and ensure rights guaranteed in law were given in practice (Trimurti 1953: 146). Kongres Wanita Indonesia described the task of women’s organizations as seeing ‘to it that the rights already achieved will be upheld in the final constitution and other laws, that these rights are properly exercised and unsatisfactory laws and conditions will be improved’ (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 6). There was also an emphasis on women having the responsibility for improving their own position and lives. This was grounded in a developing discourse of citizenship that stressed responsibilities and duty – a theme that is explored throughout this study. The agenda addressed practical and strategic gender interests and nationalist demands, and (as the following chapters discuss) through these defined Indonesian womanhood and citizenship in an independent nation–state. Most issues and activities, as in the colonial era, focused on women’s practical gender interests by supporting women in their roles as wife and mother rather than by challenging those gender roles. The major change was the new role of citizen, which only now in independence had meaning and relevance to Indonesian women’s lives. The discourse of citizenship became entwined with motherhood. The celebration of Hari Ibu, the day commemorating the founding of the women’s movement, was explained in these terms. The celebration of this day stresses the tasks and duties of the Indonesian woman as a mother, not only as a mother of the family, but also as a mother of the whole community and nation! (WIC 1955d: 483) It was only in the debate over marriage law that women questioned and sought to change societal constructions of gender. This continued to be the most difficult area of activism and the hardest in which to achieve results. Challenging gender norms meant deciding on alternative constructions, thus bringing differences among women to the fore. It was also an area that fell outside the programme and interests of the state. Education, health, welfare, socio-economic development and citizenship responsibilities all supported the state programme and conformed to what Indonesia’s political leadership defined as priorities for the women’s movement, as the comments of VicePresident Hatta indicate. He described women’s issues as: the position of women in society, political rights for women, education, cooperatives, fighting prostitution, fighting illiteracy, care of babies, protection of working women and their children, crèches, kindergartens, and the efforts of women associated with Red Cross. (cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 109)

The promise of independence 75 Significantly he made no reference to the issues surrounding marriage law, concentrating on areas that assisted the development of Indonesia. Other arms of the state suggested similar priorities for women, highlighting the need for women to assist the nation–state. An army spokesman told Persit the new country had ‘many urgent problems’ that could only be addressed with women’s assistance (Simatupang 1954: 10). The overlap of women’s practical gender interests and Indonesian development needs meant nationalism remained an important influence on women’s activism.

Activism in the independence era Independence marked an important new era for the Indonesian women’s movement. Although there was a consistency in issues and structures of mobilization from the colonial era, the way in which Indonesian women’s organizations engaged in political processes had changed dramatically. Acting as citizens of an independent nation–state opened new opportunities and brought new demands. A central theme became the definition, education and implementation of citizenship rights and responsibilities. This process of defining citizenship and Indonesian identity was also affected by the diversity of Indonesian society. As has been shown, women experience multiple gendered identities and seek to mobilize around those varied interests. The women’s movement was a united but far from homogenous body. Organizations were based on diverse membership criteria that affected the way in which women’s interests were analyzed and acted upon. To fully understand the complexities of women’s activism it is necessary to consider the different responses of various streams within the movement when analyzing women’s interests, as the following chapters will do. Nevertheless, an agenda of women’s interests was identified. The concerns of the women’s movement were women’s education, health and social welfare, the economic situation and female workers’ rights, women’s electoral roles, the position of women in marriage, international representation, issues of ‘morality’, the West Irian (Irian Jaya) struggle, and implementation of citizenship rights and responsibilities. Many of these issues had been central to the movement from its beginnings and remained unresolved as the nation entered its first decade of statehood. Questions of international representation, representative government and citizenship duties, however, were all new areas of activism occurring as a direct result of independence and democratization. Chapter 4 begins looking at the main areas of this agenda by focusing on the socio-economic activities of women’s organizations. Subsequent chapters examine political participation by women’s organizations, the fight for a marriage law and international representation, all identified as part of the movement’s 1950s programme. Chapter 8 will compare the regional


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

experience with women’s mobilization at the national level. These chapters will all address the definitions of womanhood and citizenship on which the women’s movement based its activities and will show that, although independence had been won, nationalism continued to be a significant factor in understanding Indonesian women’s activism.


Addressing practical gender interests Women’s organizations’ socio-economic activities

We believe the Indonesian women’s movement is better suited to work in social and educational fields [than in politics]. (Tanah Air, 22 December 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 102)

Once an agenda was identified, Indonesian women had to put their activism into action. The new political conditions of democracy and independence had a major impact on women’s mobilization and the concepts of womanhood that were espoused. The priorities of the women’s movement included the socio-economic sphere, politics and securing the legal position of women in marriage. Later chapters will discuss women’s participation in electoral politics and the fight for a marriage law. This chapter examines the movement’s efforts to address women’s basic needs through socio-economic activities, focusing on the conceptualization of practical gender interests and the relationship between women’s organizations and the state. This area of action demonstrates the continuing significance of nationalist sentiment as Indonesians worked to develop their new nation–state and illustrates the close relationship between the women’s movement and the state. The new Indonesian state was focused on development, and women’s demands in the socio-economic sphere paralleled and complemented national interests in the areas of education, health and welfare, and the economy.

Developing the nation The legacies of Dutch colonial rule, the Japanese occupation and the revolution left Indonesia confronting many difficulties in independence. Visiting commentators observed that the economic situation was critical. Infrastructure had been destroyed, there was no external trade and production had reverted to local subsistence levels (van der Kroef 1956: 357). The standard of living was low. Government surveys of workers in Jakarta in 1957 revealed that 96 per cent of their expenditure went on basic survival needs and that 70 per cent were unable to afford three meals a day. The average calorie intake of workers and their families was only 70–80 per cent of daily


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

requirements (cited in Hindley 1966: 16). Public health provision was at critical levels. Most medical facilities had been destroyed and there were severe shortages of equipment, drugs and medical personnel (Woodsmall 1960: 207). Government sources stated there were only 60,000 hospital beds (eight for every 10,000 people) and 1,200 doctors (one for every 60,000 people) (Sukarno 1956: 33). Most were concentrated in urban areas, which meant the ratios were even higher in rural and village areas. Most Indonesians remained illiterate and educational services demanded immediate attention. A 1950 Education Department report claimed there were only enough teachers for 5 million of the 12 million school-age children (6–12 years old) (cited in Palmier 1957: 323). These conditions made socio-economic progress an urgent priority for the new state, but there was some debate over the best way to proceed. Feith (1962: 317) argues that the first Indonesian cabinets (1949–1953) sought distance from the revolution to base legitimacy, control and progress on non-revolutionary means. They were reluctant to continue harnessing nationalist fervour to meet the new state’s development goals. President Sukarno, however, continued to motivate audiences with talk of an ongoing nationalist struggle. Progress was increasingly linked to nationalism and, from 1952, he emphasized the idea that ‘our national Revolution is not yet completed’ (cited in Feith 1962: 317). The 1950s became a period of ‘national reconstruction’ (Department of Information 1960: 49). The nationalist struggle was extended to securing economic and social prosperity to attain modern statehood. Indonesia remained ‘full of the spirit from the nationalist struggle’ (‘Kartini’, 22 December 1996). This meant women continued to be mobilized for nationalist goals. Sukarno moved from claiming women’s interests could only be addressed with national sovereignty to arguing women’s independence lay in securing a prosperous society (Sukarno, 22 December 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 69). The Vice-President, Hatta, reiterated these views, speaking of women’s duties and their important role in developing a ‘just and prosperous’ Indonesia. He asked women ‘not to make demands’ on the state, but to work for its development (10 November 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 109). The women’s movement supported the view that national independence needed to be secured through development and that the population needed to work with the state to realize these national(ist) goals. Women recognized ‘the reality is that government infrastructure is not in place’ and Indonesia was not like long-independent states with fully functioning state services. Women’s organizations therefore needed to work for the state (Suryadarma 1951: 171). Women were urged to assist men in ‘developing our young state’ (Sukonto 22 December 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 113). The 1955 women’s congress passed a resolution that every woman must work in the direction of developing the republic, linking this task to citizenship duties (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 49). National reconstruction

Addressing practical gender interests


became a component of responsible citizenship and women’s duty. All streams of the women’s movement shared these sentiments. PWKI spoke of independence meaning ‘responsibility for the fate of the state and nation is now with us, the Indonesian people’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 142). Gerwani spoke of an incomplete nationalist task with feudal/colonial remnants needing to be removed (Gerwani 1954: 4–6). Perwari described the post-revolution era as a development phase, promising to ‘follow the RI government’s development program’ (Perwari 1951a: 1). The Islamic organization Aisjijah also emphasized ‘duties and responsibilities to society’ and the need to develop an economically strong and healthy state (Zuber 1952: 121–122). The movement viewed socio-economic progress as an important national interest. Women’s organizations, however, also analysed socio-economic problems in terms of women’s gender interests. To improve women’s lives, their basic needs for food and nutrition, shelter, health and education need to be met. To improve women’s status, they need equitable access to the benefits of development and progress. The Indonesian women’s movement recognized this, as the following sections of this chapter will demonstrate, with socio-economic progress perceived as a prerequisite for women’s advancement. In their roles as mothers and household managers, women in particular suffered from the inflationary economic climate, food shortages, poor health, lack of educational resources, absence of child care and inadequate social welfare provision. The focus on these issues in congress agendas, debates and resolutions testifies to their importance as women’s interests. Assisting the national development programme was therefore a way to address women’s basic needs and improve their position and standard of living, as well as participating in the ongoing nationalist struggle. The movement quickly mobilized to meet the socio-economic needs of women in particular and society in general, working closely with state institutions. Kongres Wanita Indonesia noted: Women’s organizations are doing their share in the field of education, civic education, health, economics and community development. They have established schools, literacy courses, courses on rights and responsibilities of women, maternity and child health centres, courses in home economics and given assistance to the Government in the field of community development. (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 5) Women’s organizations understood that the state did not have the resources to meet Indonesia’s growing needs. Educational and social progress could not be left to the government alone: women’s organizations needed to contribute (Santoso 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 68). In 1955 Kongres Wanita Indonesia urged closer cooperation between local authorities and women’s organizations in social welfare,


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

health, education and economic spheres (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 49). Women supported the state rather than fighting it for women’s rights. A significant feature of women’s activities in the socio-economic sector was the absence of controversy. The women’s press and congress resolutions reveal little debate about these issues or justification of their positions. This is particularly striking in comparison with politics, marriage law and to a lesser extent international activities, where prolific writings explained the arguments and justified positions, as will be discussed in the following chapters. The coverage of socio-economic issues in women’s journals, which was nevertheless considerable, reads more like instructional texts. The socioeconomic sphere, 1950s women’s activists claim, was the area of closest cooperation among various streams of the women’s movement. The absence of debate supports this, with most organizations promoting similar views of mobilization on the basis of motherhood and citizenship. Activism around these issues (ensuring women could fulfil their ‘nurturing’ roles and responsibility for family well-being) was also non-confrontational in terms of societal constructions of gender and assisted the state’s development agenda. There was therefore little opposition to challenge. All sections of the movement and wider community seemed to support women’s participation in this sector based on communitarian and motherhood conceptualizations of womanhood. The PNI, for example, spoke of women’s role in state development as Ibu Bangsa (Mother of the Nation) (PNI 24 November 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 130). It was commonly accepted that women’s tasks in the new nation were to be ‘her husband’s assistant in his duty of building up his country . . . to educate and prepare the young for their future contributions to the community’ and ‘to be a good mother, who is the centre of family life’ (Mangoenkoesoemo 1956: 21). Enabling women to fulfil these roles was the focus of education, health, welfare and economic activities.

Educating women Education, a core demand of the Indonesian women’s movement throughout the colonial era, remained a priority in independence. It was the focus of Kongres Wanita Indonesia resolutions (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 49) and a recurring theme in the women’s press (see Ibu, Mekar, Wanita, WIC Journal and Suara Perwari). The majority of women’s organizations provided educational services such as kindergartens, literacy courses, informal adult education (including cooking and sewing courses), schools, and kindergarten teacher training. Many also lobbied the government for greater attention to women’s educational needs (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 659) and often had sections or foundations dedicated to education. Women’s organizations addressed education as both a national and gender concern. Education was a priority for the state’s reconstruction programme (see Feith 1962: 221).1 Modern education and literacy were

Addressing practical gender interests


viewed as prerequisites for development (Kementerian PKK 1952: 18). They were both a symbol of modernity and progress, and enabled the community to apply the development information and advice disseminated by various state ministries (Soewandi 1956: 443). Women’s organizations supported this analysis but also viewed education in the context of women’s progress. Women’s movements have always focused on access to education as a means of achieving equality (Mazumdar 1996: 15), with barriers to education and low literacy rates used as indicators of women’s lower status. Although education does not necessarily eradicate gender discrimination and give women full economic equality (Conway 1996), the Indonesian women’s movement always viewed it as an important strategy for raising women’s selfesteem and respect. Education could provide greater autonomy and opportunities for women and improve their skills as housewives, mothers and workers. In independence, the women’s movement no longer had to demand access to education as it had in the colonial era. Independence gave Indonesian women equal education rights, which were enshrined in the constitution, and the new state was committed to public education. Women’s organizations now had to fight for those rights to be implemented. It was the obstacles to adequate education provision for all Indonesians and women in particular that became the focus of movement activism. Defining women’s education The women’s movement identified three key areas of women’s educational needs. The first was access to education, with school, university and teacher shortages the central concern. Under Dutch colonial administration, higher education was restricted to Java and few schools were established in village and regional areas. Secondary schools were almost exclusively in urban centres. With the departure of the Dutch, there was a shortage of trained personnel. An estimated 7 million of the 12 million school-age children were denied an education because of insufficient teacher numbers (Palmier 1957: 323). It was claimed 100,000 teachers were needed and it would take 15 years to train them (Saleh 1953: 7). Women’s organizations demanded the government increase the number of teachers and schools (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). The lack of higher education facilities in the regions was a particular problem for women, with economic and social barriers preventing them from leaving the family home to study elsewhere. A 1955 Muslimat conference in East Kalimantan, for example, noted that many students were unable to study outside the daerah (region) and girls could not, therefore, fulfil their educational potential. The conference called on government to open more schools in the region (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 1249). Asramas (hostels) were linked to educational activities as a strategy to redress this problem. Women’s organizations established asramas as a cheap, safe and socially acceptable place for female students to live while studying away from home.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Adult illiteracy was another important issue in women’s education. Statistics for 1940 revealed that 90 per cent of the Indonesian population was illiterate (Woodsmall 1960: 197). This was presented as a failure of Dutch rule, with the observation that after 350 years of colonialism only 6 per cent of Indonesians were able to read and write (Soewandi 1956: 443). Combating this ‘national illness’ was a state priority (Kementerian PKK 1952: 18). Literacy became an indicator of national progress and the benefits of independence as well as a pivotal component of education policy. Illiteracy was higher among women, who represented only 25 per cent of the literate population (Harahap 1959: 11). It was therefore a continuing concern to women’s organizations. Female illiteracy was at its highest in village areas (Soewandi 1956: 445). There, reading and writing were not perceived as urgent needs in women’s daily lives. The economic situation meant women had to work instead of study, many husbands did not allow their wives to attend classes, and tradition continued to prevent women seeking an education. Moreover, few educated women were prepared to teach in villages (Soewandi 1956: 444–445). The movement’s third main educational concern was the need to educate women about the new state and their civic rights/responsibilities within it. As one writer argued, ‘If women themselves don’t make women aware of and indicate to others the abilities of women, these are usually forgotten by men’ (Probopranowo 1962: 25). Subadio believed Kongres Wanita Indonesia’s main educational task should be ‘to inform and teach member organizations about the existing Government regulations concerning education, labour, economy or citizenship’ (Santoso 1953: 12). The communitarian concepts of citizenship that Indonesia embraced could only function with education on citizenship duties. The civic education of the revolution era continued and was of particular importance in political activities, as Chapter 5 demonstrates. By defining women’s education needs as access to schools, literacy and learning citizenship duties, the women’s movement shared a common agenda with the state. The Ministry of Education prioritized increasing the number of schools throughout the country, abolishing illiteracy, improving vocational schools and expanding higher education (Hutasoit 1957c: 408–409). The women’s movement worked closely with the Education Department to ensure there was a space for female education in national education policy and provision. To do this, they harnessed development rhetoric and prevailing notions of nationalism that concentrated on citizenship duties in an independent nation–state. In the colonial era, demands for girls’ schools and women’s access to formal (Western) education were made within a rhetoric of advancing the Indonesian nation and the nationalist cause. With independence, women’s education was still linked to the fate of the nation but the focus was on developing an independent state (Fatmawati 1954: 2). Eliminating illiteracy was ‘a national task in a nation newly free from imperialist clutches’

Addressing practical gender interests


(Soewandi 1956: 443). Schools were ‘the place where children get the necessary skills for life as a true citizen reflecting the state’s considerations in all spheres’ (Tadjudin 1958: 12). The head of Perwari’s education section explained the aim of school education as forming ‘democratic citizens with a sense of responsibility for the welfare of the society and country as a whole’ (Hutasoit 1957c: 407–408). Women needed to be educated in order to meet the demands the independent nation–state made on them. The education of girls, women argued, means the uplifting of all families in a nation. If their education is neglected, it would not only bring a loss for those girls, but also in fact for the whole society. . . . Girls’ education must reconcile the interests of the time, so that girls are able to contribute their share to the construction of their country and are conscious of this duty. (Soetoto 1958: 150) Girls’ schools aimed to produce ‘useful people’ (Keluarga 1953b: 18) and higher education was a means of investing in the development of Indonesia (Sajono 1957).2 Much of this ‘usefulness’ and ‘duty’ to their country remained grounded in women’s roles as wives and mothers. As discussed in Chapter 1, the nation is often expressed in familial terms. In Indonesia a strong household was linked to a strong, stable and successful nation–state. ‘If households are in order’, one women’s writer argued, ‘society will also be in order’ (Esdees 1951: 17).3 A central aim of women’s education, therefore, was to ‘prepare women for their duties as wife and mother in the family’ (Kartowijono 1956b: 9) thus benefiting the nation–state. Motherhood was linked to the need for female education in several ways. First, children’s issues – including education and childhood development – were viewed as a ‘primary issue for mothers’ (Warsono 1959: 19). Women’s magazines carried many articles on children’s education for women’s interest. Second, the argument that mothers needed to be educated in order to teach their children continued to be espoused. Writers argued that ‘mothers must educate their children to become good citizens of their country’ (Soetoto 1958: 150; Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 36). To do this, women themselves needed to be educated. The state supported this approach, as the comments of Hatta suggest. He argued that, next to schoolteachers, it was mothers who had responsibility for shaping children as future citizens. It was important, therefore, that girls, who would mostly become mothers, be educated (cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 110). Related to this was the need for skilled mothers to ensure the health and well-being of the nation. Women were taught to become good mothers and household managers. Through magazines, lectures and classes, women were educated about sanitation and health information (Tahir 1955: 1). Home economics was made a priority, along with literacy and first aid


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

(Perwari 1958d: 4). The conceptualization of female education remained grounded in understandings of motherhood and nationalist ideologies emphasizing the needs of the state for a well-educated, healthy population, rather than an understanding of women’s rights. But the focus on motherhood and valuing of its role enabled women’s education to become a right, whereas in other Third World societies motherhood is often a reason to deny women education. Another aim of women’s education, which addressed both state demands and women’s progress, was ‘to prepare women, within their ability and women’s nature, to make a living’ (Kartowijono 1956b: 9). Vocational education for girls aimed to increase their choices so they could manage their household as a wife, take in sewing work, go into nursing, become a cook at a hospital or hostel, or make handicrafts for sale (Keluarga 1953b: 18). Drawing on nationalist discourse, this was justified because it would make girls ‘useful citizens’ (Soetoto 1958: 151), able to contribute to building the new nation–state. All streams of the movement supported vocational education. A Kongres Wanita Indonesia meeting in March 1952 (attended by 13 women’s organizations, including Perwari, Gerwani, and Islamic, Christian and nationalist organizations) decided to establish an ad hoc women’s education committee with the task of educating women ‘towards economic independence’ (Perwari 1952e: 15). Through the Kongres Wanita Indonesia foundation Seri Derma, the movement granted scholarships that enabled girls to attend vocational schools (Woodsmall 1960: 205). Organizations such as Perwari petitioned the government on the necessity of women’s vocational education (Perwari 1958d: 4). Although some activists noted that vocational education could prevent child marriage, as girls were taught to make their own living (Soetoto 1958: 151; Keluarga 1953b: 18), there was little use of this argument. Given that marriage issues were so divisive (see Chapter 2 and Chapter 6), it may have been easier to have vocational education accepted if the focus remained on nationalism and women’s ‘feminine’ character. Vocational education was therefore largely promoted within conventional gender roles, offering classes on dressmaking, batik, weaving, needlecraft, handicrafts and household management. Women’s organizations, in this area at least, did not challenge accepted roles for women. With the focus on motherhood, household duties and vocational education that conformed to gender roles, it is not surprising that there were seen to be differences in female and male education. There were calls for girls to get additional kewanitaan (femininity) lessons. General knowledge was needed, but lessons including household management, cooking, infant care, sewing and appropriate physical education were demanded especially for girls (Keluarga 1953b: 18; Perwari 1952g: 20; Muslimat NU 1979: 85). Sex education was a contentious issue, with school committees forbidding lessons (Kartowijono 1951c). This fed into prevailing concerns about a moral crisis (Roosmawati 1951) and definitions of womanhood that eschewed sexuality.

Addressing practical gender interests


A final important factor in defining women’s education in the 1950s was the emphasis on developing a truly national education system. This was based on Indonesian identity. Dutch textbooks and Dutch language as a teaching medium were opposed because ‘we do not want our society washed away in a wave of foreign influence’ (Wanita 1952a). Bahasa Indonesia was the preferred language of instruction in schemes such as Jajasan Beribu – schooling at home with mothers – because it was ‘the unitive language for the whole country’ (Saleh 1953: 10–11).4 There were petitions for all schools to use the same textbooks (Perwari 1952g: 20), revealing concerns for consistency of education across the new nation–state. All streams of the women’s movement conceptualized women’s educational needs in the same way. They all supported demands for women’s education based on motherhood and citizenship. The only differences to emerge concerned the content of some educational activities relating to nongender subjectivities. Christian and Islamic women’s organizations were involved in religious education and promoting religious schools. Aisjijah taught women about their religious duties within Islam (such as Ramadhan) (Amrozie 1952), informed members about Islamic girls’ schools (Aisjijah 1952b) and lobbied for more religious education (Badrani 1952: 139). Muslimat NU also focused on religious education for members (Muslimat NU 1979: 84). Gerwani educated members about its political ideology (Gerwani 1955: 16). Wives’ organizations, such as Persit, included demands for instruction on cooking, food presentation and service, and etiquette (Tahir 1955: 1, Hsn 1956: 5), social skills that could enable a woman to better assist her husband in his career. Service provision Having identified the lack of services and adult illiteracy as key educational issues, the women’s movement worked to meet those needs through service provision. Women’s organizations accepted that the state alone did not have the resources to fully develop the national education system. Persit noted the ‘Government does not have the funds for kindergartens’ and tens of thousands of children throughout Indonesia could not attend school because of a lack of places (Tahir 1955: 2). Women’s organizations therefore worked with the state to meet education needs and establish kindergartens, schools and other educational courses. Kongres Wanita Indonesia cooperated closely with the Ministry of Education. A Department of Community Education was established in 1950 with a ten-year plan to eliminate illiteracy (Soewandi 1956: 444). Part of this programme involved the education department cooperating with local organizations to implement literacy courses (Kementerian PKK 1952: 5–8). The Department of Community Education had a women’s section to assist campaigns aimed at women (Kartowijono 1952b: 9). The Minister of Education met with representatives of 18 women’s


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

organizations in 1953, noting the need for cooperation (Perwari 1953d: 8).5 Government publications also emphasized the importance of organizations’ voluntary work in the nation-wide education/literacy drive (Sukarno 1956: 26). Educational services were developed to meet the needs of both children and adults. Perwari branches operated kindergartens and schools, literacy courses, and sewing and cooking classes. Some offered foreign-language classes, courses on household management, political education, religious education and scholarships (Perwari 1952a, 1952c, 1952d, 1952f, 1952j). By 1957 Perwari had 130 kindergartens throughout Indonesia and many branches were establishing girls’ schools (Hutasoit 1957a: 27). Gerwani ran kindergarten teaching training (Hindley 1966: 207). Persit operated schools and kindergartens throughout Indonesia (Tahir 1955). Wanita Demokrat Indonesia had 120 schools. It also established crèches and residences for female students, and organized a training centre for women (Ismangil 1958–1959: 20). The government often provided subsidies for these services. Persit operated schools and kindergartens in Palembang at which the teachers were jointly paid by the government and the local branch (Persit 1955a: 6). However, women’s organizations often had to struggle for this financial support. The Perwari Central Java conference of 1958 advised all branches running schools to ‘continuously and repeatedly request [government] assistance’ (Perwari 1958d: 4). The 1955 Persit congress demanded government subsidies for Persit schools (Persit 1955b: 7). Gerwani branches also lobbied government for school subsidies (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). This suggests women were not satisfied with the level of state resources allocated to female education. Adult education was primarily focused on literacy and the women’s movement was celebrated for playing an ‘impressive role throughout Indonesia in the campaign to promote literacy’ (Woodsmall 1960: 205). All women’s organizations ran literacy courses. By 1961 the female proportion of the literate population had increased to 34.1 per cent. Around 30 per cent of literate women had never attended school, testifying to the success of women’s literacy campaigns (Nitisastro 1970: 190, 194). These courses extended beyond literacy. Classes were used to educate women on other issues related to women’s rights, practical gender interests and development needs. Literacy campaigns raised women’s awareness of their rights and responsibilities to the state and to the nation (Kartowijono 1952b). They were used to increase women’s general knowledge and improve household management skills (Hutasoit 1957a: 26), and included training on ‘feminine’ issues such as sewing and cooking (Kementerian PPK 1952: 10). Aisjijah conducted literacy classes as religious education (Aisjijah 1952c: 215). Classes were also run on health education, first aid, nutrition and child care. This is a reminder of the importance of education not only as a goal of women’s emancipation but as a means of advancing women’s progress in other areas of their lives.

Addressing practical gender interests


Health and welfare While education continued to be the main priority of the women’s movement’s socio-economic programme, health and welfare issues were increasingly important. As members of an independent state, Indonesians now had responsibility for health and welfare provision, and these also became important indicators of national progress and well-being. These issues were incorporated as basic needs into the Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1956 Charter of Women’s Rights (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). Again, women’s organizations supported the government programme of national reconstruction, focusing on women in particular and with an emphasis on motherhood. Women’s health needs Reconstruction of the health system was an urgent task facing the new state. This became a priority of the government’s health programme in the 1950s, along with the eradication of major diseases (including TB, typhoid and leprosy) and the development of public health services to promote preventative health measures (Voice of Indonesia 1958). The women’s movement supported this general programme but also targeted women’s specific health needs, lobbying for greater government attention to these. The women’s movement identified pregnancy and childbirth as the critical health concerns for women, citing the high maternal death rates. Ministry of Health statistics reported that 35,000 women a year died in childbirth (cited in Kartowijono 1952a: 16). Women’s leaders calculated this to mean four women died each hour or one every 15 minutes. This was a ‘tragic’ situation and they asked why it was not receiving the full attention of government and the public (Kartowijono 1952a: 16). By 1955 there was a maternal death rate of 1.2–1.6 per cent, meaning 14 of every 1,000 labours resulted in the death of the mother (Soekarno 1955: 8).6 It was this health issue that dominated congress resolutions, articles on women’s health needs and the health services operated by women’s organizations. Children were also being affected: with so many women dying, children were being left motherless (Kartowijono 1951b: 13). In the context of family well-being as the basis of a strong nation, this had serious repercussions for the state. There were several reasons for the high maternal death rate. According to a midwife, the most important factors were illness, poor nutrition, too many pregnancies spaced too close together, haemorrhaging, dukun (traditional midwife) practices and the distance from a doctor or midwife (Soekarno 1955: 9). There were only 20–30 gynaecologists and 1,400 bidan (trained midwives) for the whole country (Kartowijono 1951b: 12; Vreedede Stuers 1960: 194). It was estimated that at the current rate of 500 midwives trained each year, it would take 30 or 40 years to reach adequate levels (Soekarno 1955: 9). In addition, most health professionals were


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

based in urban centres, leaving regional areas untended. A statement from women’s organizations in Jember (22 November 1954) argued women and babies were dying in childbirth because they were too far away from medical help (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 656). Bad hygiene, lack of services and higher death rates were noted in outlying regions (Sulianti 1952). There was also the problem of finding women who wanted to be midwives. On her radio broadcast, Kartowijono appealed to women to encourage their daughters to become midwives, even though it was hard work (Kartowijono 1951b: 12). The women’s movement focused on education and training, service provision and the contributing factors as it sought to address this serious health problem. Lack of information and knowledge were underlying concerns. It was noted that poorer women in particular ‘know nothing about health’ and ‘do not have knowledge concerning their bodies’ (Kartowijono 1952a: 15). A midwife argued for the need to provide rural and village areas with health information and the services of trained midwives (Soekarno 1955). The need to increase midwifery training, improve health information and train village dukun to work more hygienically were consistent demands. In line with the emphasis on being a modern state, contemporary stories highlighted the perception of the dukun as unhygienic and inferior to the professional midwife (see Hendon 1968). To improve training, give information and increase health services, women’s organizations established courses, consultation bureaus and Maternal and Child Health clinics. Information and advice was given to pregnant women and midwifery training was provided for dukun and bidan. Perwari (1952a), Bhajangkari (Wanita 1955a: 12), Aisjijah (1952c: 213), Wanita Katolik (1954: 5), Gerwani, Persit, Muslimat NU and PWKI (Kowani 1969: 11) all provided these types of services. This again shows that in the socio-economic sector there was little to differentiate the various streams. Organizations in regional centres such as Bandjarmasin, Maduin and Malang worked cooperatively to operate consultation bureaus (Kartowijono 1952a: 16). The women’s movement also worked closely with the Ministry of Health, receiving financial and technical assistance to operate the clinics (Woodsmall 1960: 213). The Ministry of Health’s Kesedjahteraan Ibu dan Anak (Maternal and Child Health programme), initiated in 1949, was part of the programme to promote preventative health measures (Voice of Indonesia 1958), establishing centres similar to those run by women’s organizations. The health department also trained dukuns to assist professionally trained midwives and to recognize those cases requiring expert help so that help could be sought in time (Sulianti 1953: 35). The shortage of health professionals could be met, in some regards, by providing basic training to women in rural areas. As in other areas of the development programme, there was a blurring of the lines between services provided by the state and by women’s organizations.

Addressing practical gender interests


The women’s movement acknowledged that the maternal death rate was in part a reflection of the huge development problems facing Indonesia and that these could not be solved overnight. Because good accommodation and good nutrition depend on the financial and economic conditions of a nation, the Ministry of Health, naturally, cannot do much until the economic condition of the whole country has improved. (Sulianti 1953: 34) As in the education sector, women’s organizations did not blame the state for inadequacies but sought to ensure women’s health needs remained on the national agenda. Women’s organizations issued joint resolutions demanding that Maternal and Child Health services be established in every sub-district and that the number of hospitals be increased (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 656). Much concern was expressed about the lack of medical services in rural and regional areas. Gerwani in particular lobbied for the interests of village women, urging the government to ensure every district had trained midwives (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). They also demanded increased numbers of clinics, nurses and health inspectors, as well as more medicine and medical supplies. Suara Perwari articles called on the government to make economic progress so that people could buy food and improve their health (Soekarno 1955). The campaign had limited success. Pre-war, 90–95 per cent of pregnant women had no professional assistance; by 1960, this was reduced to 80 per cent (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 144). Women’s organizations also focused on general health measures to reduce maternal mortality and some espoused family planning as a strategy. In terms of general health the focus was again on education. Women’s organizations ran first aid courses and provided information on hygiene and adequate nutrition. Once a month the Women’s International Club screened instructional films in various Jakarta kampongs as part of a joint programme with the Ministry of Information and Municipal Health Service (WIC 1955b: 220). While many of the larger health problems needed longterm strategies, women were encouraged to ‘make do’ with what was around them to improve conditions. Sunlight, for example, was promoted as a means of killing disease germs. ‘Even the smallest house in Indonesia can make use of this knowledge, if only one is aware of its advantages’ (Sulianti 1953: 34). Health education stressed nutrition. Women’s journals Wanita and Rumah Tangga dan Kesehatan often had articles on nutrition and vitamins (with recipes), food storage, hygiene, and housekeeping advice. The emphasis on first aid, nutrition and household hygiene all addressed women as mothers and providers of health care for their families, and assisted women to fulfil these roles. Again some success from the ‘vigorous’ public health campaigns was noted, success that was evident in declining mortality rates (Nitisastro 1970: 125–126).


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Family planning With the emphasis on women’s reproductive health it was not surprising that some women’s leaders sought to advance family planning as a means of improving women’s health and well-being. Although family planning never captured the attention of the women’s movement as a whole, it is an interesting issue to consider because it highlights differences among women’s groups, becoming one of the few areas of disagreement within the movement on social issues. It also illustrates another part of the complex relationship between women and the state. During the 1950s, family planning was increasingly linked to economic development programmes internationally (Smyth 1998: 217). Against this background, the issue began to be discussed in Indonesia (Sulianti 1952). There are no official population statistics for Indonesia in the 1950s, although estimates suggest the population was growing (Nitisastro 1970: 124–125). However, population growth was not yet viewed as problematic. The Indonesian Five Year Development Plan (1956–1960), for example, rejected birth-control programmes (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 145). Observers noted ‘there is antagonism to family planning at government level’ (Cadbury 1963: 524) and the government took a cautious approach ‘so as not to be opposed by the religious parties’ (Woodsmall 1960: 212). Opposition was also linked to nationalism. Following losses during the war and revolution, population growth was viewed as advantageous for national development. Sukarno did not consider it necessary for Indonesia to have a familyplanning programme until its population reached 250 million (Ihromi 1973: 1–2). National leaders did not support family planning, making it harder for women’s organizations to advance the issue. The women’s movement itself did ‘not treat the subject openly’ (Vreedede Stuers 1960: 146). It would have been impossible to reach a consensus on this issue with Catholic and Islamic groups in opposition. There were no Kongres Wanita Indonesia resolutions on family planning until it became state policy in the 1960s.7 However, women associated with Perwari promoted family planning and their arguments were published in their journal, Suara Perwari. It was also observed that ‘individual doctors and midwives among the leading members [of the women’s movement] discreetly advise on the spacing of births’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 146). Proponents of family planning lectured to audiences of hundreds ‘at the request of women’s organizations’ (Woodsmall 1960: 212). They argued ‘for the sake of the mother’s health it is absolutely necessary to adopt family planning. Women who become pregnant every year will not have much happiness from life and their health will be poor’ (Sulianti 1952). In December 1958 the Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association (IPPA) was established. The aim of the new association was to form ‘happy families’ in which the husband and wife had a shared understanding of marriage, the marriage produced children, and the number of children was consistent with the wife’s health and capability. The organization therefore focused on marriage

Addressing practical gender interests


counselling, infertility treatment (infertility was defined as barrenness in marriage) and family planning. It provided advice in all these areas, as well as experimenting and testing infertility treatments and methods of birth control (Perwari 1958c). Of the 12 founding committee members, 8 were women including several who were prominent within Perwari and Kongres Wanita Indonesia.8 The chair, Dr H. Soeharto, stressed that the association was not formed especially to address population problems in Java and Bali, but to advance family well-being (Soeharto 1958a: 9). The initial Indonesian approach to family planning was within a discourse of family welfare rather than population control. For the women activists involved it was primarily a strategy to improve women’s health and reduce the maternal death rate (Soewondo 1958a: 7), which fitted into the family-welfare rhetoric. But other advantages for women were also discussed. Suwondo noted the importance of family planning for women’s emancipation and economic welfare (Soewondo 1958a: 7). She also linked the infertility section of the new organization to women’s rights in marriage. She argued that childless marriages often resulted in divorce or polygamy. Infertility treatment could reduce the incidence of these (Soewondo 1958a: 7). This focus on fertility treatment within a family-planning programme reflects the objective of improving women’s welfare and reproductive rights, something that is usually absent from statebased programmes of population control. The family-planning movement met Islamic resistance. The Muslim response was negative on the grounds that birth control was forbidden by Islamic doctrine (Baried 1986a: 150). In June 1958, for example, a Semerang judge ruled that ‘the Islamic religion strongly forbids birth control’. The IPPA argued against this, citing the Egyptian population policy based on the view that ‘Islam allows birth control in the interests of society and for the safety of the concerned person’ (Soeharto 1958b: 37). Nevertheless, Islamic women’s organizations were guided by their parties’ opposition and refusal to discuss the issue. The Aisjijah member of a Kongres Wanita Indonesia delegation to the US in 1957 refused to participate in any activities involving birth-control issues (Baried 1986a: 150). The state response was varied. Army medical authorities were reportedly interested in teaching methods of birth control to army wives, as the army gave allowances to each soldier’s child (Cadbury 1963: 524), but the Persit journal never discussed the issue. The Ministry of Health was supportive (Soewondo 1958b). From 1959, when the IPPA became a member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation and began receiving supplies of contraceptives, the ministry’s Mother and Child Health centres distributed them (Ihromi 1973: 2). The Ministry of Justice, however, was concerned about the legality of family planning (Soewondo 1958b). During the 1960s the issue was increasingly debated but the terms of the debate shifted from women’s welfare and health to economic concerns about overpopulation.9 A state-controlled family-planning programme began in 1970, at which point


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Islamic organizations like Aisjijah began to support birth control (Baried 1986b: 194–195). As a state-based programme for population control, the focus on women’s reproductive well-being was lost.10 The example of family planning and women’s reproductive rights suggests it was difficult for women’s interests to be advanced when they were not state priorities and when the women’s movement was not united on an issue. This is discussed further in Chapter 6, in relation to the reform of marriage law. In terms of socio-economic activism, family planning was not widely supported as a strategy for improving women’s lives. The movement focused on more traditional and socially acceptable concepts, supporting the state’s national programme rather than fighting to change it. Social welfare Social welfare was another area in which the new state needed community support. The state did not have the resources to establish a social welfare system, so women’s organizations mobilized to meet women’s welfare needs. Women’s organizations distributed food and clothing to the poor. They made donations to charities and organizations such as Persatuan Ibu UGM and the Women’s International Club held fundraising events to support welfare associations. Child-focused charities were a priority, with support going to orphanages, the Crippled Children’s Society, children’s health camps, Foundation for the Blind, the Red Cross and children’s wards (Bradjanagara 1959: 29–30; WIC 1955c). Women’s organizations from all streams, including Persit (1954a: 6), Perwari (1952d), Wanita Katolik (1954: 4) and Muslimat NU (1979: 79), established orphanages. In social work the role of motherhood was emphasized, with children’s welfare conceptualized as women’s responsibility. Child welfare was also linked to nationalism. It was said that ‘healthy children will become healthy citizens’ and therefore they needed a healthy environment to be born into and grow in (Moersadik 1958: 24). Magazines spoke of ‘healthy children for a healthy state’ (Sayono 1958: 206). Children’s Week became an event observed and marked by women’s organizations in the major cities, focusing on the importance of children for ‘the future of the state’ (Wanita 1949c: 49). The role of women as mothers, particularly in a nationalist climate, put a responsibility on them to produce good healthy citizens. This was difficult given the conditions of the times. The infant mortality rate was as disturbing as the maternal death rate. In 1952 the Indonesian infant death rate was reputedly six times higher than in Europe or the US, with 150–175 deaths for every 1,000 babies under the age of one (Wanita 1953a: 9). It was estimated 600,000 infants died every year (Kartowijono 1952a: 16). Ministry of Health statistics in 1958 showed infant mortality was 70 to 250 per 1,000 live births (Voice of Indonesia 1958: 15). These high mortality rates were attributed to ‘ignorance of the mothers regarding

Addressing practical gender interests


childcare, even of simple basic principles’, bad nutrition, ‘bad accommodation’ and a lack of medical care ‘especially outside the cities’ (Sulianti 1953: 33; see also Kartowijono 1952a: 16). Linking infant mortality to inadequate maternal care reinforced the need for women’s education on motherhood. Women’s organizations responded with information for mothers on rearing children. Journals often carried advice on children’s health, including how to nurse ill children (Wanita 1951b), feeding schedules for babies (Soemarmo 1951) and infant care (Moersadik 1958). The maternal and child consultation bureaus run by most women’s organizations also provided instruction for women. Again they worked closely with the Health Department, who from 1952 established home-visitor programmes to monitor the health and care of newborn babies in villages (Sulianti 1953: 34–35). Another aspect of welfare provision was responding to emergency situations. Natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods had a huge impact on women and national development. Women’s organizations assisted Merapi eruption victims, Jambi flood victims and victims of kampong fires in Jakarta and other cities. They donated food, clothing, kitchen utensils, household goods and money (Persit 1955a: 6–8; Perwari 1952d). This mirrored the work of the Social Welfare department, which responded to 2,950 natural disasters between 1951 and 1960 (including floods, fires, cyclones, famine, landslides and volcanic eruptions), providing food, clothes, medicines and other goods (Departemen Kesedjahteraan Sosial 1961: 14–15). The overlap between state- and community-based service provision was again significant. In the social sphere, the 1950s Indonesian state did not have the resources – and therefore the ability – to penetrate women’s everyday lives. Women’s organizations did not hold the state responsible for the socio-economic position of women. They did, however, see a role for the state in developing Indonesia and thus advancing the position of women. It was for this reason that national development interests were an important objective of the women’s movement. This was especially true for economic growth.

Economic interests In the economic sphere women’s organizations were concerned about the general economic situation, inflation and the price of daily necessities. Price increases and shortages were a feature of 1950s Indonesia (Trisula 1959b). The cost of living outstripped income for many low-income workers (Gerwani 1955: 9). Activists recall rising inflation, shortages ‘of everything’ and having to queue for basic goods such as rice and sugar (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997; Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). For most women it was a time of ‘living hard’ (Afiff, interview, 10 January 1997). This impacted on women in their household-management role (Mangkutanojo 1953: 488). Aisjijah identified the problem of high prices as an important social


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

problem (Zuber 1952: 122), a view shared by Gerwani. Gerwani (1955: 8) argued that the most urgent problem for women was the ‘large rises in everyday necessities including food, medicines and clothing’ and that the ‘suffering is experienced by all classes of women’. In the Konstituante (the constituent assembly debating a new constitution) a female member, Sunarjo Mangupuspito, noted that people’s suffering was increasing every day and this was especially true for women with their ‘clear responsibility to guarantee household well-being’ in the face of rising food and textile prices (Mangupuspito 1959: 2). This prevented women fulfilling their role as wives and mothers. The women’s movement lobbied the government to address inflation. Persit wanted price controls (Hsn 1956: 5) and Gerwani led campaigns to demand lower prices for necessities such as rice, textiles, sugar and cooking oil (Hindley 1966: 207). All streams were united behind Kongres Wanita Indonesia resolutions demanding the government lower the price of rice and other daily essentials (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 56). A delegation met with the government in March 1959, noting that the ‘prices for food and clothing were soaring’ and demanding the government impose controls to ‘bring down the price of daily necessities’ or lose their prestige (Antara 1959: 4). There was frustration that independence did not deliver economic progress and meet women’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter. Income support As the government had limited resources, women’s organizations again sought to provide their own solutions. They worked to alleviate members’ economic difficulties through women’s banks and cooperatives, and by offering direct financial support. Cooperatives ‘existed everywhere – both in the villages and cities’ and Bank Koperasi Wanita operated in a number of places, including Jakarta and Bandung (Sardjono 1959b: 33). A number of women’s organizations established their own women’s banks. Many provided payments to members when unexpected financial needs arose, thus freeing them from a dependence on moneylenders that would perpetuate cycles of debt. This was a means of increasing women’s economic independence. Cooperatives were promoted as a way for women to cope with rising prices (Sardjono 1959b: 34) and improve their economic status. In terms of women’s role of running households, buying collectives that purchased everyday goods in bulk proved the most useful (Mangkutanojo 1953: 488). Many Perwari branches operated cooperatives (Perwari 1952a, 1952c), as did Wanita Katolik (1954: 5), Muslimat NU (1979: 84), and many other organizations. Again, there was united action. Women’s banks had a similar role. Members had to make a minimum deposit and could then approach the bank for loans. This was another selfhelp strategy that in addition taught women to save and manage their own financial affairs (Woodsmall 1960: 219). In areas like Bandung, women’s

Addressing practical gender interests


organizations joined together to operate women’s banks (Antara 1955a). Larger women’s organizations like Perwari established their own institutions. The leadership recognized many ‘members must borrow for necessities’: Perwari loans were a way to alleviate the debt burden that usually resulted (Perwari 1952i). Some organizations offered members mutual assistance or grants at times of financial need as another strategy aimed at preventing women’s debt. Gerwani (Hindley 1966: 207) and Perwari (1952a, 1952d) provided funds for funeral expenses. The Javanese tradition of arisans (where members contribute a small fee at each meeting and one member receives the total on a rotating basis) were also a feature of 1950s women’s organizations. These, however, were as much a strategy to ensure attendance at meetings as way of easing financial burdens: Perwari branches operated arisans (Perwari 1952j) but long-time Perwari member, Suwondo, admits this was to give members ‘a reason to come . . . otherwise they won’t meet regularly’ (Suwondo, interview, 27 November 1996). Gerwani arisans had a similar purpose and were used to attract women to meetings on women’s issues or for training (Hindley 1966: 207; ‘Kartini’, interview, 22 November 1996). Women as workers During the 1950s, the labour sphere increasingly attracted the attention of the women’s movement. In 1957 Kongres Wanita Indonesia established a Labour section to address the problems faced by working women (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 56). In this area of activism, women’s interests were clearly differentiated by class. For elite women, work was perceived as liberating. National independence offered new economic roles and expanded opportunities, fulfilling the demand from the colonial era that women be allowed to work. Although poor women had always worked outside the home, educated women of the upper classes had found it difficult to claim an economic role in the face of family opposition and societal disapproval. Ibu Sri, a leader of the Indonesian Red Cross, described herself as ‘rebellious’ for finding a job in 1917. Working in those days was not thought of for young girls of good family. Especially in a small town like Magelang in Central Java we had to conform more or less to the norms of the community. My mother was very much against my working for a living. (cited in Diah 1954: 22) When Herawati Diah, a writer and editor of newspapers and women’s magazines, first took a journalism job in 1941 people ‘looked askance at a woman working when she was not compelled to’ (Diah 1956: 126).11 Independence brought a dramatic change. From the start of the revolution, it was observed, ‘we have seen increasing numbers of women working


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

outside the home, i.e. in offices, in shops, factories or in the community’ (Surasto 1959: 23) and ‘Indonesian women from all classes enter all economic spheres’ (Sardjono 1959a: 24). The women’s rights/secular stream of the movement welcomed this change. They celebrated the fact that women were now an important part of the workforce, practicing medicine, law and dentistry, running businesses, and participating in the batik and jewellery industries (Mangoenkoesoemo 1956: 20). Women’s employment opportunities, however, were placed within a discourse of nationalism and citizenship. It was viewed as ‘necessary for women to work outside the home at this time for the development of Indonesia’ (Schenk and Munar 1950: 120). Because ‘so much was to be done in a country which had just freed herself from foreign domination’, women ‘were needed everywhere’ and believed ‘they share[d] a responsibility in the tremendous task of the nation’s reconstruction’ (Diah 1955: 236, 238). Diah also noted that elite women had few employment-related problems. In modern Asian countries, more or less the same pattern is being followed in having a normal family life together with a career. With servants easily at our disposal and the family system of grandmothers or aunties still prevailing, the Indonesian woman who is a working mother, actually has little to complain about. (Diah 1955: 235) She claimed that women received equal pay and ‘there is no discrimination whatsoever as to the type of work women are allowed to be engaged in’. Although many women preferred working in so-called feminine jobs, they were not barred from technical work (Diah 1955: 236–237). To elite women, work was empowering. There was a perception of equality and it was a way to participate in state development. Women workers of the lower classes had a very different experience of work and were constructed by the elite-dominated women’s movement as victims in need of assistance. For these women, working in the markets, fields, plantations and factories or as domestic workers, work was not a right but a necessity. The economic hardships of the 1950s continued to make women’s contributions crucial to household survival. Elite women conceptualized their own employment opportunities as empowering, but they focused on the problems that confronted low-income women. Child care, pay and working conditions were all issues socialist women’s organizations in particular identified. Gerwani noted that with no child care the suffering of mothers who worked was greater and the work they could do was limited (Gerwani 1954: 3). The Kongres Wanita Indonesia charter of women’s rights called for child-care provision in industrial and plantation areas (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). Lower-class working women were concentrated in low-income jobs, providing a cheap labour force. There was a pay differential of around 25

Addressing practical gender interests


per cent between women and men (US Department of Labour, 1963, cited in Elliot 1997: 136). Gerwani noted women received lower wages than men did for the same work, constituting a double burden of exploitation (Gerwani 1954: 3). Not only was their rate of pay lower, but women had problems accessing benefits guaranteed in labour legislation. Although there were equal-pay provisions, women often only received the minimum wage and rights to maternity leave, menstruation leave and provision for women to breastfeed were ‘not well practised’ (Surasto 1959: 27). It was elite and educated women working in the professions and civil service who were protected; women labourers, domestic servants, small traders and those in home industries were not (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 156). The implementation of rights for domestic workers did not receive ‘proper attention’ (Surasto 1959: 24). This would have been a problematic issue given that elite women were reliant on domestic help to enable them to fulfil their household, career and organizational roles. It is also questionable to what extent women’s economic independence was realized through work. Women’s employment opportunities were restricted by ‘protective’ labour legislation that prevented women working at night (except when ‘because of its nature’ it was work that should be performed by women), in mines or underground, and in jobs that presented dangers to their health, safety and morality (Elliot 1997: 140–141). This perpetuated gender-conforming roles and limited free choice. The legislation was developed under a female Minster of Labour, Trimurti, and could be interpreted as beneficial for women by keeping them out of dangerous work. However, it was argued, it would be better to change the conditions of these workplaces rather than limiting employment opportunities (International Labour Review 1954, cited in Elliot 1997: 143). Women’s feminine character and motherhood responsibilities restricted their employment opportunities.

Women in development Indonesia faced a massive task of socio-economic reconstruction after winning independence. The post-colonial state did not have the resources to provide full educational, health, welfare and economic support services, which meant that women’s basic needs were not fully met in the independent nation–state. This also meant the state did not have the power to construct gender roles and was not blamed by the women’s movement for the problems women faced in the socio-economic sphere. Women’s organizations defined women’s roles as being to assist the state, to provide for women in particular and Indonesia in general – a difficult task given the economic context. Women’s organizations supported and supplemented government programmes, providing services that the state did not have the resources to provide. In this way, women were addressing national interests. Economic, social, health and educational progress were all perceived as rights of


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

citizens in an independent state, mobilizing women in a new nationalist struggle to secure economic and social independence in addition to political sovereignty for the nation. This was central to the conceptualization of women’s citizenship, emphasizing women’s duty to advance the state and nation, a more meaningful notion in an independent state where Indonesians were responsible for meeting community needs. The socio-economic activities of women show that these notions of citizenship were clearly gendered. Indonesian womanhood was constituted through motherhood. Women’s basic needs in the new state were based on their roles as mothers and household managers, which were extended to the new Indonesian family or nation. There was remarkable consensus within the movement, with secular, religious and political women’s organizations engaging in similar and often cooperative activities to ensure women could fulfil these roles. The only area of difference was the class dichotomy that constructed elite women as empowered in contrast to the victimhood of poor women. This was clearest in the area of women’s work where elite women perceived themselves as contributing to nation-building (through the civil service and the professions), as compared to labouring women who were victims needing the special attention of the women’s movement. The area of charity and social work had the same connotations: wealthier, educated women helping poor, ignorant, benighted women. In the context of organizational membership this created two classes of women: the elite members of the women’s movement and the beneficiaries of their community service. The continued mobilization of women for nationalist projects raises the question of co-option and the contradictory outcomes nationalism has for women. The need for women’s support opened up new areas for participation within the state. But Caplan (1985: 141) has argued that in the Indian experience such roles kept the social sphere as a women’s space, a ‘kind of extended house-keeping which is seen as peculiarly suitable for them’. They were not engaged in decision-making and agenda-setting. This was also true for Indonesia. The women’s movement was unable to have women’s representatives appointed to the government’s village-development bodies (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 54). The fight for subsidies for girls’ schools questions the extent to which the state allocated resources to women’s organizations. The family-planning issue demonstrated the difficulty involved in advancing women’s interests that were not in accord with state priorities, and how benefits for women can be lost when the focus is on national interest rather than women’s rights. However, the need for women’s organizations to support government programmes enabled women to participate in nation-building. It meant that women’s organizations could lobby for women’s needs to be addressed within national policy, illustrating women’s commitment to citizenship and nationalism. Advancing national development was a means of meeting citizenship duties and improving women’s lives and well-being. Working with the state

Addressing practical gender interests


enabled the women’s movement to address their national interests and target women’s needs. This makes an interesting contrast to current debates around women and development. Since the UN Decade for Women there has been increasing attention paid to the problem of involving women in development programmes and ensuring their needs are met (Waylen 1996a: 37–40; Chowdhry 1995; Parpart and Marchand 1995: 13). The Indonesian case study shows that women were active in what can be described as development programmes, viewing such activity as one of their responsibilities. However, the benefits are questionable. Current debates around WID and Gender And Development (GAD) note that feminist rhetoric is used but the broader (non-economic) sources of women’s oppression and disadvantage are not addressed (Waylen 1996a: 40–41; Chowdhry 1995: 31–35). Although the socio-economic sphere provided an arena for increased participation and engagement with the state, women’s needs and interests were only supported by the state to the extent to which they addressed state priorities. This is examined further in Chapter 6 but we first need to consider the opportunities women had to influence the state, opportunities that were largely determined by their level of participation in conventional politics. Chapter 5 examines the engagement with electoral politics of Indonesian women’s organizations.


Representing women in a new democracy Women’s organizations and national politics

In the political field Indonesian women enjoy practically the same rights as men. It is up to themselves to realize these granted rights. (Santoso 1953: 12)

Women’s political participation encompasses a wide range of activities. Previous chapters have examined the involvement of women’s organizations in the nationalist struggle and in the socio-educational sphere of the new nation–state, exploring definitions of womanhood and the relationships between women and the state. Conventional politics is another important area for analyzing women’s activism, illustrating women’s rights and status, and investigating the ability of the women’s movement to pursue gender interests. This chapter will analyse the role of women’s organizations in electoral politics, another priority of women’s activism, explaining how women’s organizations participate in mainstream politics. The most important concerns of 1950s Indonesian politics were political rights in a new nation–state, electoral politics and constitutional debate. As women addressed these, they equated women’s political rights with duty and embedded women’s interests in nationalist concepts of communitarianism. The new democracy also provided a challenge for women’s organizations as they debated how to best represent women’s gender interests, in particular the vexed question of whether or not women should be represented by women. This had great significance when the movement attempted to influence the national political agenda and confront the state on a gender issue, as the following chapter will demonstrate.

Rights and responsibilites in a democratic state Indonesian politics in the 1950s Indonesia’s national leadership initially embraced democracy and parliamentary institutions. When the unified Republic of Indonesia was formally founded on 17 August 1950, a unicameral legislature was established with government based on a parliamentary cabinet responsible to the prime

Representing women in a new democracy 101 minister.1 Nationalist leader Sukarno served as a figurehead president with constitutionally limited powers, although his personal prestige and popularity gave the presidential role greater influence. The political system was based on a provisional constitution committed to general elections.2 In the interim the composition of the national parliament (DPR) and provincial and municipal legislatures reflected estimated party strength. The national capital was moved to Jakarta, which became the focal point of political activity, and politics remained the domain of an elite leadership and a small, largely urbanized political public (Feith 1962). In his definitive study of the period, Feith (1962) acknowledges that Indonesians’ understanding of democracy was not identical to the Western tradition, making the extent of democracy debatable.3 However, Feith and others (Bourchier and Legge 1994) define the 1950s as a democracy because of the democratic features within the political system. There was support for people’s sovereignty and equality, basic public liberties (including freedom of press and assembly), an independent parliament, elections, a lack of coercion and a sense of playing by the constitutional rules. The Indonesian system of the 1950s can therefore be defined as an electoral democracy. Although this democracy proved short-lived, the first decade of Indonesian statehood was genuinely grounded in democratic principles. The tendency to analyse the era as a failed ‘democratic experiment’, tracking the political crises, regional rebellions, increasing influence of the army and disillusionment with the party system that led to Sukarno’s vision of ‘Guided Democracy’ (Legge 1980: 19; see also Lev 1994, 1966; Mackie 1994), overlooks this.4 Sukarno’s presidential decree of 5 July 1959, dissolving the elected Konstituante (Constituent Assembly) and re-enacting the 1945 constitution, did effectively end electoral democracy in Indonesia. However, this should not detract from the serious attempt to develop a participatory system of governance during the 1950s. We therefore need to look at certain features of the system and the engagement of women to see how well democracy served their interests, especially as this has been overlooked in previous studies. As a democracy, this was ‘the period in which Indonesian politics was most open and most clearly rooted in society’, producing ‘the only really free elections that the country has had’ and witnessing ‘a wide-ranging debate about what the nation should be’ (McVey 1994: 3).5 Indonesians were freed from state-imposed barriers to political participation and for the first time were able to freely engage in political action. To women’s organizations, such as Partai Wanita Rakjat (Women’s People’s Party), democracy meant equal rights and opportunities in all spheres – political, economic, social and cultural (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 305). By focusing on the participatory features of electoral democracy, including representation in elected parliaments, voting, election campaigns and contact with the government/state, we can assess the opportunities democracy offered Indonesian women.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

The complexities of 1950s Indonesian politics has been well told in Feith’s (1962) authoritative and detailed account. However, it is important to briefly consider some of the main features and issues that were significant for women’s political action. The 1950s were a period of ‘normalizing’ (Feith 1962: 303) or post-transition politics. Critical issues included stabilizing the administration, restoring order, reorganizing the economy, holding elections to legitimize the new regime, and debates on the form of the state. Economic issues were dominant, with spiralling inflation and government debt. Government spending was often a volatile issue. Foreign affairs became increasingly linked to anti-colonialism and the demand for the return of West Irian. Labour unrest, reorganization of the army and nationalization of finance and industry were other important issues. Government instability and shifting balances of power also dominated politics at the national level. Throughout the 1950s political power was a contest between the forces of Islam, communism, nationalism and increasingly the army. Political parties represented each of these forces and no single party could command a majority. The provisional national parliament had representatives from 20 parties, with the largest party holding only 21 per cent of DPR seats (Ricklefs 1993: 242).6 Under these conditions it became impossible for governments to hold power for long. Between December 1949 and March 1957, seven different governments were formed. The first cabinet lasted only 6 months and its successor 10 months, with only two cabinets surviving the 12-month mark. The longest duration of any government was two years (Feith 1962). Cabinets were unable to implement a sustained political programme and energies were diverted by the negotiations to form each new multi-party cabinet. The political instability was further exacerbated by regional rebellions (discussed in Chapter 8) and debates on Indonesia’s constitutional foundations. The central issue was the role of Islam in the state. Nationalists worried about secession if Indonesia became an Islamic state, while Muslim organizations and parties lobbied for Islam to be the dasar negara (ideological basis of the state) (Feith 1971: 11). The Konstituante was elected to resolve this debate but proved unable to reach the necessary two-thirds agreement for any binding decision on a new constitution. It was hoped that elections would resolve political instability and they were on the political agenda from 1949. They were also viewed as a priority because of their importance within a democracy. An election bill was finally passed on 4 April 1953 and elections were held in 1955 (29 September for the DPR and 15 December for the Konstituante). Because elections were always on the agenda, the early 1950s became a long election campaign, further fuelling instability with its focus on Islam versus nationalism (Feith 1962: 355–356). The elections were based on universal suffrage and party lists in a system of proportional representation. All Indonesian citizens over 17 years old could vote. This led to increased party activity outside Jakarta,

Representing women in a new democracy 103 broadening the political community (Feith 1962: 279–281). Women’s organizations became a means to mobilize party support, as will be discussed later. The 1955 election did not produce the political stability hoped for. In fact, it worsened the situation (Wertheim 1959: 86; Abdulgani 1973: 32). There were now 28 parties represented in parliament, with no party holding a clear majority. Only four parties had more than eight seats, the largest holding only 22 per cent of parliamentary seats.7 Another four parties each held between five and eight seats, and the remaining 20 parties had only one or two seats (Ricklefs 1993: 250). The instability continued. This experience of parliamentary democracy was important for women’s organizations in several ways. Because it was a new system, women had to define their roles and participation within it, and the political freedom the system offered gave women their first real opportunity to pursue gender interests. No longer dealing with a colonizing power or fighting for their own state, they were free to lobby the government and protest about gender issues. Chapter 6 explores this further, with reference to demands for a marriage law. However, the opportunities this freedom offered were limited by the political instability. The women’s movement was hindered by the ever-changing cabinets as it sought to lobby government.8 The party system also created dilemmas for the women’s movement. It made power dependent on a political bloc, which women had difficulty forming. Underlying this issue was the question of whether women should be represented by gender or non-gender interests. Solidarity was also a problem, as the divisions of party politics were played out within the women’s movement. In the election campaign and constitutional debate, the women’s movement was divided between representing women as women and supporting non-gender ideological and religious positions. Before discussing this further, we need to consider what rights parliamentary democracy conferred on women that enabled them to engage in the political sphere. Political freedoms and opportunities to participate in an independent state were, to some extent, determined by the legal status of women. Equal rights and civic duty Indonesian women appeared generally satisfied with their constitutional status in the newly independent republic. Women’s journals often proclaimed ‘Indonesian women have full political rights’ (Sujud 1957: 518) and noted that women had achieved equal voting rights without the long struggle of women in other countries (Fatmuhnur 1955: 62; Harahap 1959: 13). Thus liberty for Indonesia meant liberty for women (Sarumpaet-Hutubarat 1957). The provisional constitutions guaranteed equal rights to all citizens ‘without distinction of race, religion or sex’ (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 3). Indonesian women had the same rights and freedoms as men, including the right to vote, participate in government and hold public office.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

There was apparently little debate around political equality for women. When the 1945 constitution gave women equal rights ‘nobody even talked about it. It was natural’ (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). It was presented as being a ‘reward’ for their involvement in the nationalist movement. Equal rights were no surprise, since women ‘fought equally with the men to obtain these same rights and have not shrunk back from performing the same duties on an equal basis with men’ (Marzuki 1953: 6, cited in Nierras 1958: 55). Other possible explanations include the elite nature of Indonesian politics and ties of women’s leaders to politically prominent men. The Indonesian political public was small and for pragmatic reasons educated and politically experienced women could not be excluded from public life. Indonesian women also had a long tradition of participation in the public sphere. Finally, women’s suffrage and equality may have been adopted as a symbol of modern statehood and national progress. There were only a few areas in which women’s equality was not formally legislated. The most important was marriage, as will be discussed in the following chapter. Inheritance rights were also of concern (Wanita 1952b: 55) and there was an anomaly in the right to be elected. Although three women won elections for village head, they were unable to take office because of a 1907 regulation, still in effect from the colonial era, that excluded women from the position (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 4). These were the only exceptions to equality that the women’s movement publicly discussed. The women’s movement was proud of women’s political rights and catalogued achievements in the public sphere. The first female state judge (Nn Thung Tjit Nio) was appointed in 1955 (Wanita 1955a: 12) and by 1958 there were 20 female judges and two public prosecutors (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 4). There was also a women’s police corps (Indonesian Spectator 1957a: 16). Women were members of the national parliament and of provincial and municipal councils, the office of Prime Minister’s Secretary was held by a woman, and Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan, had a woman mayor (Diah 1956: 126; Mangoenkoesoemo 1956: 20–21). Women held positions as department and section heads in a variety of government departments and were active in the foreign service, and it was a woman who was Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of North Sumatra (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958: 4).9 Women were also active in the professions, including law, medicine, dentistry, journalism and business (Diah 1956: 126). These examples seemed to confirm equality and suggest women were not denied access to public positions, clearly an achievement for the time. But although women could participate in the public sphere the numbers involved were low. These examples were celebrated as the exceptions rather than the expectation and the women’s movement campaigned for increases. They were unhappy with the low number of women in parliament and the failure to appoint women to cabinet posts (S.P.B. 1953), as will be discussed later.

Representing women in a new democracy 105 They were also concerned that the number of women involved in politics was not comparable with the number of men, lobbying political parties to train more female cadre to ensure a better balance of both sexes (Dunia Wanita 1952: 4–5). There were fewer women than men in the civil service and only a small number of women in higher ranked positions (Sjahrir 1959: 7; Harahap 1959: 13). Woodsmall claimed only 7 per cent of civil servants were women (Woodsmall 1960: 220), a pattern of women’s participation familiar throughout the state (see Waylen 1996a: 13). Kongres Wanita Indonesia demanded the government appoint more women at the national and regional levels (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47). Women’s organizations were very much aware that there was still progress to be made and that rights in law did not necessarily become rights in practice. Women’s leaders argued that much of this depended on women themselves (Santoso 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 68). The discourse became focused on making women use their rights, in effect turning women’s rights into their responsibilities. This marked the most important change for the women’s movement in independence. Women’s organizations did not have to fight for political rights but had to fight to have them implemented – by the state, the community and women themselves. There was, however, little public discussion of what prevented women’s participation and implementation of their rights. One of the only articles to address obstacles to women’s political action commented on the low attendance at the meetings of women’s organizations. This was largely ‘because of household ties’. Women have to work ‘from morning to night . . . cleaning, making food and clothes for their family, meeting the needs of their husband and children’. Although women had equal rights under the constitution, ‘in practice many imbalances in society and conservative views remain, hindering implementation of these laws’ (Surwati 1955: 294). The women’s press itself should have been implicated, as it promoted the image of wife and mother, often reminding women to prioritize their household duties (Elly 1956; Marjoto 1952). Women’s leaders acknowledged ‘our first duty is as mother and wife’ (Kartowijono 1956a: 6) and ‘our ideal is not a mother who leaves her home and children’ unless it was unavoidable (Sarumpaet-Hutubarat 1957). Women’s organizations did not challenge the responsibilities of women in the private sphere. They focused on lack of knowledge as the main barrier, emphasizing the need to educate women about their political rights and responsibilities (Dunia Wanita 1952: 4–5). Democracy was new to Indonesia. There was no indigenous tradition of democracy and few democratic institutions bequeathed from Dutch rule. The majority of the population, therefore, had no knowledge of how to act in a democracy and developing a participatory political culture became part of the nation-building process. Political education was an important objective of women’s organizations, as they taught women about the new system


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

of general elections and their political roles (Santoso 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 68). Women’s organizations and journals explained the technicalities of elections and the ways in which women could be active. Some ran political education courses to explain parliament, the constitution, the meaning of the state, the formation of government, political parties and elections. Journals such as Suara Perwari and Wanita also carried stories on current political issues. Getting information to village women was a priority (Wanita 1953d: 301), especially as the 1951 regional election in Yogyakarta had shown a low turnout among rural women (Susanto 1951: 408). This civic education supported the government’s public information campaign that included banners proclaiming ‘women too have the right to vote’ (Indonesia 1955: 7). The emphasis of this campaign was on voting. Although voting is a very limited form of political participation, it has symbolic meaning, especially for women who have often faced long and bitter suffrage struggles and in the context of democratization, where people have fought to overturn a regime that denies them popular participation. For Indonesian women the right to vote was an important aspect of citizenship in an independent state. Women should vote because it was their ‘duty as citizens!’ (Wanita 1953d: 301). It was a responsibility of citizenship, linked in particular to democracy. Voting was also seen to be important for women’s rights and progress, particularly for influencing government to promote the programme of the women’s movement. Women’s organizations not only taught women about the right to vote but also urged them to use it. There was no debate to parallel that in Western feminism about whether women should participate in mainstream politics (see Randall 1998: 186). The emphasis of the movement’s political programme was on promoting participation and ensuring political rights, particularly the right to vote, were exercised. But the promotion of women’s political rights was also a strategy to advance the agenda of the women’s movement. Women could use popular politics to influence the state and they recognized the need to pursue women’s interests through electoral politics (P. 1953; Pudjobuntoro 1954b). This raised the questions of how women should engage in the party system and how they should vote.

Electoral participation In the transition to a democratic electoral system, women’s organizations have to consider how they will participate in the new, usually partydominated, political processes. This has been called the ‘autonomy versus integration’ dilemma (Waylen 1996a: 16). Should women’s organizations work within political parties and institutions, where they risk being co-opted to support the party without reciprocal support of their gender programme, or should they stay separate and face marginalization in a system where

Representing women in a new democracy 107 influence and power are held by political parties (see Waylen 1996a: 16; Kaushik 1993: xvii-xviii; Jacquette and Wolchik 1998: 6)? At the heart of this is the question of women’s representation and women’s interests. Can women’s interests only be represented by women or are they part of society’s general concerns and hence can be represented by parties? The Indonesian women’s movement faced these dilemmas as the 1955 national elections neared. The 1952 Kongres Wanita Indonesia congress discussed ‘how women should approach the general election’ (Wanita 1953d: 301) and individual organizations, such as Perwari, increasingly sort to clarify their position (Surya-Hadi 1952: 1). This was not a question of whether women should participate in or stay outside mainstream institutions. It was recognized that ‘the women’s movement has to participate actively in the election if it wants to play a deciding role in the results’ (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 15–16).10 The question was who to support and who to vote for. Women’s organizations had to determine their political allegiances and decide whether women should only vote for women. Political allegiances of the women’s movement Kongres Wanita Indonesia represented too many diverse groups to take a particular political stand. Like the broader political scene, the movement was divided between Islam, nationalism and communism. Although organizations shared the common gender objective of improving women’s lives, the ideological differences, which were strongly linked to the party system, made it impossible to form a women’s political bloc. It was up to individual member organizations to decide their political character and the movement was divided between those that were aligned with political parties, sharing an explicit political ideology or position, and those that were non-aligned. Affiliated organizations A large number of national women’s organizations were sections of, or affiliated with, political parties – particularly around the political forces of nationalism, communism and Islam. This affiliation influenced the way women’s issues were interpreted and emphasized shared links with men. Parkiwa (the women’s section of Partai Kebangsaan Indonesia), Wanita Indonesia (affiliated with Partai Indonesia Raya), Wanita Nasional (Partai Rakjat Nasional) and Wanita Demokrat (PNI’s women’s wing) were all affiliated with nationalist political parties. They followed the political programmes of the parties and were committed to pancasila, democracy and nationalism, believing that women’s equality and progress would only be guaranteed in a just and free Indonesia (see Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 300, 338, 344). Socialist parties also had women’s sections. Gerwani was associated with communist party PKI; Gerakan Wanita Sosialis was a section of PSI; and


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Persatuan Wanita Murba was affiliated with Partai Murba. These women’s organizations shared their parties’ objective of creating a socialist society. Discrimination against women and women’s suffering were analysed within the context of colonial and feudal structures of society that continued to exploit Indonesians in general and women in particular. Progress lay with the overthrow of society, tearing apart its unjust foundations and replacing them with socialism. Socialist women’s organizations also focused on raising women’s consciousness by the indoctrination and political education of their members (see Gerwani 1954: 3–5; Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 359). Muslim women’s organizations also supported the restructuring of society, but in their case wanted Islamic law to guide Indonesian life. Muslimat, the women’s wing of Masjumi, shared the party’s aim of ‘bring[ing] about Islamic sentiments in affairs of the state’ and followed its political programme (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 328). Nahdlatul Ulama Muslimat’s objectives included ‘aiding NU’s efforts to maintain Islamic law’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 361). Islamic political parties sought political power to advance the influence and religious goals of Islam (Fealey 1998: 10). Islamic women’s organizations supported this approach and sought to increase the religious consciousness of women (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 328). As sections of political parties, these women’s organizations were often viewed as less political or assigned supportive or auxiliary roles. It was sometimes assumed that politically interested women would join the main political party. Their presence in women’s wings was seen to indicate their lack of interest in politics (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997; Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997). Women’s sections could also function as wives’ organizations. In Gerakan Wanita Sosialis, for example, women became members because their husbands were party members (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). This notion of women’s organizations affiliated with parties being ‘nonpolitical’ is demonstrated in the case of Wanita Katolik. Wanita Katolik was affiliated with Partai Katolik, a minority political party serving the interests of Indonesian Catholics. Despite this link with a political party, Wanita Katolik statutes claimed it was non-political (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 310), apparently indicating that the organization did not engage in political campaigning or activities. In 1954, when Wanita Katolik discussed whether to ‘support Partai Katolik RI or not’, it decided ‘as an organization not to offer support because of our status as Ormas [mass organization] not Orpol [political organization]. But as individuals, members were expected to vote for Partai Katolik RI’ (Wanita Katolik 1995: 47). Thus political/ non-political distinctions were often blurred. Another example is the wives’ organizations of the various sections of the armed forces. All claimed to be non-political (see Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 332, 363) but supported the armed forces in the general election in exchange for inclusion of their gender objectives in party platforms.

Representing women in a new democracy 109 Bhayangkari supported the police association, which then added marriage issues and the establishment of juvenile courts to its programme (Wieringa 1995: 155–156). For the women’s organizations, political affiliation was an opportunity to influence the party, encouraging it to be active on women’s issues and include female candidates on the party list. Gerwani claimed it was successful in lobbying PKI to include women’s issues such as reform of marriage law, women’s rights and education in its campaign, and a number of Gerwani members stood as candidates on PKI lists (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996; see Harian Rakjat 1958: 8; Hindley 1966: 201). It was also an opportunity for women who were politically conscious to work for their political ideology – be it socialism, nationalism or Islam. The political parties used women’s wings to mobilize support (Feith 1971: 24). Women’s organizations campaigned for the political party they belonged to, particularly among female voters. They helped to register voters and taught illiterate people the party symbol to vote for (Woodsmall 1960: 223). Gerwani encouraged its membership to vote for the PKI, explaining that they shared the same ideas and that PKI had a programme of women’s rights. So ‘if you choose PKI it means you choose us’ (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Women’s right to vote meant their support was necessary and women became ‘the field of interest for the parties or canidats [sic] who want to win’ (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 14). As Table 5.1 shows, all the major government and opposition parties of the 1950s had affiliated women’s organizations, suggesting this was an important strategy. This is where the question of co-option arises. Women’s organizations happily supported the party on the assumption that the party would serve Table 5.1 Women’s organizations affiliated with political parties Women’s organization

Political party

Wanita Demokrat Indonesia Gerwani Gerakan Wanita Sosialis Perwamu (Persatuan Wanita Murba) Wanita Nasional Wanita Indonesia Parkiwa Muslimat Gerakan Wanita PSII Muslimat Nahdlatul Ulama Persatuan Wanita Kristen Indonesia Wanita Katolik

Partai Nasional Indonesia Partai Komunis Indonesia Partai Sosialis Indonesia Partai Murba Partai Rakjat Nasional Partai Indonesia Raya Partai Kebangsaan Indonesia Masjumi Partai Sjarikat Islam Indonesia Nahdlatul Ulama Parkindo Partai Katolik

Source: Woodsmall 1960: 231–232.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

their gender interests within a common ideological approach. However, there were concerns that parties’ commitment to women’s issues was often short-term. The magazine Wanita warned readers ‘Look where women’s names are. If a woman is at the bottom of the candidate list, there is little chance she will be elected and she is only there to attract women voters’, questioning the party’s commitment to women’s issues (Wanita 1957: 357). Female MPs were restricted by party discipline, which prevented them from advancing women’s interests, as will be discussed below. Party allegiances also affected the way gender issues like marriage law were pursued, as will be discussed in Chapter 6. However, without some level of integration with a political party it was difficult to have female candidates elected and to force women’s issues onto the agenda. This was the dilemma facing non-aligned women’s organizations. Non-aligned organizations Who to vote for became an important issue for non-aligned women’s organizations (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 15). Non-aligned organizations did not differentiate membership on the basis of religious or political viewpoint, so they represented a range of political persuasions with no ideological position beyond a general commitment to women’s rights and nationalism in its broadest terms. The issue of political representation became problematic, as the example of Perwari demonstrates. Perwari discussed a number of options at various conferences in the early 1950s. These included seeking seats in parliament as a women’s organization, adopting a political ideology to become a women’s political party, joining with other organizations to form a political party, working with a political party, becoming non-political and concentrating on political education only, or becoming completely non-political and non-active in political education (Jusupadi 1953: 12; Sastrohusodo 1955: 2–3). Perwari initially held seats in local legislatures as regulations allocated seats to all parties and organizations. But because Perwari had no political stance, there were difficulties with parliamentary membership. Branch membership felt that Perwari representatives were acting as individuals and could not justify their parliamentary decisions to local members (Jusupadi 1953: 11–12; Sastrohusodo 1953: 6). Perwari rejected the idea of having its own candidates stand in the 1955 elections because of these difficulties (Jusupadi 1953: 12) and because of financial limitations and concerns about the organization’s electoral ‘strength’ (Kartowijono 1953e: 9). Regional elections had shown that candidates standing for women’s organizations did not get elected, suggesting nonaligned organizations were marginalized within a democratic electoral system based on parties. The suggestion of joining with other women’s organizations was dismissed for the same reason: it would only offer a small chance

Representing women in a new democracy 111 of getting women elected (Kartowijono 1953e: 9). The assumption was that only women would support women’s organizations/parties. Perwari rejected adopting a political ideology to become a political body because there were already other women’s organizations of a political nature and a women’s political party (see below). It could offer nothing new (Jusupadi 1953: 12). There would also have been the contested issue of which ideology to follow. The idea of being completely non-political was dismissed because this ‘would not advance members’. Indonesian women needed political education ‘to practise their equal rights’ (Jusupadi 1953: 12). Perwari clearly believed women needed to be politically active. The 1952 Perwari congress eventually decided that Perwari ‘will not actively join in politics, meaning as an organization we will not fight for seats in parliamentary bodies’. Members with political convictions could fight for them outside Perwari (Jusupadi 1953: 11–12). Perwari also committed itself to ‘seat as many women as possible in the DPR’ but realized this was difficult when they had no ‘party discipline’. Many members belonged to political organizations or parties that determined the way they would vote (Kartowijono 1953e: 9). When Perwari members sought guidance on how to vote, the congress decided that all members would have a free choice. This evidently frustrated many members, who remained unsure of whom to vote for on Election Day (Sastrohusodo 1955: 2–3). Perwari tried to work with political parties, lobbying to get women into parliament. They unsuccessfully sought to have Perwari members placed on various party candidate lists (Soekanto 1954: 8). Leaders also unsuccessfully pressured political parties to address its women’s programme (which included calls for a progressive marriage law, action on health and education issues, action against prostitution, and price controls) in their party platforms. Of the 15 parties approached, only the PSI and PNI expressed some agreement; even they did not integrate it into their own programme. Nevertheless Perwari decided to support Perwari members who were PSI and PNI candidates (Wieringa 1995: 152). Perwari remained concerned, however, that members on a party list were subject to party discipline rather than women’s demands (Kartowijono 1953e: 9; Sastrohusodo 1955: 2–3). They were unable to find a satisfactory way to represent women’s interests in electoral politics. Although Kartowijono’s memoir suggests Perwari did have candidates stand in the 1955 elections (Kartowijono 1983: 105), the Perwari magazine of the period gives no indication of this. It was not until the 1957 congress that they made the decision for ‘Perwari to fight for its objectives with its own candidates in elections for representative bodies’ (Perwari 1958a: 13), obviously a response to the 1955 election results and the difficulty of fighting for a marriage law. Other non-political women’s organizations faced the same dilemmas. Some remained purely social or welfare organizations, abandoning activity


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

in the political sphere. Others followed Perwari’s path, staying non-aligned but politically active in the sense of claiming a space for women’s political participation. PPI stated that they would not become part of another organization or follow any political ideology (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 330) but encouraged women’s political action. Pasundan Isteri persuaded women to join a political party, any that they agreed with, and to be active in elections (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997). Even though non-aligned organizations did not subscribe to a particular political viewpoint, they wanted women to play an active role in electoral politics. Another response was to form a women’s political party. Former officers of Perwari established Partai Wanita Rakjat because of Perwari’s decision not to politically affiliate itself (Kementerian Penerangan RI Yogya 1950: 130). It aimed to improve the position of women through parliamentary action (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 15) and was committed to defending Indonesian independence and promoting social justice, world peace and equal rights for women and men (Kementerian Penerangan RI Yogya 1950: 140). However, the party attracted few adherents and won no seats. The 1950s women activists gave little support. Salyo says this was because ‘women are not really one homogenous group . . . so we never had the feeling that women should have their own political party’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). Supeni argued that women were not ‘fighting against the men, we are fighting against the problems of the nation’ (Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997), showing again the importance of communitarian values. Women had too many non-gender differences to organize politically as women and identified with party or religion rather than gender in electoral politics. For non-aligned women’s organizations, there was no easy solution. They feared women’s issues were being lost within mainstream parties but it was too difficult to represent women as women. The lack of support for candidates from women’s organizations and Partai Wanita Rakjat indicated that mainstream politics was viewed as a party activity and the advance of women’s interests would be subject to the level of commitment from elected party representatives. The question of whether women should only vote for women became a pivotal debate. Women for women? Political leaders argued that women did not have separate tasks from men in the political field (Hatta, 10 November 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 110). Aligned women’s organizations supported this view. Wanita Indonesia, for example, argued ‘that Indonesian women citizens do not constitute a separate group in Indonesian society’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 344). Parties could therefore meet women’s needs. Although women MPs were an ideal, this stream argued ‘the first thing that matters is the attitude of the people we elect’ (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 17). They

Representing women in a new democracy 113 encouraged women to vote for party candidates who would ‘wholeheartedly fight for changes in women’s status to progress women in particular and people in general’ (DP Gerwani Wonosobo, 1 December 1958, in Arsip Konstituante 102). Other women argued only women could do this. Although some men supported women’s programmes ‘and we value and respect this assistance and support’, they were concerned that ‘men who are like minded or will stand with women are very few’. Therefore ‘women’s interests can only be fought for by women themselves’ (Fatmuhnur 1955: 62). Many articles and conferences asked that ‘women vote for women’ (Perwari 1954: 1; Wanita 1957: 357) because women’s fate is women’s responsibility (Dewi 1951: 449). The problem that both sides of the debate acknowledged was that women MPs would not necessarily represent women’s interests. Having women representatives, argued Supeni, was ‘no guarantee for the realization of women’s ideals nor for the solution of women’s problems.’ Parliamentary history abroad showed women members of parliament ‘do not always have the good of women at heart.’ Some were conservative or tied to the policies of a particular party (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 16). This was the main concern that Perwari had about electoral politics. It had already seen in local councils that women were elected through their party, making party ideology the priority over women’s interests (Adisusanto 1953: 17). Another problem was the voice that women MPs would have in legislatures. Supeni argued that MPs from women’s organizations would not have any weight in a parliament made up of political parties. ‘What is the importance of a few votes if they are not supported by the majority of members there? Their voice will be lost in the air like a voice calling in the desert, if they have no backing’ (Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 17). Underlying the debate was the belief that women candidates would only be supported by women (Fatmuhnur 1955: 62). The success of women candidates therefore depended on how women voted. Using the right to vote Voting in the 1955 national elections was much heavier than predicted (Antara 1955b: 1) and observers were impressed by the high turnout. It was estimated that only 6 per cent of voters did not vote (Feith 1971: 39). The 1955 election results were not analysed by gender but Wanita claimed 70–80 per cent of women voted (Wanita 1955c). To the women’s movement this was an affirmation of women’s citizenship. They claimed that ‘aware of their duty women flocked to vote’ (Sujud 1957: 518), showing ‘Indonesian women are conscious and loyal’ (Wanita 1955c: 529). It also confirmed the success of the political education campaigns run by the women’s organizations. There seemed to have been few barriers to women’s participation as voters in the national election, not even childbirth: there were reports of women going into labour as they queued at polling stations (Feith 1962: 428).


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

The number of women voting, however, did not bring women electoral success. This is the common pattern of women’s political participation, as discussed in Chapter 1. The large disparity between women’s involvement in elections and the number of positions they hold in political bodies is well documented. Women are especially under-represented in the higher echelons of party and legislative leadership (Waylen 1996a: 10). The case of 1950s Indonesia is further evidence of the under-representation of women, confirming that an active role in transition politics does not translate into representation and executive participation in new democracies. Women’s organizations welcomed the number of women who were elected to the DPR (19 women out of 271 members) and Konstituante (33 out of 520 members). This was an increase from 4 per cent of the seats in the provisional parliament, or 8 women members (Woodsmall 1960: 222–223), to 7 per cent, comparatively high for the era.11 But it was not enough when 40 million women were viewed as only having 19 representatives (Wanita 1956a: 197). There were calls for more women to be elected in the future. Moreover, women were clearly not voting for women. In the analysis of earlier regional elections, the failure of any women to be elected in the Yogyakarta elections showed approximately two-thirds of male MPs were elected by women (Surya-Hadi 1952: 1). A calculation of the number of women candidates in the Minahasa election, the total number of voters and the number of women voters suggested that, if women voted for women, 12 women would be elected. But only a small number of the votes went to women and just two were elected (Poedjoboentoro 1951a: 5). This indicated women did not necessarily vote for female candidates (Susanto 1951: 406). Articles urged women to use their votes more wisely in future elections, asking: Are we satisfied with the number of women in the DPR? Only a few 10s whereas more than 60% of the electorate are women. Women be conscious! Consider your votes seriously so they are not thrown away. (Wanita 1957: 357) One major obstacle to the election of more women was their position on the party lists. Indonesia voted under a proportional representation system. Proportional representation is generally considered to favour the election of women (Waylen 1996a: 11; Schmitter 1998: 226) but women candidates were placed lower on the party lists, meaning they had less chance of being elected. This had first been identified in the 1951 regional elections (Susanto 1951: 408) and continued to be a major criticism women’s organizations had of the electoral process (Sujud 1957: 518). It should be remembered that although literate voters could vote for an individual candidate or the party, most voters were illiterate and voted for the party symbol; this gave women candidates even less opportunity.

Representing women in a new democracy 115 It is unclear how many women candidates stood in the 1955 elections but the regional experience of elections in Minahasa (14 June 1951) and Yogyakarta (27 August 1951) indicated there were relatively few. In Minahasa there were 34 women candidates out of a total of 577 (Wanita 1953d: 301) and only 15 on the party lists in the Yogyakarta election (Susanto 1951: 408). In the rural areas around the city of Yogyakarta there were only one or two. Most villages had no women candidates (S.P. 1951: 366). Another concern was the possibility that husbands were influencing the way their wives voted, meaning women chose to support their respective husband’s party (Poedjoboentoro 1951a: 6). Anecdotal evidence from the 1951 Yogyakarta elections suggested that many villagers believed a woman must vote for the same candidate or party as her husband (S.P. 1951: 366). Kartowijono cautioned that the Yogya experience ‘indicated that disagreement between husband and wife concerning candidates can result in divorce’ (Kartowijono 1953d: 20). It is difficult to know how serious this issue was. There are no statistics to show the relationship between husband and wife’s voting behaviour. While it has been conventional wisdom that women’s voting will be influenced by the men in their lives (Randall 1987: 69–70; Duverger 1955: 46), other writers have suggested the reverse can happen in the Indonesian context. Liddle claims that ‘a considerable proportion’ of Javanese support for Masjumi came from Javanese women with a strong interest in Islam and who urged their husbands to support the party (Liddle 1970: 107). But the issue exposed unequal power within marriage. Kartowijono argued women would follow their husband’s preferred candidate to ‘secure household harmony’ (Kartowijono 1953d: 20), suggesting that unequal status reduced a wife’s freedom of choice in voting. Although her comments were no doubt intended to support demands for a marriage law preventing arbitrary divorce and legislating for equality in marriage, the suggestion that men dictated the voting behaviour of their wives was used to explain the 1955 election results (Sujud 1957: 518). Child marriage was also an issue raised in relation to voting. Electoral regulations allowed Indonesians under 18 years to vote if they were already married. The absence of marriage laws meant there was no restriction on under-age marriage so ‘children possibly under 10 years of age now have this responsibility because they are already married’, making them easy targets of political party manipulation (S.P. 1953a: 374). This was also used to support demands for a marriage law, with the argument that ‘registering married children as voters is the same as agreeing with child marriage’ (S.P. 1953a: 374). Other factors hindering women’s participation include low levels of literacy, roles in the private sphere and the structures of politics, such as the timing of meetings and its combative style (Waylen 1996a: 11–12). These may also account for why women’s mobilization in the public sphere was not matched by women in the legislature. The election results did show that women participated in a number of different political parties and no


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

political stream was closed to women. The women MPs were evenly dispersed among the four biggest parties (PNI, NU, Masjumi and PKI). Only one minor party (PSI) had a woman parliamentarian (Parlaungan 1956).12 Although women held greater proportions of the seats belonging to socialist parties, the choice of party does not seem to have been a factor in preventing women’s representation. Women and parliament For the women who were elected to parliament, their gender was not considered an issue. While some of their contemporaries in India noted discrimination from male MPs who tried to make it difficult for the women (Nayar 1993: 147; Sinha 1993: 149–150), Indonesian woman parliamentarians of the 1950s recall no such discrimination. They were not restricted to women’s issues and felt free to participate in all debates on all issues (Syahroni, interview, 18 January 1997). Supeni, one of PNI’s female MPs, experienced no discrimination from her male colleagues and noted that women from Muslim parties were also very vocal, concluding ‘men are not against the women’ in the DPR (Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997). Women’s journals of the period reinforce this position. They noted that women MPs were not inferior to male MPs in the DPR (Harahap 1959: 13) and that there was only one reported case of discrimination.13 For the women’s movement the problem was not discrimination against female parliamentarians but the operation of the party system, as already noted. The problem, editorialized in Suara Perwari, was ‘Will they fight wholeheartedly for women’s objectives, putting aside party discipline if necessary?’ (Noor 1956a: 5). Women MPs were party representatives, although all had a strong history of involvement in the women’s movement (Parlaungan 1956), and women’s organizations were frustrated that they placed party discipline ahead of women’s interests and did not cross party lines to work as a political bloc (Sekar 1959b: 8). Experience had shown that party tactics did not always advance women’s interests and that the endeavours of everyday women failed because of the allegiance to their parties of female MPs (Noor 1956a: 5). Another aspect of women’s political participation is contact with the government on gender and non-gender interests. Chapter 6 focuses on lobbying the state on a gender issue, showing that the absence of a women’s political bloc made influencing the national agenda difficult. But we should also note that women’s organizations were active in lobbying the state on a number of general issues. It is not possible to look at all political activities of women’s organizations but we should recognize that women’s political participation did extend beyond issues of gender. Kongres Wanita Indonesia could only participate in national political issues considered non-controversial, such as the West Irian issue, about which all political streams were in agreement. Individual women’s organizations lobbied the state on constitutional

Representing women in a new democracy 117 matters, as will be discussed in the next section, and also on development issues, as discussed in Chapter 4. Other examples include statements against the PRRI and Permesta regional uprisings (opposed by Gerwani and Wanita Demokrat for threatening national unity), support for West Irian to be returned to Indonesia, justice issues, regional development and elections (Arsip Konstituante 119, 129; Arsip Kabinet Presiden 166, 771). Such declarations indicated that women’s organizations extended their political roles beyond women’s interests. Addressing topical issues could also demonstrate ongoing loyalty to Indonesian nationalism and women’s commitment to being good citizens.

Constitutional debate An important topical issue was constitutional debate, which involved both gender and non-gender interests. As part of the transition to independence, provision was made for a constituent assembly, the Konstituante, to debate the form of government and state. The main issues of debate were dasar negara (the ideological basis of the state), human rights and the return to the 1945 constitution (Nasution 1992: 41–42). The Konstituante was dissolved before finishing its debates and indications were that no agreement would be reached between the diverse ideological and religious positions represented. It was regarded as a failure and has generally been ignored or considered unimportant in Indonesian historiography (Nasution 1994: 44). However, we need to briefly consider how the women’s movement approached the Konstituante, as it would have been important in defining women’s rights and status had a new constitution been drafted. As with the general elections, the women’s press urged women to vote in the Konstituante elections, noting the great importance of defining the rights and duties of all nationals, including women (see Pudjobuntoro 1954b: 13; Wanita 1955c: 529). However, the constitutional debate never fully captured the imagination of the women’s movement. Women’s organizations did petition the assembly on the issues of women’s rights and dasar negara, as will be discussed, reinforcing definitions of womanhood and again demonstrating the divisions within the movement. But the issue received little attention in women’s magazines and congress resolutions. Participants recall that women’s organizations were not actively engaged with the debate (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997; Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996; Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). This was in marked contrast to the debate over marriage law and to development issues, which stand out as much higher priorities. The main reason for this seems to be the belief that the constitution would not be significantly altered. Feith observed that: it seems that the party leaders did not believe that the Constituent Assembly would have an importance comparable to that of the normal


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s legislative body. In general, these leaders expected that no constitution radically different from the interim one would be adopted. (Feith 1962: 448)

Interviewees also recall the general perception that the provisional constitution would not be significantly changed (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). The provisional draft guaranteed women full equality and political rights, and women’s organizations were happy with its provisions (except for those concerning marriage). They therefore did not feel the need to mount a major campaign. It should also be noted that the political energy of the movement was targeted at the marriage-law issue and that politically active women engaged in constitutional debates through party participation rather than as representatives of women’s organizations (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997), even though at least 31 of the 39 women to sit in the Konstituante were active in Kongres Wanita Indonesia organizations (Arsip Konstituante 10). As in the DPR, women members did not limit themselves to discussing only women’s issues. Nevertheless the question of women’s rights was important. Women’s rights In lobbying the Konstituante, the main demand of the women’s movement was to secure existing rights. Articles in Wanita asked the Konstituante to ‘not cut back women’s rights already in the provisional constitution’ (Sujud 1957: 518). They also demanded that these rights be strengthened and extended to marriage. The 1956 Kongres Wanita Indonesia programme of women’s rights demanded that the constitution ‘guarantee basic human rights included in the provisional constitution of 1950’ and include Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Soewondo 1956: 10). Article 16 concerned equal rights in marriage and became a demand of most non-Islamic groups. Perwari, Wanita Demokrat and Gerwani all campaigned for guaranteed equal rights for women in politics, society, the economy and family. A sustained campaign was directed toward the Konstituante with similarly worded petitions from women throughout Indonesia demanding inclusion of Article 16 and Section 5 of the provisional constitution, which guaranteed equal citizenship. Petitions had between 144 and 2,414 women’s signatures (Arsip Konstituante 96). Gerwani branches sent petitions, telegrams and resolutions to the Konstituante on behalf of branch memberships that numbered between 2,000 and 220,000 women. Equal rights for women were again based on concepts of responsibility and duty. In her speech to the Konstituante, Sarumpaet-Hutubarat spoke of the importance of mothers and that women asked for rights in order to develop their full responsibilities as mothers to the nation and society (Sarumpaet-Hutubarat 1957). Perhaps because of this discourse and

Representing women in a new democracy 119 understanding, the demand for equal rights to be further enshrined appears to have been well received and accepted. In the Konstituante debates, all factions agreed to equal rights for all citizens before the law. Only one speech challenging women’s equality was reported. The speech of Raja Kaprabonan outraged women. He said that ‘men are more competent to govern because they are more eminent and intelligent than women’ (Perwari 1958e: 25). This statement was taken as an insult to all Indonesian women and women’s leaders demanded such comments not be repeated in the Konstituante. They also objected to the joking manner in which Kaprabonan made his remarks (Perwari 1958e: 25; Berita Konstituante, 20 August 1958). In a joint letter, 23 women’s organizations in the Cirebon area ‘strongly protested’ against the speech, claiming it was ‘very offensive and lowered the status of women’ (Surat Protes Wanita Cirebon, 23 August 1958, in Arsip Konstituante 96). This seems to have been the only instance of discriminatory arguments. The fact that few women’s organizations sought to justify women’s equality (see Arsip Konstituante 96) also suggests that equality in theory was not at issue, even though equality in practice remained elusive. Dasar negara The most heated debates were reserved for the question of dasar negara, which exposed the irreconcilable differences among Islamic and secular/ Christian groups. Women’s organizations and individual women passionately participated in these debates. They signed the petitions and letters that flooded in from all regions either supporting or opposing an Islamic state (Arsip Konstituante 93). Whereas the Konstituante archives contain no petitions from Islamic women’s organizations over questions of human rights, there were plenty addressing the demand that Indonesia become an Islamic state. For example, Ikatan Peladjar Puteri Nahdlatul, Surakarta, called for an Islamic state because most Indonesians were Muslim (19 February 1959, in Arsip Konstituante 93). Muslimat and Muslimat NU branches sent resolutions and petitions in support of an Islamic state (Arsip Konstituante 93). This brought them into conflict with Gerwani and Perwari, which both supported pancasila (Arsip Konstituante 93; Perwari 1958a: 14).14 Kongres Wanita Indonesia was unable to adopt a position on dasar negara due to the different political ideologies and beliefs among its members. A Perwari proposal that support of pancasila be included in the 1956 Program of Women’s Rights was rejected because it was too political (Soewondo 1956). When the Konstituante was dissolved and the 1945 constitution enacted by decree, women’s organizations generally welcomed it, as did most parties and associations. They were among signatories on joint statements supporting the return to the 1945 constitution (Arsip Konstituante 93).


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Suara Perwari called it ‘a good idea’ (Noor 1959b: 5) and described it as ‘a measure that must be gladly welcomed’, agreeing it was a return to ‘the fighting spirit of 1945’ and would unite all Indonesians ‘to fight for national aspirations’ (Sekar 1959b: 8). The inter-party conflict or party illness identified by Sukarno was seen to apply to the women’s movement. Party discipline had been placed ahead of women’s interests, especially in the debate on marriage law (Sekar 1959b: 8). Women’s organizations joined in the rhetoric embracing a return to the spirit of the revolution (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 166; Arsip Konstituante 129). Nationalism remained a dominant force. There was no discussion of the end of constitutional government, although this is not surprising given that political repression was beginning. The new system of functional groups may have seemed beneficial to the women’s movement. Women would now have a voice as women in the advisory council that replaced the parliament as a decision-making body (Perwari 1959: 35). But the familiar problems of women’s varied interests and low numbers in legislative bodies remained. Although women were a functional group, it was argued that women were part of the other functional groups such as workers and peasants. Which women were to be represented as women and how could the women’s group have only one interest (Sekar 1959a)? Women had a very small voice and Kongres Wanita Indonesia found their representation in the National Council problematic, as the comments of a Kongres Wanita Indonesia member to a 1960s researcher suggest: ‘we don’t get very far with matters that the men are united about’ (Grant 1967: 166).

Gender and political interests According to Wieringa, in independence men claimed the field of politics as their own, leaving to women the terrain of the social, and most women’s organizations, especially religious ones, accepted this division. ‘Gerwani was the only women’s organization that claimed “politics” in general as a legitimate field for women’ (Wieringa 1995: 137). However, while Gerwani was very politically active, all streams of the women’s movement defined mainstream politics as an area in which women should be active. Even if organizations claimed to be ‘non-political’, they supported and demanded women’s political participation, embracing political roles on the basis of citizenship responsibilities. Supporting democratic processes and institutions in the newly independent state is further evidence of the commitment of women’s organizations to nation-building. To be a member of a modern independent state meant using your political rights. Women’s primary political role was being a voter and there were few barriers to this form of participation. The main obstacles of illiteracy and lack of knowledge were addressed through a civic education campaign complementing the government’s public information service. This also shows

Representing women in a new democracy 121 that in post-transition politics, the Indonesian women’s movement chose to support the mainstream political processes. Their commitment to the new state and its electoral system did not, however, lead to participation in government. Indonesia’s experience of democratization in the 1950s shows the same patterns identified in contemporary studies of post-transition politics. There were barriers to women’s participation in party leadership, as candidates and as members of executive and legislative bodies. Part of the problem was that women were unable to successfully mobilize around gender issues. Women’s common gender interests and identity did not override the religious and political differences on which the Indonesian democratic party system was based. Women were unable to act as a political bloc, which had important consequences when they tried to use the mainstream political sphere to pursue women’s gender interests. In terms of representation, the right to vote did not translate into large numbers of women in parliament. Equal opportunity had not been achieved. This made the promotion of gender interests in a democratic system more difficult. In the case of marriage legislation, as Chapter 6 will now argue, national independence and democracy did not advance gender interests.


Confronting the state The fight for a marriage law

Generally speaking we can say that the status of the Indonesian woman is satisfactory except in the field of marriage law. (Asian–African Women’s Congress 1958: 5)

The previous two chapters explored areas of movement activism where women’s organizations worked in partnership with the state. In seeking to fulfil women’s practical gender interests, the women’s movement supported and contributed to the Indonesian development programme. In the political sphere they encouraged electoral participation and active engagement with democracy. Their programmes in these areas, as discussed, were largely based on communitarian notions of citizenship and motherhood. This chapter considers another important area of women’s advocacy: the demand for a marriage law. Unlike activities discussed in earlier chapters, this was an area where the women’s movement challenged the state rather than assisting it and one where the emphasis was on women’s rights rather than responsibilities. It was the only area where women analysed their position primarily in terms of gender discrimination and sought to change their legal status by demanding legislation to protect their rights and position within marriage. This represents the most important strategic gender interest of the Indonesian women’s movement in the 1950s and needs to be discussed as a principal area of women’s activism. The marriage-law campaign also provides a useful case study of how well democracy and independence served Indonesian women in the pursuit of their gender interests, broadening the understanding of women’s political roles discussed in Chapter 5. This chapter focuses on the marriage-law campaign to illustrate women’s activism in practice and the complexities of mobilization around a strategic gender interest. It highlights divisions within the movement, the tensions between gender and political/religious interests and state reactions to a women’s issue. These responses reveal once again that women are not a homogenous group, a fact that has significant implications for their political activism. In this campaign, Indonesian women were unable to present themselves as a political bloc and consequently had limited power to effect political change within parliamentary democracy. This also demonstrates

Confronting the state


that women’s commitment to the nationalist cause and the collective interests of the state was not rewarded by government commitment to their demands for marriage-law reform.

The politics of marriage The call for a marriage law and the reform of certain marriage practices, historically important to the Indonesian women’s movement, continued to dominate its agenda in the 1950s. Many activists recall it as ‘the main struggle’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997), a view supported by contemporary commentators. Woodsmall (1960: 224) identified marriage law as the ‘major target for united action’ and Vreede-de Stuers (1962: 19) noted ‘it is impossible to emphasize strongly enough the distress the women of Indonesia suffer by the instability of marriage. Time and time in conversations I have had with them they have reverted to this theme.’ Articles on marriage practices and laws were prolific within the secular women’s press (including Suara Perwari, Wanita and Mekar), and readers’ stories and poems revealed the impassioned views polygamy and marriage law evoked among women. As Chapter 3 showed, Kongres Wanita Indonesia repeatedly demanded the government enact marriage legislation and resolutions from the congresses, regional conferences and joint meetings of the various women’s organizations reiterated these calls, testifying to the importance of the marriage-law issue for the 1950s women’s movement. The core issues, outlined in Chapter 2, remained essentially the same as in the colonial era. The majority of Indonesian women had no protection against child and forced marriage, and faced the indignity of polygamy and the threat of arbitrary divorce. This was attributed to the lack of a codified marriage law for Muslims and adat communities, which made women’s legal position uncertain and provided no recourse if men abused their preferential access to polygamy and divorce (Kartowijono 1950: 31; Noor 1954: 13–14). The pluralism of colonial law continued to govern marriage. Europeans, Eurasians and Chinese, as well as Indonesian Christians in Java, Minahasa and Ambon, remained subject to marriage laws enacted by the Dutch.1 The majority of Indonesians remained outside these civil laws, following adat and Islamic marriage practices. While the Dutch marriage statutes stipulated minimum marriageable ages, monogamy, consent of both partners and court-based divorce, there were no such codified conditions for Islam or adat. Women activists found this problematic because child marriage, forced marriage and polygamy were not prohibited or restricted. They also opposed a Muslim man’s right to issue a talak (initiating divorce) without notice or regulation, claiming that it made Muslim women’s position in marriage insecure and symbolized women’s inequality because divorce was very easy for men to obtain and virtually impossible for women.2 By the 1950s there had been little progress on any of these issues. As noted by Nani Soewondo,3 a tireless campaigner for marriage law, ‘at the transfer of


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

sovereignty, the position of Indonesian women in marriage law remains the same as in Kartini’s time’ (Soewondo 1951: 132). Discrimination and lower status in marriage was contrasted with equal political and educational rights as guaranteed in the Indonesian constitutions, exposing an apparent paradox where full citizenship rights for women under public law coexisted with a lack of rights under private or family law. Women’s leaders argued that marriage law was the only problem ‘still awaiting a satisfactory solution’ (Prijono 1957: 9) and the only area where women needed to continue to fight for their rights (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 68). This growing discourse around rights marked a transition from earlier arguments that focused on questions of morality (see Blackburn 2000: 11) and showed a recognition of the role of law in defining women’s status. Historically, both Western and Third World women’s movements have ‘identified the law as a major source of women’s oppression and have tried to use the law to improve the material and social position of women’ (Smart 1984: 3). Marriage law has always been especially significant for determining women’s status. Marriage law articulates ideologies, defining ‘men’ and ‘women’ (see Vogel 1998: 29; Afshar 1987: 5). Indonesian women leaders viewed law reform as the best strategy to advance women’s rights in marriage and improve women’s status. Because these demands were grounded in concepts of women’s inequality or oppression by the current legal position, this can be defined as a strategic gender interest. Marriage law was a priority for several reasons. The general importance of marriage law to women’s status and the problems with the existing legal situation were compelling forces. So too was the number of women potentially affected. The debate over marriage law never questioned whether women should marry or not. It was assumed the vast majority of Indonesian women would marry and thus it was important to provide them with legal protection. Conditions specific to 1950s Indonesia also played an important role. Increasing rates of polygamy and divorce highlighted the need for greater protection. The 1950s saw the highest divorce rates in twentieth-century Indonesia and rising incidences of polygamy, as will be shown later. This was linked to the turmoil of the Japanese occupation and revolution, and to social change brought by independence. Contemporary writers commented on a ‘moral decline’ with increasing polygamy and divorce rates (Poedjoboentoro 1951c: 27). Wieringa suggests the return to ‘normal’ settled life meant that many men wanted ‘docile wives [more] than the activist women they had valued so much as comrades during the struggle’ and often divorced women who continued with their activism (Wieringa 1995: 142). Salyo, an activist with PPI, recalled that many men promoted to important positions in the new government/bureaucracy wanted younger, more attractive wives in keeping with their higher rank and status. Divorce or polygamy was the choice of men faced with a wife who ‘all of a sudden seems so out of date’ and does not fit ‘the new setting’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997).

Confronting the state


That this was a common occurrence is suggested by warnings to Sukarno about the perception he was divorcing the now ‘old’ Inggit to marry the younger Fatmawati (Adams 1965: 147). These trends emphasized the insecurity and disempowerment women experienced in marriage. The 1950s also brought more positive impetus to the campaign for marriage law. The 1945 and 1950 constitutions guaranteed women equal rights with men in all spheres, so, activists extrapolated, women would or should have equal rights with men in marriage (Poedjoboentoro 1951c: 27). The attainment of independence also raised expectations of women’s interests being addressed and improvements enacted. As discussed in Chapter 2, most Indonesian women’s organizations had rejected a Dutch proposal that would have regulated polygamy in Islamic marriages because of their nationalist commitment and unwillingness to deal with an imperialist administration. There was no longer any impediment to dealing with the state and women activists felt free to pursue meaningful legal reform. This was further supported by the nationalist rhetoric that had claimed women’s interests could only be addressed in an independent Indonesia. Now the marriage issue could finally be fully debated because ‘only in an independent state can the fate of the people, including women, be improved’ (Poedjoboentoro 1951c: 27). With women’s commitment to nationalism and the new Indonesian state having been demonstrated, movement leaders believed the government would quickly enact marriage legislation (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). There were some indications that this faith might not be misguided. The fledgling republic had already issued positive regulations on marriage practices, encouraging hope among women’s organizations. The establishment in 1950 of the Panitia Penyelidik Peraturan Hukum Perkawinan Talak dan Rujuk (NTR Committee) to investigate the marriage-law issue and draft a marriage regulation to be debated in parliament also suggested government commitment and a speedy resolution. However, the women’s movement would face a much tougher battle than these initial indications suggested, a battle exacerbated by disagreement among women’s organizations themselves.

Defining the issue Kongres Wanita Indonesia demands for a marriage law obscured important divisions within the movement. Although all women’s organizations agreed on the need to improve marriage regulation and enact marriage law, there was no consensus on the content and form of proposed legislation (Poedjoboentoro, 22 December 1953, cited in Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 94). Political and religious interests affected the way women interpreted the issue, with significant implications for the campaign and its fate at the parliamentary level. The principal differences were between the secular women’s rights stream, the socialist stream and Islamic women’s organizations.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Opposing polygamy: the liberal-feminist approach One of the most vocal and active women’s organizations in the marriage-law campaign was Perwari. Perwari championed a secular marriage code prohibiting polygamy and led many actions such as public forums, street demonstrations, government delegations and petitions. Perwari became leader of a range of women’s organizations including non-aligned groups (such as PPI), nationalist organizations (such as Wanita Demokrat) and wives’ organizations (such as Persit and Bhayangkari). These organizations were united in their condemnation of polygamy, becoming strongly identified as anti-polygamy even though they also objected to child and forced marriage, opposed Islamic divorce practices and recognized there was ‘no equality in marriage’ (Noor 1954: 9). To Perwari especially, ‘marriage law is the most important issue for society in general and women in particular’ (Sekretaris Perwari 1952: 23). This stream took a liberal-feminist approach, focusing on the law as the best strategy for improving women’s status and utilizing a discourse on rights. They sought a single, secular marriage law based on monogamy to apply to all Indonesian citizens. The law would regulate marriageable age, equal divorce provisions, property rights and inheritance, and the rights and obligations of marriage partners. Kartowijono argued that if state law did not regulate women’s issues it was the duty of the women’s movement to work for this (Kartowijono 1950: 32). Suwondo (1957a: 31–39) argued a codified marriage law would stop child and forced marriage, polygamy and arbitrary divorce. The overriding demand was for women’s rights to be protected and their equal status enshrined in new laws (Kartowijono 1983: 104; Suwondo 1955b: 101; Santoso 1956a). Prohibiting child and forced marriage were consistent demands, although they were rarely raised in the debates and discourse surrounding demands for marriage law. Neither was linked to religious law or practice and all women’s organizations agreed they needed to be stopped. Therefore there was no need to argue their importance. As Indonesia sought to become a modern nation–state, the educated elites supported changing concepts of marriage from a transaction or arrangement among kinship networks to the individual choice of adult partners (Blackburn and Bessell 1997: 107). It should also be noted that child and forced marriage fell largely outside the constituency of women’s organizations. They were viewed primarily as a problem in village and rural areas (Soetardjo 1952: 406–407). More importantly, most members of women’s organizations were already married or outside the age group at risk of child marriage. Child brides fell through the net of representation (Blackburn and Bessell 1997: 130) as women’s organizations mobilized against the issues that were of primary concern to their members. Arbitrary divorce and polygamy were conceived as the most pressing threats against women’s well-being in marriage. The anti-polygamy stream argued ‘Polygamy must be wiped out!’ (Wanita 1953e: 525). Polygamy was viewed as humiliating, demeaning and degrading

Confronting the state


for women, although the incidence of polygamy was fairly low. According to the 1930 census, across the whole of Indonesia only 2.5 per cent of males had more than one wife.4 Timor and West Sumatra had the highest levels of polygamy with 10 per cent of men in plural marriages; for West Java it was 5 per cent (Nitisastro 1970: 85). Polygamy was not, according to the statistics, a common practice in Indonesia. But for the non-Islamic women’s organizations opposing polygamy, it was not the numbers that were of concern but the symbolism. It demonstrated women’s lower status and the inequality they suffered. As one woman activist later asked, ‘Why should one man equal four women?’ (Grant 1967: 165). Polygamy created uncertainty in marriage. The fear of one’s husband taking a second wife was strong and there were stories of secret polygamy where at a funeral ‘suddenly another woman comes in and says I’m his wife too’ (Budiarjo, interview, 8 January 1997). When polygamy did occur there was undeniable suffering for the women involved. PPI was concerned that having rival wives lowered women’s self-esteem (Sujud 1958: 743). The practice of polygamy was considered to be unjust not only because of the suffering and basic inequalities it exposed, but also because there was no recourse when the ‘privilege’ was abused. Islamic law stipulated that if a man could not treat his wives equally he should marry only one. But in practice this was ignored (Suwondo 1957a). Research suggested that the practice of polygamy and divorce did ‘not comply with the intention of Islamic law regulations’. Polygamy, argued activists, was ‘carried out to fulfil sexual desire’ rather than to meet Islamic regulations (Soewondo 1951: 133). Male supporters of polygamy defended it on the grounds that there were more women than men. Insisting on monogamous marriage would therefore deny some women the opportunity (or right) to marry. A male contributor to Wanita claimed that while monogamous marriage without extramarital affairs was the best form of marriage from a woman’s point of view, it was ‘a complete fantasy’. Monogamous marriage, he argued, would lead to an increase in prostitution (Wanita 1956c), presumably to fulfil the sexual needs of husbands. The editors refuted this link, claiming that in practice it was not unusual for men with more than one wife to still like snoepen (‘snacking’) in every direction. Prostitution was a separate issue unrelated to monogamy or polygamy (Wanita 1956d). However, the issue of male sexuality was important in debates on polygamy. In a panel discussion organized by Perwari, a male MP, Ali Akbar, argued ‘women do not understand men. Self-restraint and self-control is difficult for men’ and therefore polygamy needed to exist. It was also argued that men ‘needed’ a new, younger wife as their first wife aged and lost her sexual desires, with Soewondo having to argue that women’s sexual desire did not diminish at the age of 45 (Sujud 1958: 744). Arguments around male sexuality were also important in the DPR debates, as will be discussed below, trivializing the issue at the heart of the women’s movement.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

The anti-polygamy stream was also concerned about how easily men could get a divorce under Islamic law. This was often used as a form of serial monogamy, divorcing one wife to marry the next rather than entering into a polygamous union. Divorce figures in the 1950s were the highest known (Jones 1994: 187). In 1950 15.1 per cent of the Muslim population aged over 15 was divorced. In 1955 this was 16.7 per cent (Jones 1994: 181).5 While concerned about these high figures, the anti-polygamy stream stressed the inequality in access to divorce. Soewondo argued that it was very easy, in practice, for men to get a divorce. The right of talak could be used arbitrarily by the husband even though, in the spirit of Islam, it should only be used in important matters. There was, therefore, a need for regulation (Suwondo 1957a).6 Women were not always given the reason for their divorce and knowing that they could be divorced at any time meant the talak could be used to threaten wives into submission. ‘Democratic’ marriage: the socialist stream Socialist women’s organizations, such as Gerwani, were also opposed to forced marriage, child marriage, polygamy, arbitrary divorce and the gender inequality these practices represented. They too demanded prohibition and greater regulation (Trimurti 1952: 79; Gerwani 1954: 4, 1955: 13). Gerwani vigorously opposed polygamy and would not accept the taking of a second wife under any circumstances, expelling members who consented to being a second wife (Wieringa 1995: 179). While sharing the same objectives as the Perwari-led stream, Gerwani analysed the issues in a different way. They addressed the marriage issue from a socialist-feminist perspective, arguing the roots of women’s inequality in marriage lay in societal inequalities. Gerwani demanded ‘democratic marriage laws’ (Gerwani 1955: 17) and argued the struggle for women’s rights ‘constitutes an inseparable part of the struggle of all Indonesian people to obtain a completely free, democratic, prosperous and progressive Indonesia’ (Gerwani 1954: 5–6). Women were victims of feudal customs in marriage and these were linked to the problems facing all workers, peasants and small traders in a state that remained half colonized and half feudal (Gerwani 1954: 3–5). The socialist stream believed progress for women in marriage would only be achieved if the structures of society were overhauled. As Trimurti (1952: 78) argued: ‘until society is free from exploitation, women will continue to be exploited in marriage’. Defending the faith: Islamic women’s organizations Islamic women’s organizations also supported calls for improved regulation of marriage practices. However, their views and interpretations were very much circumscribed by their religious faith. It should also be noted that the marriage issue did not have the same predominance among the Islamic

Confronting the state


organizations as it did in the secular women’s streams. Although few Islamic women’s journals have survived from the 1950s, those that have survived make a striking contrast to the secular women’s press. While Suara Perwari and Wanita in particular bombarded readers with articles on marriage law, there were few in Suara Aisyah; while Kongres Wanita Indonesia included marriage law as part of its urgent programme and many other women’s organizations had special sections devoted to the issue, marriage law was not a priority of Islamic organizations. Muslimat NU, for example, did not include it at their congresses (Muslimat NU 1955: 64). This was because of the tension between gender and religious interests. Like the other women’s organizations, Islamic groups were opposed to child and forced marriage. Muslimat NU called child marriage ‘a critical national problem’ and the 1954 congress called on government to ban underage marriage (Muslimat NU 1955: 63, 64). It was polygamy, however, that posed the biggest dilemma for Islamic women’s organizations. Their leaders were certainly aware of the suffering polygamy caused. Baried, a former Aisjijah leader, agreed that ‘it [polygamy] is not fair’ (Wieringa 1995: 141). It was recognized that many women from Islamic groups were opposed to polygamy but unable to publicly speak against it (Sosrosumarto, 9 December 1983, cited in Wieringa 1995: 153). This was because polygamy was a tenet of the Islamic faith. Members of Islamic women’s organizations had a strong commitment to their religion and campaigned on both women’s and religious issues. Aisjijah, Muslimat NU, Muslimat and other Islamic women’s organizations were sections of Islamic political parties that were campaigning for an Islamic state (see Chapter 5) and they supported this party aim. They could not, therefore, oppose polygamy outright. Instead they downplayed the incidence of polygamy, arguing that marriage in Islam was based on the ideal of monogamy. It was just that Islam ‘did not shut the door’ to polygamy (Sujud 1958: 743). Islam did not encourage polygamy but allowed it to be there for ‘emergencies’, which related to the ratio of women to men and male sexual needs. An Aisjijah member argued that if polygamy were eliminated it would ‘result in the husband becoming an unofficial husband to 1000s of women’. Men would go to prostitutes and father many illegitimate children. While recognizing the degradation of polygamy, which ‘crushes feelings of love and causes difficulties in the household’, she stressed that polygamy was not obligatory in Islam and only fair and just polygamy was allowed (Soekasri 1954: 94). There was an underlying assumption about male sexuality that accepted some men needed more than one sexual partner. Baried noted that women could get sexually aroused by men but they did not act on it in the way men did (Wieringa 1995: 166). This acceptance and defence of polygamy was tempered by demands for its just practice. Islamic women’s groups supported the call for marriage legislation to regulate the practice of polygamy and the use of the talak, aiming to ensure these were not abused and that their use strictly adhered to


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

the intent of the Qu’ran. They lobbied for an Islamic marriage law in line with religious doctrine, reflecting their commitment also to the campaign for Islamic law to be the foundation of the Indonesian state. They rejected a secular, civil code based on monogamy. The 1952 Muslimat congress committed the organization to work for separate marriage laws for each religion (DPR 1959b: 14). GPII-Puteri and Muslimat NU demanded that polygamy be practised according to the laws of Islam (Soewondo 1968: 192). Indonesian women never reached agreement on these marriage issues.The tension between the ideas of the Islamic women’s organizations and other women’s groups that had been evident in the colonial era (see Chapter 2) continued. As Vreede-de Stuers noted, ‘it was chiefly this question of marriage that divided the women against themselves’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 103). The question of polygamy led to most disagreement within the movement. As the majority of the women campaigning on the issue were Muslims, including Perwari, the division was between those who viewed marriage and family law as the rightful province of Islam and those who wanted it to be controlled by a civil code. Christian women’s organizations were caught between supporting the secular opposition to polygamy and wanting a marriage law that recognized their own religious doctrine (Wanita Katolik 1995: 47). All groups acknowledged the need to formalize legal regulation of marriage. It was the type of regulation that was disputed.

Campaigning for women’s rights in marriage Although law reform was the movement’s central focus, the campaign around marriage issues was broader and women’s organizations explored other means to improve women’s position (Santoso 1957: 8). In addition to lobbying the state, they provided counselling and legal advice to members and focused on raising awareness both to facilitate the political campaign and to improve implementation of current regulations. Activists also had to counter significant obstacles to winning support for an anti-polygamy stance. This makes for an interesting case study of Indonesian women’s activism in practice. Assisting members Marriage-consultation bureaus were part of the Kongres Wanita Indonesia agenda and member organizations were urged to provide this service (Santoso 1953: 12). These bureaus provided advice and assistance to women on matters linked to divorce and polygamy. The movement stressed women’s responsibility for ensuring their rights were respected and acted on, and marriage-consultation bureaus were grounded in this conviction. They helped women know their rights in marriage and improve their own fate (Danilah 1950: 24–25) and, when necessary, provided legal assistance (Sekretaris Perwari 1952: 23). Gerwani took this furthest, visiting members

Confronting the state


in their homes if they suspected that the husband was having an affair or considering polygamy. They would counsel the man against it and, if he was a member of the PKI, the threat of expulsion for being polygamous often prevented second marriages (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Consultation bureaus met women’s practical gender interests in marriage rather than addressing the underlying strategic concerns. They ensured women were aware of and received the protection and assistance they were entitled to under existing regulations. But they did not challenge the legal situation or gender roles and norms. They worked with the state in this area, seeking the assistance of the Ministry of Religion to run marriageconsultation bureaus (Santoso 1957: 8). This recalls the close cooperation in socio-economic service provision discussed in Chapter 4. It is another indication that women’s interests were supported by state institutions as practical gender interests but not as strategic concerns, as will be further demonstrated. It was recognized that this assistance alleviated the suffering of some individual women, but the overall suffering of women would continue until legislation was reformed (Danilah 1950: 24). Raising awareness To attract the necessary support for law reform, women’s organizations had to convince women, the state and society in general that change was needed. The secular stream in particular had to confront and counter fears that a civil marriage code would violate religious doctrines (Noor 1954: 14). Raising awareness became a critical part of the campaign and women’s organizations ran ‘a program of persistent promotion’ (Woodsmall 1960: 225). Women activists toured the country giving speeches and attending conferences. Public meetings were held and comparative information on marriage laws collected, particularly from Islamic states. Kartowijono, as president of Perwari, discussed the issue on radio (Kartowijono 1950, 1951a). Non-print media were an important strategy of debate in a largely illiterate country, although the secular women’s press also played a significant role. Journals such as Wanita, Mekar and Suara Perwari gave extensive coverage to the need for marriage laws, current laws and practice, and the campaign’s progress. Lobbying the state Independence and democracy offered greater opportunities for lobbying the state. The assumption of political rights and a receptive government, in contrast to the preceding authoritarian regimes, enabled women’s organizations to freely protest. Every year countless resolutions were issued from women’s organizations at the branch and regional level, or from conferences, seminars and workshops.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

The establishment of the NTR Committee in 1950 seemed to be an initial victory and was viewed as the government’s response to women’s advocacy (Mangunjudo 1953: 542). The women’s movement was also successful in requesting a balance of male and female members on the committee, with several women activists appointed.7 The committee was formed to draft a marriage law after consultation with interested parties, including the women’s movement and religious groups. All groups supported reform but there was increasing frustration from women as the decade progressed and still no draft had been produced. The NTR Committee had difficulty finding a compromise between religious groups who were demanding separate regulations for each religion and those advocating a single secular code. Women activists feared the compromise would be too conservative. The government exerted no pressure for results and the women’s movement felt its calls went unheeded: their resolutions intensified from requesting to urging to demanding. There was disillusionment with the lack of government action. A Persit report that parliament was to discuss a marriage law in 1954 warned that women had to ‘stay on their guard’ over this issue because the government had already shown it did not treat the issue as an ‘urgent’ problem (Persit 1954a).8 Demonstrations about the urgency of marriage reform were held outside the presidential and prime-ministerial residences, attracting thousands of women (Noor 1954: 9). A Perwari report that a bill would be discussed in July 1956 was accompanied by the editorial comment ‘it is apparently as always only propaganda’ (Sastrohusodo 1956: 15). In 1957 it was again noted that marriage laws have ‘still not been touched on by parliament’ (Sujud 1957: 518). While unsuccessfully lobbying the government to initiate parliamentary debate on marriage legislation, women’s organizations targeted other areas of the state for reform. Kongres Wanita Indonesia lobbied for marriage officials to be trained so that existing regulations would be observed (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47). They also lobbied the Ministry of Religion to allow women to sit in religious courts and supported their training (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52, 56). As religious courts heard marriage disputes, this was viewed as a way to ensure the courts were more sympathetic to women’s positions. In 1958 Bhayangkari, the association of police wives, successfully lobbied for the police service to introduce regulations prohibiting polygamy within the police force, although the government refused to enact a marriage law specifically for police (Bhayangkari 1980: 37–38). Archives suggest Gerwani was successful in lobbying PKI-controlled local governments to support demands for a marriage law. In addition to sending resolutions to the president, prime minister and cabinet (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 166, 771), activists increasingly lobbied female MPs, asking them to ‘ignite this issue’ (Sujud 1957: 518). In September 1958 the Kongres Wanita Indonesia executive met with women MPs, who agreed to

Confronting the state


request a debate on a marriage law in the DPR (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 56). The movement hoped female MPs would represent women’s gender interests and the issue was eventually discussed in parliament only because, as will be discussed later, female members raised it. However, we first need to consider some of the obstacles to these lobbying efforts. Obstacles to the anti-polygamy campaign The passing of PP 19 in 1952, a government regulation awarding pensions to all widows of polygamous civil servants, and the polygamous marriage of President Sukarno, the Indonesian head of state, in 1955 had a major impact on the campaign. They heightened passions around the issues, introduced new concerns and revitalized the campaign with new focal points. However, these events also represented pro-polygamy attitudes, making it more difficult to press for a marriage law prohibiting polygamy. The marriage-law issue was increasingly polarized between pro- and antipolygamy positions. PP 19 PP 19, 1952, represented a major change in pension arrangements. Under colonial and early republican statutes, only one pension was paid to the widows of polygamous civil servants.9 PP 19 stipulated that all wives of polygamous civil servants would receive a pension after his death. If a government employee had two wives, they were both entitled to a full pension; if he had three wives, they would each receive two-thirds; if there were four widows, each would receive half the normal pension. The passing of PP 19 outraged the anti-polygamy and socialist streams. Their magazines published many articles on PP 19, revealing passionate opposition to what was viewed as official state approval – if not encouragement – of polygamy. Women claimed it increased male civil servants’ opportunities to practice polygamy (Oesman 1953: 5). Wanita Demokrat Indonesia issued a resolution claiming that, through PP 19, the government was ‘encouraging civil servants to be polygamous’ and ‘indirectly recommending women become a second, third or fourth wife’ (Wanita Demokrat Indonesia 1952: 282). Although only a small number of civil servants were in polygamous marriages, women activists were concerned about the possibility numbers would increase with this financial incentive (Poedjoboentoro 1952: 314). The symbolism of apparent government acceptance of polygamy and state-funded financial support of polygamous marriages was a devastating set back for the anti-polygamy campaign. It was interpreted as evidence of the government’s disregard for the women’s movement and its long campaign against polygamy (Poedjoboentoro 1952; Husien 1952: 17).


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Leaders felt ‘the women’s movement has taken several steps backwards’ (Wanita Demokrat Indonesia 1952: 282). Perwari was concerned that it showed the government ‘does not value the Indonesian women’s movement’ and the progress of women (Oesman 1953: 5). Leaders also suggested PP 19 would increase government spending, becoming a strain on the budget, and claimed it was an unjust regulation because it required all civil servants (including women and non-Muslims) to financially contribute even though they would enjoy none of the benefits.10 This was unfair to non-Muslims and the regulation was therefore ‘divisive to nation unity’ (Wanita Demokrat Indonesia 1952). Perwari also supported this analysis (Suwondo, interview, 22 December 1996). By contrast, Christian politicians took the opposite view: they saw PP 19 as a sign of national unity in a multi-religious society. Although churches were against PP 19, Christian representatives in the DPR had to submit to the majority vote because Indonesia was a democracy (Rumah Tangga dan Kesehatan 1955: 35). PP 19 gave women’s organizations a new focal point for the protests against polygamy and for marriage laws. Although the regulation was an initiative by the minister responsible for the civil service, opposition to it became part of the campaign to get the prime minister, president and Ministry of Religious Affairs to move on the issue of marriage law. Demonstrations called for the repeal of PP 19 and the enactment of marriage legislation. Protest petitions poured in (see Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). To add to the complexity of the situation, Islamic women’s organizations welcomed the regulation (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1959: 6). As polygamy was allowed by Islam, giving a pension to more than one widow was seen as a progressive and fair regulation. Aisjijah called it ‘wise and just’, arguing that PP 19 did not recommend polygamy but merely provided support in cases where polygamy was (legally) practised (Soekasri 1954: 92). Muslimat, Muslimat NU and GPII-Puteri came out in support of PP 19 (Soewondo 1968: 192). This is further evidence of the division between women’s organizations and different interpretations of women’s interests, demonstrating the tension between practical and strategic gender interests. It was a beneficial measure for the widows of polygamous civil servants but, in its acceptance of polygamy, damaging for the broader campaign. The PP 19 incident also indicates how women’s efforts to lobby the state were hindered by the political instability of the 1950s. Women’s demands for the repeal of PP 19 were always being sent to new cabinets. Talks with Sukarno on the issue illustrated his lack of commitment to women’s concerns. Sukarno assured a Perwari delegation that he would consider withdrawing PP 19. However, his own polygamous marriage became public soon after this meeting, ‘disappointing’ Perwari leaders (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). Sukarno’s marriage further intensified the debate on marriage law. It was the next ‘staggering blow to the movement’ (Wieringa 1995: 144).

Confronting the state


The polygamous president Sukarno’s polygamous marriage to Hartini, announced in 1955, shocked Indonesian society (Kartowijono 1983: 104). The marriage encountered particularly strong opposition from the women’s movement. Like PP 19, it was a set back to the anti-polygamy campaign, giving implicit official support to the practice of polygamy and showing disregard for women’s concerns. It presented a dilemma for women leaders. Should they criticize the national hero and be branded anti-nationalist or neglect the issue? The tensions no longer concerned only religion but were affected by political allegiances. The anti-polygamy stream was strongly and publicly opposed to the marriage they regarded ‘as a slap in the face for Indonesian women’ (Kartowijono 1976: 12). They were concerned about the symbolism of Sukarno, as a national hero and the head of state, entering into a polygamous marriage. It set a bad example that they feared would encourage polygamy (Kartowijono 1976: 12). Persit leader Tahir observed apprehension among army wives that Sukarno’s polygamous marriage would be copied by their husbands (Tahir 1954b: 7). Perwari felt the marriage lowered the status of Indonesian women (Kartowijono 1976: 12). It also redirected debate to male sexual appetites, trivializing the anti-polygamy stance by bolstering Sukarno’s reputation for sexual prowess (Legge 1972: 14). Sukarno took two other official wives (Dewi and Hariati) while still married to Fatmawati and Hartini, as well as having a de facto marriage with Yurike Sanger that, as a fifth concurrent wife, could not be officially recognized (Legge 1972: 335). A Kongres Wanita Indonesia member later responded to a question about the likelihood of marriage laws with the quip ‘while Sukarno is President?’ (Grant 1967: 165), which suggests that Sukarno’s support for the practice was a significant issue. Soewondo also attributed the post-1959 government silence on marriage law to ‘personal reasons’ of ‘some of the highest authorities in Government’ (Soewondo 1977: 284), alluding to Sukarno. There were obvious implications for the passage of a marriage bill, with Sukarno unlikely to support moves to restrict a practice he personally indulged in. The anti-polygamy stream issued petitions, statements and protests at the marriage. The objective was twofold. Again, the opportunity was taken to demand a marriage law regulating polygamy. But a polygamous head of state raised new issues about the official role of the second wife. In September 1955 women activists held a press conference stating their opposition to Hartini sharing the role of first lady and their concerns that she was already carrying out such duties in Bogor (Antara 1955c: 504). Eleven women’s organizations issued a joint statement on 21 October 1955 opposing the marriage and demanding that Hartini not accompany Sukarno at any official events or on state visits.11 Hartini’s household should not to be financed by the state and Hartini should not reside at any official residences. They refused to accept Hartini as Ibu Negara (First


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Lady) and demanded these conditions be enacted as a special government regulation (Persit 1956c: 16). A delegation of representatives from 18 women’s organizations, headed by H.L. Soekanto, wife of the head of police, met with the prime minister, Burhanuddin Harahap, in September 1955 to raise these issues and was assured a committee would be formed to draft protocol regulations.12 They were also reassured (again) that a draft marriage law for parliamentary debate was proceeding (Merdeka, 21 September 1955). As part of their campaign against the marriage, many women activists and organizations refused to acknowledge or associate with Hartini. Polygamous marriages could only occur if women consented to becoming second wives and Hartini therefore carried a portion of the blame. However, this exposed a dilemma for some women activists, putting their advocacy in conflict with ‘wifely’ duties. One woman felt the need to publicly defend her visit to Hartini’s residence, which she acknowledged could be viewed as ‘an act of treason against the women’s struggle’. She faced a difficult choice between her husband’s cause and her own, and attended only out of her duty as a wife to support her husband (Supeno 1956: 13). Perwari lost many members because their husbands’ were under pressure to socialize with Sukarno and Hartini, and thereby grant her official recognition (Kartowijono 1983: 104). Sukarno’s polygamous marriage also created tensions among antipolygamy organizations. Perwari extended its boycott of Hartini to Sukarno because he had damaged the struggle and women’s rights. Other organizations, such as Persit, were unwilling to oppose the president so directly and distanced themselves from Perwari’s uncompromising stance (Persit 1956d: 18). However, the biggest division among anti-polygamy organizations was caused by the position now taken by Gerwani. Gerwani chose not to criticize the marriage, despite their strong anti-polygamy convictions. Although Gerwani members, as individuals, took part in demonstrations against the marriage (Wieringa 1995: 146), the organization did not publicly oppose it. This was for political reasons. The PKI urged Gerwani to support Sukarno because of his support of the communist party. Gerwani members felt the marriage was a betrayal but with other national leaders against them settled for the lesser of two evils (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Gerwani had previously been successful in pressuring the PKI to expel members who practised polygamy but were now pressured by the PKI to support Sukarno and his decision to take a second wife, putting political necessity ahead of gender. Party politics was at this time the priority for Gerwani (Wieringa 1995: 152). Islamic women’s organizations did not participate in the public debate around the marriage but did visit Fatmawati to offer advice and counselling. Sukarno later wrote that ‘Fatmawati was bitterly angry about my second marriage. She should not have been so. My first and second wives are devout Moslems well aware of our holy laws. And they understand, or should

Confronting the state


anyway’ (Adams 1965: 284). Even for devout Muslim women polygamy was difficult to accept and Hartini herself later said ‘of course she wasn’t happy with the situation. There is no woman in the world who is happy when her husband marries another wife. That simply is impossible’ (Hartini, cited in Wieringa 1995: 147). Fatmawati left the Jakarta presidential palace, although Islamic women’s organizations urged her to return to her rightful home and to resume her duties as a wife and mother (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). The debate became heated at times and extended beyond the women’s movement. In Bandung a pro-Hartini youth group was established to counter the anti-Hartini publicity and individuals sent letters to the president (and to Perwari) supporting the marriage (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 2347). Perwari members were branded as ‘against Sukarno’ politically (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996) and the organization’s president, Kartowijono, received many letters of protest, including death threats (Kartowijono 1976: 16–17). Sukarno later dismissed the debate over his polygamous marriage as a ‘small group of emancipated minds’ (Adams 1965: 284). But at the time he was reputedly furious at the reaction of the women’s movement (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). He refused to open the 1955 Persit congress because they were against his marriage, agreeing to attend only if Persit took a more sympathetic attitude. Persit argued the two issues were unrelated and refused to change their position (Persit 1956a: 15). Perwari in particular was the focus of his wrath. They had taken on the president ‘at the height of his triumph’ and became the target of abuse and slander (Kartowijono 1976: 12). He viewed ‘all our actions for a better marriage law as one big demonstration against him personally, and he made us suffer for that’ (Suwondo, cited in Wieringa 1995: 169). Perwari support declined during the Guided Democracy era, as many women did not want to join an organization that had so strongly opposed Sukarno (Kartowijono 1983: 104; Wieringa 1995: 152). While Sukarno objected to the views of the women’s movement, many women felt a sense of betrayal that their national leader and head of state was showing such disregard for women’s movement beliefs at a time when they were fighting so hard to have them heard.

The DPR marriage-law debates To effect legal change, women’s organizations needed to put marriage law on the political agenda so that the issue could be debated in parliament. However, the intense campaign had little influence on mainstream politics. Although the establishment of the NTR Committee in 1950 had been viewed as an early victory for women’s activism, it took another seven years for a draft marriage bill to move from the committee to the cabinet. In the face of further delays and government inaction, the parliamentary debate did not begin until February 1959.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

The NTR Committee delivered its first draft bill in December 1952. This was a single uniform law to regulate marriage for all Indonesian citizens. The bill set minimum ages, demanded consent of both parties, regulated polygamy and gave women equal rights to divorce. The antipolygamy and socialist streams of the women’s movement welcomed this draft, which met most of their demands. However, Islamic groups opposed the single-law concept. Islamic women’s organizations continued to demand a marriage law based on Islam. After the draft was sent back to the committee for revision, a second report was issued in May 1953. This time a general law was proposed with specific laws for each religion. The general law still included minimum age and consent provisions, but permitted polygamy and talak. This draft was passed to the Minister of Religion in April 1954 (Soebadio 1981: 15–17). The Ministry of Religion took a further three years to submit the marriage bill to Cabinet. It was not until Soemari, a woman MP representing PNI, submitted her own marriage bill to parliament in March 1958 that the issue was finally pushed onto the formal political agenda. The delay can be attributed to the political conflicts between Islam and secular parties. As discussed in Chapter 5, Islamic groups were fighting to have the new constitution based on Islam. In the meantime, family law was one of the only areas where Islamic law prevailed. A single uniform marriage law would see Islamic law further eroded and one of its last areas of jurisdiction transferred to civil jurisprudence. Islamic political parties were therefore not going to give up without a fight. The Minister of Religion was always appointed from an Islamic party (Feith 1962) and from 1953 the position was held by NU, which, according to Fealey (1998: 74, 84), was committed to the institutionalization of Islamic law in family and inheritance law. The responsible minister, therefore, was understandably reluctant to advance a secular civil code. Non-Islamic parties recognized the danger of alienating Muslim support for coalition governments and were wary of invoking widespread Islamic unrest in a new nation that was already facing Islamic rebellions in several regions (see Chapter 8). Women did not constitute the same political force or threat as Islam, and while many modernists may have favoured reform, they were more wary of inciting Islamic opposition. This became a significant issue when parliament debated the marriage law. The Soemari Bill On 5 March 1958, Soemari presented a private member’s bill on marriage (Sumari 1958: 10), forcing both her bill and the NTR Committee Bill, presented as the government’s RUU Pernikahan Umat Islam, to finally be debated in parliament. The Soemari Bill was viewed as an anti-polygamy bill, the government’s as being pro-polygamy – and the debate continued to centre on polygamy.

Confronting the state


The Soemari Bill (see Madjalah Kedudukan Wanita Indonesia 1959) was a general regulation for all Indonesian citizens. Its main provisions were: • • • • • •

marriage was to be based on monogamy; conditions for divorce were stipulated; men and women would have equal rights to initiate divorce; all citizens would have the right to marry according to their religion; consent from both parties was required; minimum marriageable ages of 18 for men and 15 for women were to be established.

The Government Bill (see Madjalah Kedudukan Wanita Indonesia 1959) was a marriage regulation for the Muslim community, based on Islamic laws. It allowed polygamy with conditions including agreement from the wife or wives and regulated the talak. While a couple of speakers discussed the bill in a purely legal manner, finding fault with various words and definitions used, the basic division was between those who viewed marriage as a religious matter and those who viewed it as an issue for civil jurisprudence. The two marriage bills were addressed by 29 speakers in five meetings over the course of three days (6, 9, 10 February 1959) and support for or opposition to the Soemari initiative was always related to support for or opposition to a secular, uniform national law (see DPR 1959a-1959e). Supporters of the Soemari Bill noted the suffering women faced under current marriage regulations and practice. There were no laws to guarantee the rights in marriage of Indonesian women, and Muslim women in particular. They also identified the need for Indonesia, as a united and independent state, to have one law applying to all its citizens (DPR 1959b: 21). Suzanna Hamdani (PSI) suggested national independence meant there was a need for national laws (DPR 1959c: 32). There were calls for modernity and ensuring women’s equal rights. Women MPs in particular strongly supported such demands. Mudikidio (PKI) argued it was understandable that men and women did not have equal rights in the colonial past, but now the situation could change (DPR 1959b: 38). Umi Sarjono recalled women’s contribution to the nationalist struggle. ‘Women who took part in the independence struggle feel they have the right to change their fate’ (DPR 1959c: 14). Soemari had also spoken of women’s commitment to nationalism when introducing her bill (Sumari 1958), suggesting that marriage law was perceived by some women as a reward for their contribution to winning independence. Sundari Abdulrachman (PKI) argued ‘every wife dislikes having a co-wife’ and claimed that economic structures continued to discriminate against women who remained dependent on their husbands. Polygamy could always be forced on a wife with the threat of abandonment, making the provision requiring a wife’s agreement to polygamy in the government’s bill unworkable (DPR 1959e: 13–14).


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Most speakers acknowledged that if Soemari had not introduced her initiative the debate would never have been opened and there was recognition of women’s long struggle in this area. But there was little support. While the communist/socialist parties supported the Soemari Bill, Islamic parties were strongly opposed. The main issue was taking family law away from religion into state civil control (DPR 1959a–1959e). Opposing the Soemari Bill Both male and female MPs from Islamic parties were against the Soemari Bill. They questioned whether parliament, as non-experts on Islamic law, had the right to discuss the matter (DPR 1959d: 21) and opposed the betrayal of religion implied by enabling people to marry under a secular law, as the Soemari Bill would allow (DPR 1959a: 29, 38; 1959b: 26). The Soemari Bill was incompatible with Islamic law. The main opposition was to monogamy as the basis of marriage. This was in contradiction with the right to polygamy granted by Islam (DPR 1959a: 14; 1959b: 22). This meant the marriage law would be secular, which Islamic parties strongly rejected. The primary argument was that marriage could not be separated from religion and therefore any marriage law had to be based on religious doctrine (DPR 1959a: 46; 1959b: 24–25; 1959c: 22). Ali Akbar (Masjumi) argued ‘marriage in Islam is religious’ and therefore Islamic parties could not accept the Soemari Bill (DPR 1959a: 21). Umar Salim Hubeis (Masjumi) claimed that marriages carried out under the Soemari regulations would be invalid and unofficial in the eyes of Islam. This would have serious implications for the family structure, as children would have no family name or right of inheritance (DPR 1959a: 9). His argument was based on the ideas that sexuality needed religious sanction and only a religiously official marriage would guarantee household well-being (DPR 1959a: 7–8). If the Soemari Bill was passed, Kjai H. Muslich (NU) claimed, it would be ‘a stab in the back’ for NU and ‘Muslims would leave the parliament’. He hoped that the president would refuse to sign it into law, even if it were passed (cited in Said 1959: 155). Some speakers argued that, as the majority of the Indonesian population was Muslim, Islamic law should apply throughout Indonesia (DPR 1959a: 40; 1959b: 25). They also, almost contradictorily, drew on discourse around the efforts to mould the diverse religions and cultures into one nation. Akbar argued that Islamic marriage law should be the state marriage law because it had a strong basis and worked well. At the same time he argued that, because of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (the state motto: ‘Unity in Diversity’), it was not possible to unite all laws but only to codify all existing regulations (DPR 1959a: 23). The place of non-Islamic laws, which should be protected by Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, was unclear under his proposal that Islamic law be the basis of state marriage law.

Confronting the state


Masculinist arguments confronted the loss of men’s rights (to polygamy and divorce) if the Soemari Bill was adopted (for example, DPR 1959c: 26–27). Tambunan (Parkindo) was disturbed by the conditions that would enable a woman to initiate marriage dissolution, which included gambling and drunkenness. He expressed concern for the innocent man who only had one drink or wager at a friend’s party but could then be easily divorced by his wife. He also found provision for support after divorce problematic. Should a husband continue to support his ex-wife, he asked, if the divorce was a voluntary decision or the fault of the wife (DPR 1959b: 32)? Islamic representatives also sought to justify polygamy. They did this primarily through the argument that Islam allowed polygamy and therefore polygamy could be practised. It was not up to people to question the word of God. But other arguments were also utilized. Kjai H. Muslich (NU) emphasized that polygamy only occurred if it was fair and just. He had been married several times but only to one wife at a time ‘because I am afraid I can not do it fairly and fear going to hell’ (Said 1959: 155). Nja’ Diwan (Perti) asked ‘what if a woman is infertile/barren and her husband wants to become a father?’ (Said 1959: 154). Polygamy therefore provided the opportunity to have children with another wife. He also argued polygamy could benefit women: What if there was another war like World War II? Women would have difficulty finding husbands if most of the men had died (DPR 1959c: 37). Umar Salim Hubeis applied similar logic to male losses sustained during the revolution. He argued that it was important for the nation to support widows and orphans, and that the Soemari Bill would ‘close one door which is possibly needed by the people’ (DPR 1959a: 11). If women were dependent on male financial support, polygamy enabled more women to be looked after when there were shortages of eligible men. This echoed the male arguments that prohibiting polygamy would deny some women the opportunity to marry. Hubeis claimed every Indonesian woman aspired to be married to a good husband and therefore polygamy was beneficial to unmarried women seeking a husband (DPR 1959b: 11). But it was arguments around male sexual desire and needs that continued to trivialize the issue and infuriate secular women’s organizations. T.S. Mardjohan (Perti) suggested that every person (male) is of a different nature and has different levels of lust. It is difficult for some people (men) to control their lust. A man therefore may need to have two or more wives or he will have to look outside the marriage to meet his needs. Moreover, wives aged faster than their husbands. These, he felt, were good reasons for a man to be allowed the possibility of taking a second (younger?) wife (DPR 1959d: 48). He argued: women age more quickly then men do sometimes even though they are of the same age when they marry, . . . when a woman has already borne two or three children, her figure has already declined 100 to 300 per cent


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s . . . the majority of women generally fade quickly while men are still strong and their lust is still powerful and they are still boiling with sexual desire. (Wieringa 1995: 148; see also Soewondo 1968: 184)

Secular and Christian women’s groups protested against this speech, calling for MPs to take the marriage-law debate seriously and argue in a respectful manner (Pedoman, 24 February 1959). The speech was excluded from the official record (Soewondo 1968: 184). Women speakers from Islamic parties were more effusive about the proposed regulation of marriage practice than their male colleagues and strongly supported the government’s reformist Islamic marriage bill. MahmudahMawardi (NU) approved of regulation on minimum marriage age, forced marriage and the talak (DPR 1959b: 3, 6). She also welcomed regulation of polygamy, arguing it was not polygamy that was evil but the manner in which polygamy was practiced (Said 1959: 154). Her comments reveal again the dilemmas that polygamy posed for women in Islamic parties and organizations. She acknowledged that polygamy was ‘difficult to swallow’ and that it was a problem because some men made it a hobby, merely venting sexual desire in the guise of polygamy. Polygamy, she argued, was often ‘carried out randomly and only practised for sexual satisfaction’. She could only accept the need for polygamy under special circumstances, such as barrenness in marriage or if the wife was ‘crazy so cannot fulfil her duties as Ibu in the household’. She reiterated that she was not opposing polygamy (‘as a Muslim I am not in a position to condemn or oppose polygamy provided it is carried out prudently and follows stipulations fixed by religion’) but wanted sanctions and conditions ‘to stop the abuse of the right to polygamy’ (DPR 1959b: 5–6). Sumarjo Mangunpuspito (Masjumi) also stated that ‘women suffer from polygamy or being abandoned by their husband and cry out for improvement in marriage’ (DPR 1959b: 10). Again there was recognition of the need for regulation and of the distress caused by polygamy and arbitrary divorce, but religious interests meant that any regulation must be based on Islamic law. Djunah Pardjaman (Masjumi) played down the incidence and importance of polygamy in Islam, arguing that it ‘is not law and isnot obligatory’ and that the incidence of polygamy in Indonesia was not excessive (DPR 1959b: 51). Women representing Islamic parties agreed with their male colleagues’ argument that marriage should be based on religious law. Mawardi called for ‘a religious basis to every law’ because Indonesia was a religious society. As the role of marriage was to produce descendents, it could not be separated from religion (DPR 1959a: 41), again demonstrating the belief that sexuality had to be sanctioned by religion. Mangunpuspito saw marriage as a physical and spiritual union, which also shaped Indonesian citizenship, and could not be separated from faith. She spoke of marriage’s purpose as being the production of a happy, tranquil and noble family (DPR 1959a: 12). This

Confronting the state


recalls nationalist roles of boundary-marking and reproducing the nation. If the nation or group was based on a religion, it was important for the descendents to be born into that identity. The insistence on a religious marriage law can be interpreted as a form of imagining identity. Islamic women, argued Mangunpuspito, supported marriage legislation as long as it was based on Islamic law (DPR 1959a: 14). Christian MPs faced a similar dilemma to the Christian women’s organizations in the marriage-law debates. V.B. Saka, the Partai Katolik speaker on the issue of marriage law, welcomed the Soemari Bill’s prohibition of polygamy and held any regulations on monogamy in the ‘highest esteem’. In contradiction to this, however, was his response to divorce provisions in the Soemari Bill. He argued that marriage should be based on religious law and he did not want Catholic belief and faith to be subordinate to state law. He therefore opposed the Soemari Bill for allowing divorce, which Catholic law forbade. Saka was happy for the Islamic faith to be subordinated, but not Catholicism (DPR 1959c: 38–43). Final outcomes Not surprisingly, women’s organizations took an active interest in the DPR debates. Newspapers reported that the public gallery ‘was swamped by women from various organizations’ (Bintang Timur, 7 February 1959), including Fatmawati Sukarno (Pedoman, 7 February 1959; Merdeka, 7 February 1959). The issue was attracting the attention of women throughout Jakarta (Kedaulatan Rakjat, 7 February 1959). Wanita and Suara Perwari published excerpts from the speeches, paying particular attention to debates around polygamy. A book was published in 1959 containing reprints of all the speeches by women MPs. This suggests how the women’s movement looked to female MPs to represent women’s interests in parliament. Its title Wanita Pro dan Kontra Poligami (‘Women For and Against Polygamy’) again stressed polygamy as the central issue of the debate on marriage law. This symbolized the Islamic versus secular dissension that made agreement on a marriage law difficult, if not impossible. After the first three days of debate, the government and Soemari replied to the questions raised about their respective bills. This was followed in late February by the opportunity for the 29 speakers to again address issues from the draft marriage bill, substantively repeating the arguments they had already made. On 23 February it was decided the issue would be returned to after the Ramadan recess. Opposition to the Soemari Bill had been so strong that secular women’s organizations visited the prime minister and Minster of Religion, offering to rework the two bills into a compromise for parliament (Soewondo 1968: 185; Wieringa 1995: 148). But when parliament returned, the marriage law was not even entered on the agenda. The political crisis leading to Sukarno’s Guided Democracy was overtaking events and the marriage law was not a priority.


Women’s mobilization in the 1950s

Nevertheless, women’s organizations continued to pursue a marriage law. Further delegations were made to government and in 1960 an ad hoc committee was formed to investigate marriage law. Again this was unsuccessful and the early 1960s left women’s organizations still calling for a marriage law (Soewondo 1968: 186–187). In 1966 Suharto’s new regime moved responsibility for marriage law from the Ministry of Religion to the Ministry of Justice, instructing the department to draft a national marriage law based on the pancasila. This was eventually discussed in parliament in 1973. After further fiery debates in parliament this became law UU No.1 1974 (Soewondo 1977: 285; Soebadio 1981: 17). There was still massive Islamic opposition to the marriage bill but the bill was nonetheless passed. Some of the main demands of women’s organizations were met in the new act. Minimum marriage ages were set at 19 for men and 16 for women, marriage required the consent of both parties (or their parents if they were under 21), divorce was controlled by the courts and polygamy was regulated, although it was not forbidden – court permission was henceforth needed for a polygamous marriage to take place (Soewondo 1977: 286–288).

Engaging the state: the limits of women’s political power This chapter has demonstrated the importance of the debate on marriage law to the Indonesian women’s movement during the 1950s and the impassioned views it evoked from women’s organizations and the wider community. Marriage law was critical in defining notions of womanhood. While none of the streams of the women’s movement questioned the value of marriage for women and all of them perceived of women as wives, two divergent views emerged. Secular women’s groups conceptualized women in marriage as equal citizens who deserved to have the same rights, privileges and protection as men. Islamic women’s groups viewed women as representing religious norms and identity, advocating laws based on religion. Their campaign for an Islamic marriage law was an extension of the campaign for the Indonesian state to be based on Islam, showing that for Indonesian women’s organizations the Indonesian nation incorporated Islamic identity. The issue of polygamy showed the divisions most clearly: to secular groups it was an indication of women’s inequality and lower status, whereas Islamic groups regarded it as a religious practice that should be respected. These differences within the women’s movement demonstrate how other sites of identity (religious and political) affect concepts of womanhood and desired change. The fact that Gerwani backed down over Sukarno’s polygamous marriage also illustrates how other identity interests can impact on activism. As a case study of women’s activism, the 1950s campaign for marriage law suggests that democracy and independence did not fulfil women’s strategic gender interests. Although the activity during the 1950s is now viewed as having contributed to the eventual passing of a marriage law in 1974, the fact

Confronting the state


that a marriage bill was not fully debated in 1959 and the slowness of the government’s response to this major campaign does constitute a failure for the movement. It was not until 1974 that marriage law was codified with regulations on divorce, consent and marriage age. Even then polygamy was not outlawed. It is clear that women’s commitment to nationalism and national interests was not rewarded with positive legal change during independence. The close relationship between women’s organizations and the state in addressing Indonesia’s development needs (Chapters 4 and 5) was not carried over into gender interests. An important factor in the campaign’s failure was the inability of women to operate as a united political force in the new democracy. Women’s organizations were publicly divided over what marriage reform they wanted and, as discussed in Chapter 5, had made a decision not to base political identity on gender. With other important identity interests, it was impossible to identify a common political goal as women. Women were not therefore perceived as a political bloc. In contrast, Islam was an extremely strong political force and one that needed to be courted by other political parties in the unsettled political climate of the 1950s. Ultimately, the religious opposition was too strong for action to be taken on a marriage bill. Although Indonesian women had political rights and a political space in which to freely protest, their campaign failed to capture the political agenda. Indonesian women had little political power as women in an independent and democratic nation–state.

Part III

Challenging the national-level perspective


Women’s international interests Representing gender and nation at the international level

On March 8 [International Women’s Day], sisters, we are not alone in bearing our burden. Women in other states also pay attention to our fate. (Karya 1949: 7)

This chapter examines another level of activism, the international level, thus broadening our understanding of the national Indonesian women’s movement. This aspect of women’s mobilization is usually neglected but needs to be considered for a number of reasons. First, international activities became an increasingly significant area of activity for Indonesian women during the 1950s as the national women’s movement expanded concepts of womanhood and citizenship to embrace international roles. The opportunities to engage in international politics increased dramatically with the attainment of independence. Second, by examining this form of women’s political mobilization, we can see how Indonesian women perceived themselves in relation to the rest of the world, an important element of identity formation. Finally, Indonesian women’s international interests are important in relation to concepts of international sisterhood and feminisms. As discussed in Chapter 1, the often divergent interactions of First and Third World women at the international level from the 1970s and 1980s has challenged concepts of feminism. Yet there has been little investigation of the period preceding the UN Decade for Women, during which Third World women first engaged with the international system as representatives and members of independent nation–states. By uncovering a little known aspect of the Indonesian women’s movement, this chapter further explores definitions of Indonesian womanhood and uses the Indonesian experience to give a perspective on the new actors in women’s international relations. Approaches to, and definitions of, the international activities of women’s organizations are considered in the following section so as to establish a model for exploring international women’s mobilization. This section also briefly looks at the history of women’s international activism to illustrate the place of Third World women and the 1950s within it. The activities of the Indonesian women’s movement that meet the definitions of ‘international’ can then be discussed. The final section analyses why the movement operated at the international level, looking at issues of identity and state and at


Challenging the national-level perspective

gender interests, as well as questioning the extent to which Indonesian women considered themselves to be part of a global sisterhood and the extent to which nationalist interests influenced international activism.

Approaching the international activities of national women’s movements Women’s international political activities, defined as actions taken outside the nation–state, have been largely ignored in the literature on national women’s movements. This form of activism, which includes participation in international organizations and conferences and involvement with foreign women’s groups, is frequently overlooked or only alluded to briefly. As Pettman (1993: 48) has noted, national studies have usually ‘stopped short at state boundaries rather than locating women’s experiences within an international and increasingly globalized context’. This reflects both the difficulty of researching this aspect of movement activism and beliefs about women’s international activities. There seems to be an assumption that international activities are less significant than domestic objectives and strategies or that international activities are in some way divorced from the national women’s movements that often conduct women’s international relations. With few models of analysis to work from, the neglect continues. But by disregarding this area, we risk missing potentially insightful and broader understandings of women’s political mobilization and identity-formation. International activities and activism need to be considered as an area of mobilization for national movements, especially with regard to what they show about how women define themselves to the wider world. This can challenge and complement perceptions based on intra-national activity alone. We therefore need to develop ways to incorporate an understanding of international relations and the significance of global activism into the analysis of women’s movements. An obvious starting point is international relations (IR), the school of political enquiry that specifically addresses transnational activities. However, the neglect of gender in IR further heightens the difficulty of analyzing women’s international activism. IR has been one of the last areas to ask questions about gender and analyse women’s roles. Until recently, women have remained largely hidden in IR literature (Enloe 1989: 4; Steans 1998: 1). This is partly due to the school’s state-centric approach, which overlooks non-state actors in the international system and focuses on relations between states. War and diplomacy become the subjects of study with an emphasis on national leaders, diplomats and soldiers. Although there are some women in these types of state-appointed roles, they remain few in number.1 Women have therefore been largely omitted from IR literature (D’Amico and Beckman 1995: 2) and are not recognized as international actors. It is not only the absence of women subjects that is problematic but also the assumptions about gender that underpin this approach. States and international

Women’s international interests


relations are presented as being gender neutral, making questions of gender apparently ‘irrelevant’. It has been assumed that women and men are affected by, and participate in, world politics in the same ways (Pettman 1993: 47). This implies women do not have gender-specific interests to pursue at an international level, even though (as has been discussed in earlier chapters) all political processes and institutions are clearly gendered. Feminist IR scholars are now demonstrating that international processes have distinct impacts on women as women and the new feminist streams are incorporating gender analysis into IR (Pettman 1996a; Steans 1998). To include an analysis of gender, however, has necessitated a reconceptualization of world politics. This is especially important when analyzing women’s representation of gender interests at the international level. When women mobilize on the basis of gender, they are relegated to the non-state, informal sector. State-centric approaches, therefore, overlook their political action. A broader approach that recognizes non-state actors is thus needed before women’s political action can be viewed as international relations. Defining international relations as ‘connections between people across state boundaries’ (D’Amico and Beckman 1995: 2) helps overcome this problem, enabling non-state, non-government and grass-roots actors to be included. Non-state actors are defined as individuals and groups who are not affiliated with a national government (Stienstra 1994: 1), although it should be noted that governments and the state can exert significant control over non-state actors. The most widely recognized non-state actors are international movements. They are defined as ‘conscious efforts to build transnational cooperation around shared goals that include social change’ and may involve the exchange of technical and strategic information, coordination of parallel actions or ‘truly transnational collective action’ (Smith et al. 1997: 60). International organizations and movements have become the focus of most research on non-state world politics; this is certainly true in the case of women’s international political activities. Using these approaches, most studies of women’s international activism concentrate on women’s attempts to unite at a global level through international organizations. Stienstra (1994: xvi) refers to this as the top-down approach, which focuses on women’s movements that ‘organize specifically at the international level or deal with the global issues related to women’, rather than the bottom-up approach, which studies international feminism from the perspective of national women’s movements. The literature is dominated by research on international women’s congresses and organizations. While this is an important area of women’s mobilization, this approach leads to the continuing disregard of the engagements with the international system of national women’s movements. A major consequence of this has been the development of a new first-wave/second-wave schema in the history of women’s activism, where only two periods of women’s global mobilization are identified. The Indonesian case will show that this periodization gives a misleading impression.2 Nevertheless we need to briefly examine this


Challenging the national-level perspective

history to show how the 1950s have been excluded and to ascertain what exploration of this period can contribute to interpretations of the history of women’s global organizing. The literature on women’s international organizing divides women’s mobilization into two historical periods: 1880 to 1919 (sometimes extended to the outbreak of World War II) and 1970 to the present. The first period was the ‘international sisterhood’ of North American, European and Australasian women’s organizations (Stienstra 1995: 145, 150). Women activists came together in a series of world congresses and established international organizations to address the global issues of peace and antislavery. They also used the international setting to advance the cause of female suffrage and provide support to and strategies for suffrage campaigns within different countries. The international aspect of women’s suffrage gave the movement strength and credibility within domestic borders (Burton 1994: 172). Underlying these activities was the objective of unity and the attempt to develop a universal sisterhood (Sherrick 1982: 655). This notion of global sisterhood can be taken as referring to the idea of political solidarity and unity as women with shared interests on the basis of gender. Organizational leaders of the period believed women’s interests were international and that it was important to establish an international movement to achieve rights for women. They argued that the common bond of gender, and motherhood in particular, crossed national and racial borders, allowing women everywhere to understand each other (Burton 1990: 303; Sherrick 1982: 657). But this was a world order dominated by imperial Western powers sharing common backgrounds in terms of religion, political system and philosophy, who exerted authority over colonial territories that had little or no representation at an international level, even among women’s congresses and organizations. Women active at the international level during the period before World War I were ‘women of their eras’, primarily from the elite classes of colonial powers. Burton reminds us that nineteenth-century feminism matured in the age of empire, which meant women from colonizing powers often had an imperial mindset (Burton 1990: 295). Their imperial relationships were reflected in their activities (Stienstra 1994: 43). Colonized women were never viewed as equals, but symbolized as victims to be ‘saved’ by Western women (Burton 1990: 295). Few non-European/American countries were represented (Whittick 1979: 22–63) and the organizations remained dominated by issues that related to European and North American women (Rupp 1997). The International Women’s Suffrage Association (IWSA), for example, included non-Western women’s organizations only as auxiliary members (Burton 1994: 191).3 This was the birth of the nation–state era and, although women were not formal representatives of their state governments, belonging to an independent state became the criterion for equal membership in the female international community. In this context, it was relatively easy to form a sisterhood because women from those different cultural and

Women’s international interests


political backgrounds that could potentially challenge Western women’s interests were simply not admitted.4 This sisterhood was difficult to recapture as more states entered the world system. This was highlighted by the UN Decade for Women (1975–1985), the second wave of international women’s mobilization identified in the literature. It is presented as a rejuvenation of international feminism, another dynamic period of international conferences, NGOs and action networks among women addressing global or cross-border issues. The ideal of sisterhood was again heralded but largely shattered in the face of differences among women and feminisms across different cultures, classes, races, religions, sexualities and borders.5 While the first phase had been a time of establishing international women’s networks, albeit limited in their scope, the second phase questioned whether such networks were possible in a global context. Within this history the 1950s have been viewed as a period in which women’s international activism ‘was minimal’ (Stienstra 1994: 86; Rupp 1997: 3). With the attainment of women’s suffrage and the challenge to the peace movement from the rise of European fascism and the outbreak of World War II, the first wave lost its energy and vitality, if not its purpose. Organizations continued with a narrow focus and only two significant new international organizations involving women were founded: the socialist Women’s International Democratic Front (1945) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (1953) (Stienstra 1994: 86). For Third World women in particular, Stienstra argues, there was little representation or involvement at the international level during the 1950s and the issues raised had little relevance to their lives and conditions (Stienstra 1994: 87–90). This dismissal of the 1950s as an insignificant period in terms of women’s international activism is not only misleading but seems surprising in light of the international politics of the era. The world had just emerged from a period of war into a nuclear age, making peace an important goal. Growing Cold War tensions between the ideological blocs of the US and USSR challenged internationalism and promoted nationalistic patriotism. The United Nations was a new actor, revered by new states such as Indonesia for the role it did, and could, play in independence struggles. These new nation–states, born from nationalist struggles against the imperial powers, were challenging the relatively homogenous international world of pre-war Europe and North America as Third World peoples began to appear on the world stage as autonomous actors. The context of world politics had changed dramatically but there has been no consideration of what this meant for women’s movements and global feminism, primarily because there were no major international women’s congresses to analyse. An alternative approach needs to be taken. The alternative approach is to identify the bonds or connections national women’s organizations have formed across national borders, referred to by


Challenging the national-level perspective

Stienstra as the bottom-up approach (Stienstra 1994: xvi). This approach is rarely used, according to Stienstra, because of the difficulty in accessing histories of women’s movements in Latin America, Asia and Africa, thus making it impossible to identify the links between them and European or North American groups (Stienstra 1994: xvi). There is an implicit assumption here that international activities must include Europeans and North Americans, although interactions between Third World countries without the involvement of the West are still international connections across borders. This hints at a further reason why the 1950s have been overlooked: they were not important in terms of Western women’s organizations. This confirms the need for focusing on a Third World experience. To explore the international activities of the Indonesian women’s movement I am using a broad definition of international activities, viewing connections across borders as exchanges of people, information, ideas and support. This incorporates the historical understanding of women’s international activities as seeking gender unity across borders to address global issues, to support each other, to network and exchange information on objectives and strategies, and to lobby international organizations. While noting some Indonesian women had formal state-appointed roles in international relations,6 this chapter will examine the informal level of mobilization, illustrating more explicitly Indonesian women’s interests at the international level. Women’s journals of the 1950s highlighted four main areas of international exchanges or activities that need to be considered: • •

• •

formal membership and alliances with international organizations or organizations in other nation–states; exchange of people and ideas through Indonesian women (individually and as official delegates) attending international conferences and study tours of other states; foreign women visiting Indonesia; the exchange of information and ideas through articles in women’s journals.

There was little opportunity to develop these areas before independence, but such activities became increasingly significant in the era of independence.

International activities of the Indonesian women’s movement Pre-independence As the discussion of first-wave international feminism suggests, it was difficult for Indonesian women, as members of a colonized race, to have an international presence. With no state, their international links were restricted to relationships with representatives of the colonizing nation. In the case of

Women’s international interests


Indonesia, however, there is little known about the dialogue between Dutch feminists and ‘native’ women during the colonial era (Blackburn 1997a: 1). Research on British feminists and Indian women suggests such colonizer/ colonized relationships among women were built on national rather than gender interests, with inherent tensions and contradictions between international feminism and the demands of imperial citizenship. British feminists constructed Indian women as victims and the ‘plight of the Indian woman’ became their special responsibility. The emphasis was on demonstrating British women’s fitness to share with British men the governing of the British Empire, to prove their capacity for full citizenship, and to claim a legitimate public role (Burton 1994: 172; Rupp 1997: 76, 79–81). The work of Dutch feminist Dr Aletta Jacobs (see Blackburn 1997a) suggests a similar emphasis on imperial and Dutch nationalist concerns could emerge from further research on female Dutch/Indies relations. Jacobs toured Java and Sumatra in 1912 as part of an IWSA tour with American suffragist Carrie Chapman Catt. Their tour was an attempt to broaden international sisterhood to include Asian and Middle Eastern women. Jacobs, however, advanced a similar position to that of British feminism, advocating a leadership role for European women in relation to Asian women. While recognizing from this tour that there was a serious women’s movement in Asia (Catt 1913, cited in Blackburn 1997a: 17), the two Western feminists treated Asian women as needing guidance from Western women. Jacobs wrote of the women of Asia ‘who just now need the encouragement which Western women, emancipated from the most severe mandates of tradition, can give in practical advice’ and that Asian women were ‘waiting, waiting for a liberator’ (Jacobs, cited in Whittick 1979: 55, 57). This patronizing attitude to ‘other’ women was representative of the period, but presented a problem when that ‘other’ appeared more advanced than the progressive West. Jacobs had to confront the existence of limited women’s suffrage allowing Javanese women who owned land the right to vote for the village head – a type of right not available to Dutch women (Blackburn 1997a: 7). She wrote that ‘the Javanese woman is, in this respect, ahead of her Dutch sisters. Is this not shaming’ (Jacobs 1913, cited in Blackburn 1997a: 7). British suffragists were similarly alarmed at the possibility of Turkish women gaining the vote before they did, warning that Eastern women ‘should not expect to be awarded political equality as long as their Western sisters were still denied this fundamental right’ (Burton 1994: 200). The first wave of international feminism had a clear idea of the order of progress: Western women would achieve their rights and then assist their ‘younger’ Eastern sisters. With such views of Asian women, it is not surprising that Indonesian women were denied a place in the sisterhood. Indonesian women also implicitly rejected Western feminism. As discussed in Chapter 2, Indonesian women activists sought to differentiate themselves from Western feminists and define their own form of mobilization. While this may have been a response to the imperialist attitudes of


Challenging the national-level perspective

their European sisters, it also reflected the different interests of Western and Asian women. The first phase of Western international feminism was dominated by suffrage issues, which had little relevance or urgency in a colonized territory with no democratic processes. Paralleling this was the failure of Western women to acknowledge nationalist interests of Asian women. International women’s congresses expressed no support for women in anti-colonial struggles and in some cases urged women to desist from such activities. Indian women involved in the boycott of British goods, for example, were requested to end the protest (Burton 1994: 192). The divisions of the so-called second wave of international feminism were already evident much earlier. There was another initial obstacle to Indonesian women’s participation in international activities. Not only were they without a state and viewed as the lesser partners in women’s relations, they were, in the early decades of the twentieth century, without a national identity or voice. As noted in Chapter 2, an invitation to an international women’s conference in 1928 revealed Indonesian women had no process by which to represent themselves and their interests to others. It was not until they were united through congresses that they were able to select delegates to represent Indonesian women and the Indonesian women’s movement. This indicates the importance of a national movement in coordinating international activities. Delegates were elected to attend a Congress of Asian Women held in Lahore in 1931 (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 269) but this was the only preindependence activity. The nature of international feminism, the absence of a national women’s movement, and the experience of being colonized and without a state all conspired to make it difficult for Indonesian women to engage in international politics until Indonesia won independence. The 1945–1949 revolution With the declaration of Indonesian independence, however, the women’s movement increasingly sought to engage with the international community. The second women’s congress of the revolusi era (14–16 June 1946) presented a resolution to seek assistance from women’s organizations around the world in support of the Indonesian revolution and decided to join an international women’s organization, the WIDF. In 1947 the congress thanked the Nederlandsche Vrouwenbeweging (left-wing Dutch women’s movement) for their actions in opposing the deployment of Dutch troops in Indonesia; in 1948 it resolved to use international connections to protest Dutch military action and advance Indonesian independence. Delegates were sent to two women’s conferences during this five-year period: the East Asia Conference (1946) and the All Indian Women’s Conference (1947) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 39–41, 269). Herawati Diah, an Indonesian delegate to the All Indian Women’s Conference, later recalled the main reason for attending was to spread propaganda about Indonesian nationalism. The Indonesian

Women’s international interests


report addressed the struggle for independence rather than gender issues (Diah, interview, 14 January 1997). Indonesian women’s international activities during this period were limited to gaining international recognition and support for their new nation–state. The 1950s and new statehood The legitimacy of statehood brought further opportunities for international activism in the 1950s. Although international activities were not the priority of the Indonesian women’s movement, a reading of women’s magazines suggests that they became more important as the decade progressed. From 1953 there was an explosion in articles addressing some type of international exchange. Perwari noted in the same year that although development was the priority, it was important to pursue international links (Soekanto 1953b). The growing significance of international activities seems to have been primarily related to the attainment of Indonesian statehood. There was an emphasis on establishing Indonesia’s place in the world and finding models of development for the new state, and the opportunity to enter an international sisterhood. These factors, along with domestic political and gender interests, underpinned much of the transnational activism of the women’s movement. The first formal connection between the Indonesian women’s movement and an international women’s organization, as noted above, occurred in 1947 when Kowani joined the WIDF. This membership, however, became problematic for the umbrella organization and the episode changed the movement’s approach to international activities. The socialist orientation of the WIDF (of which Kowani later claimed ignorance) caused dissension within the factionalized Indonesian women’s movement. Three major Islamic women’s organizations, Muslimat, GPII and Aisjijah, withdrew from Kowani in protest at its links with the communist WIDF (Kowani 1969: 34).7 When Kowani was disbanded in 1949 to become Kongres Wanita Indonesia, Gerwani took over its WIDF membership (Wieringa 1995: 139). Kongres Wanita Indonesia decided it would not affiliate with any international federations (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 44). This again reflects the difficulty of unifying a diverse movement (see Chapter 3). Membership of the Pan Pacific Women’s Organization was later declined because of the organization’s right-wing nature (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 269). It was left to individual organizations to pursue formal membership or alliances with other women’s groups, with other organizations following the Gerwani example.8 These memberships entailed the exchange of newsletters and attendance at meetings. Gerwani sent regular reports to the WIDF that often became articles in WIDF publications. Gerwani representatives based at the WIDF in East Berlin also undertook lecture tours in Eastern Europe (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). Through these links, Indonesian women’s organizations were able to pursue their religious, political and


Challenging the national-level perspective

professional interests at the international level. National representation, however, was only made through conferences and study tours. Invitations to attend international conferences or send a delegation to tour another state were usually directed to Kongres Wanita Indonesia (either by the government or by organizers) (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 119). Congresses would select the delegates. Because of this role in coordinating international activities, Kongres Wanita Indonesia viewed itself as the representative of all Indonesian women at the international level (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 269), although some individual women and organizations were in fact approached directly through their affiliation with sister organizations.9 Table 7.1 shows some of the conferences and tours Indonesian women participated in during the 1950s. The variety of activities Indonesian women engaged in challenges the view that there was no significant international mobilization of women during the 1950s. Stienstra’s comments that Third World women had little involvement at the international level are especially misleading when we consider the 1958 Asia–Africa Women’s Conference. This conference was arguably the most important of the decade for Indonesian women. The Indonesian women’s movement was one of the organizers and it was a conference that brought women of the Third World together for the first time. The Asia–Africa Women’s Conference was an initiative of the 1955 Asia–Africa conference in Bandung, at which newly independent states espoused anti-imperialism and formed the non-aligned movement, seeking political neutrality in the Cold War. These two factors were to guide Indonesian foreign policy in the 1950s and consequently Indonesian women’s international activities. Of the 29 states attending the Bandung Conference, Indonesia was the only participating state to include a woman in the official delegation and present a paper on the status of women. As a result, the conference agreed on the need for a separate forum to discuss issues of importance to women and India, Burma, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Pakistan and Indonesia became conference organizers (Santoso 1956b: 13). The agenda for this conference comprised discussion of women and citizenship, health and welfare of women and children, education, women as workers, and slavery and trafficking of women (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 53). As the Indonesian women’s movement was an organizer, this is an invaluable indication of the issues they wanted to pursue at the international level. Other conferences and workshops reflected similar themes of development, citizenship, welfare and women’s rights. The 1952 UNESCO seminar addressed women’s social status, position in law and political rights (Kartowijono 1953b: 22), and the 1957 UN workshop focused on civic responsibilities, education, health, economics and community development (Noor 1957: 451). Participants at these conferences had to present a paper or report on their nation–state, usually focusing on socio-economic conditions, the status of women and activities undertaken by the women’s

Women’s international interests


Table 7.1 Examples of Indonesian women’s delegations Date


International activity

1951 1952

Bali Christchurch

December 1952

New Delhi

June 1953






January/ February 1955


October 1956



New York



India, Pakistan, Thailand, Burma (Tanumidjaja 1956) and Singapore Paris

UN NGO Conference (Memet 1951) Pan Pacific Women’s Association Conference (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 44) UNESCO seminar on Status of Women in Asia (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47) WIDF World Congress of Women (Kartowijono 1953c) Delegation of eight Indonesian women at the invitation of the US Information Service (USIS) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 51) WIDF World Congress of Women (Suriadarma 1955) International Federation of University Women and Pan Pacific Women’s Association Conference (Suwondo 1955b) Delegation of ten Indonesian women at the invitation of the Soviet Women’s Committee (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52) ‘Responsibilities of Freedom’ workshop (Suwondo 1956: 329) Delegation of ten Indonesian women to study village community development programmes, funded by the Ford Foundation



March 1957

New York

November 1957




September 1958


International Federation of University Women Conference (Noor 1956b) UN Seminar on Civic Rights and Responsibilities and Increased Participation of Asian Women in Public Life (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 53-54) Women’s movement representative invited to attend the UN ‘Status of Women’ Commission meeting (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 53) UN Seminar on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Prisoners (Sutarman 1957) Asia–Africa Women’s Conference (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 270) Delegation at the invitation of the All-China Federation of Democratic Women (Kartowijono 1958c)

movement (see, for example, Suwondo 1956; Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 271; Noor 1957: 451). Even when an Indonesian delegate could not attend a conference, a paper on conditions in Indonesia and the progress of women might be sent.10 These conferences were an opportunity to exchange information on issues of importance to women, transmit an image of Indonesia and increase mutual understanding between women of different nationalities.


Challenging the national-level perspective

‘Study tours’, where Indonesian women were invited to visit various countries, had the same objectives. They gave Indonesian women an opportunity to observe activities relevant to the objectives of their domestic campaigns and to promote Indonesia. On a three-week tour of China in 1958, for example, Indonesian women’s delegates visited colleges, kindergartens, crèches, workers’ housing and factories, and universities (Harahap 1958). Their itinerary had an emphasis on women’s education and work, important areas of socio-economic activism (see Chapter 4). In 1958 Nani Suwondo toured Australia at the invitation of the Australian government and National Council of Women (Suwondo 1958a: 5). She aimed to establish relations with Australian women’s organizations and inform them about the post-independence progress of Indonesian women, especially in education, equal pay, political rights and public positions. Suwondo argued conferences and tours were beneficial for Indonesian women because ‘they enlarge our knowledge about conditions in other countries’ and ‘give us the opportunity to tell about conditions in Indonesia in general, particularly about women’s position’. She also noted that international exchanges were useful in increasing international recognition and understanding of Indonesia (Suwondo 1958b: 20). Women accompanying their husbands on overseas postings engaged in similar activities. They often sought involvement with women’s organizations in their host countries, taking the opportunity to learn about the position of women and to talk about ‘life in Indonesia and women in Indonesia’ (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996; also Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). Another form of international exchange was meetings between foreign and Indonesian women within Indonesia. Foreign women activists visited Indonesia, giving talks and meeting with the women’s movement. In January 1955, for example, the Americans Ella Stewart, former president of the National Association of Coloured Women, and Helen Fowler, former president of the Women’s League of Brooklyn, visited Jakarta and addressed women’s organizations (WIC 1955a: 2). Anna Lord Strauss, ‘one of the most prominent American leaders’, made a second visit to Indonesia in 1957 to hold workshops on leadership training for citizenship with women in Jakarta and on other islands (Suwondo 1957b: 299–300). A number of foreign women joined Indonesian women’s organizations. While most organizations restricted membership to women with Indonesian nationality (see Chapter 3), the Women’s International Club (WIC) welcomed foreign members. The WIC was established in March 1950 to promote contact and understanding between the new state of Indonesia and representatives of established states, as the founder Suwarni Pringgodigdo explained: A brand new state with brand new leaders and brand new members of the Corps diplomatique, and a brand new upper ten [elite] of society! What would happen then? Must it be as in other, older countries where society contacts in the upper ten occur by chance and at receptions

Women’s international interests


only? At this rate we would never come to a real understanding and friendship with other countries. The Indonesians, new and quite strange in their international relations, would never have the chance, like people in older countries, to be more intimate with foreigners. (Pringgodigdo 1953: 5) The largest WIC branch was based in Jakarta, where the elite women of Indonesia joined the wives of foreign diplomats and businessmen in social and fund-raising events. These included showcases of Indonesian costume and culture, dances and fashion from around the world, as well as debates and lectures on the position and rights of women in the members’ various homelands (WIC 1950–1959). Although the club seemed to fulfil a social function for the leaders of the women’s movement (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996), it was an important environment for Indonesian women to learn about the position of women in other states, to establish relationships with ‘other’ women and to promote Indonesia. Persatuan Wanita Keluarga UGM, an organization for the wives of university staff at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) in Yogyakarta, also admitted foreign women as members. Articles in the club’s journal were sometimes in English and referred to the valuable opportunities this gave for women of different cultures to learn from each other (Ibu 1958). A final form of international exchange was the promotion of international affairs through the women’s press. Magazines regularly reported on international women’s conferences and Indonesian women’s overseas visits. They offered articles on the lives, rights and status of women in other nation–states. For most Indonesian women this would be their only involvement in international activities. These articles formulated images of other women, thus helping to determine the place of Indonesian women in the world and their degree of identification (or lack of identification) with foreign women. Women’s magazines such as Wanita, Suara Perwari, Mekar and Dunia Wanita wrote about women in a variety of nation–states, focusing on their legal position and political rights, marriage laws, women’s education and health, women and welfare, and women workers. Their coverage included France, Italy, China, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, East Germany, the UK, the US, the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Egypt, South Africa, Canada, Pakistan, India and many more. The magazine Wanita had a column titled ‘Varia Wanita Luar Negeri’ with news about women around the world. This information about foreign women enabled Indonesian women to assess their own progress, consider new strategies, strengthen their own demands and define themselves in contrast to foreign women. All these international activities gave the Indonesian women’s movement the opportunity to meet with women from around the world, discuss the problems facing women in Indonesia and other states, exchange ideas and


Challenging the national-level perspective

strategies, represent Indonesian women to the world and, through observing others, determine their own progress and identity. But the picture presented to the world and the ideas brought back to Indonesia would depend in part on who represented the Indonesian women’s movement. Not all members of the national movement extended their objectives and activities to include international mobilization. Many women’s organizations limited their activities to educational and welfare work, operating within women’s accepted roles as wives and mothers. Some organizations expanded these concepts to embrace political roles but only a few Indonesian women’s organizations included an international aspect to their activities. This was largely a question of resources and priorities. Not all women’s organizations had the resources to send delegates abroad (Soekanto 1956: 13). Women had to be able to speak the language of the conference or state they were visiting (Sarwono 1956b: 8). Most conferences used English, thus limiting who could attend. It also had to be women who understood the issues. The cost of joining international federations could also be prohibitive to some organizations. Others did not consider international organizing important. A 1957 article, for example, questioned the usefulness of conferences. It called for a discussion of whether Kongres Wanita Indonesia had the resources to cohost the Asia–Africa Women’s Conference (Idrus 1957), asking if this was the most appropriate use of resources. Most organizations, however, were apparently happy to let Kongres Wanita Indonesia represent them at the international level if they could not manage their own connections. As already discussed, the umbrella organization Kongres Wanita Indonesia did not seek formal membership in the women’s international community. Its role was to facilitate relationships and coordinate delegations. This enabled some of the larger organizations, representing different streams of the movement, to exert international influence by advancing their own transnational connections and putting forward their members to represent Kongres Wanita Indonesia. The secular Western-educated stream dominated the international activities of the Indonesian women’s movement. It was mainly Javanese, elite women attached to secular organizations who participated. Perwari was the most active, with its leaders regularly reporting on international events they attended. Perwari had set up a small section in 1951 to study international issues and liaise with foreign visitors, overseas organizations and international organizations (Soekanto 1956: 13), and it actively sought an international role. The secular women’s rights stream mostly consisted of Western-educated elite women and seemed to share a similar philosophy and approach to that of Western women’s organizations. This accounts for why they were more active in international relations, especially as most conferences were organized by Western groups who approached the organizations in Indonesia that were the most open to their ideas. There is little evidence of Islamic women’s groups taking an active role at the international level beyond their inclusion in Kongres Wanita Indonesia

Women’s international interests


delegations. Within these delegations, however, they were under-represented in terms of their numerical strength within the movement.11 The Islamic world community at this time did not have the resources to create its own network and to Western, ‘modern’ eyes Muslim women may have been perceived as more foreign, more tied to tradition and less progressive. An Aisjijah member on a delegation to the US, for example, refused to attend the family planning sections of the tour (Baried 1986a: 150) because the Islamic position on family planning at this time was to oppose it. Islamic women’s groups were more concerned with domestic politics, in particular the campaign for an Islamic state and Islamic marriage law, as discussed in Chapters 5 and 6. There is no evidence of an international agenda for Islamic women’s organizations and there are no international reports in the few surviving copies of Suara Aisjijah. The socialist stream, represented most strongly by Gerwani, concentrated on the socialist internationalist groups. Gerwani, like Perwari, had an international section (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 314). A member was permanently based at the WIDF headquarters in East Berlin and Gerwani sent representatives to all WIDF conferences. In the face of Cold War tensions, Gerwani’s socialist ideology limited its ability to participate in other activities. One example was the refusal by US authorities to grant visas to Gerwani members (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). Political identities were important in women’s international relations, underpinning the decision of some sections of the women’s movement to seek an international role.

Explaining women’s international mobilization: issues of identity and development Official comment stressed peace, womanhood and Indonesian development as the primary reasons for engaging in international activities.12 In 1956 Kongres Wanita Indonesia explained Indonesian women’s international activities were based on womanhood, humanitarianism, peace and the principles of the Bandung conference (non-alignment and anti-colonialism) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). As in other areas of movement activism, there were a number of overlapping gender and non-gender interests, including national(ist) and political interests. The two themes that emerge most clearly in the literature of the period were the construction of identity and acquiring knowledge and strategies to advance domestic agendas. Chapter 4 demonstrated how Indonesian women often worked as auxiliaries to the state, supporting the government’s development programme in the education and socio-economic fields. In international activism, the Indonesian women’s movement also generally supported the programme of the Indonesian state. It is important, therefore, to consider the state’s international interests and roles within them of women’s organizations, before


Challenging the national-level perspective

looking at how national and international gender and political interests were pursued. National identity and state interests The new republic was seen as ‘a radical actor on the international scene with a leading role in the new movement of non-aligned states and a strongly nationalist regime’ (Tonnesson 1995: 110). Indonesia was committed to antiimperialism, rights to national self-determination, support for Asian and African nations still fighting for independence, and Cold War neutrality (Legge 1980; van der Kroef 1956: 358), the principles of the Bandung conference that also guided Kongres Wanita Indonesia. Its primary foreign policy objective was the reintegration of West Irian, which remained under Dutch colonial administration. As a new state, securing recognition and acknowledgement of statehood and national identity was also extremely important (see Scholte 1996: 40–41). Government authorities noted in 1950 that ‘in spite of all our efforts in the last few years to make Indonesia better and more widely known in other countries, people abroad in general still have rather vague and curious ideas about Indonesia and its people’ (Ministry of Information 1950: 1). Without that recognition, national independence loses meaning. The task of establishing Indonesia’s identity as a new state in the international system was therefore a crucial factor in defending and consolidating independence. The women’s movement embraced this nationalist goal. Perwari stated that through international activities ‘we give substance to national independence’ (Soekanto 1953b: 16) and Gerwani’s activities in Eastern Europe were often based on explaining Indonesia’s independence (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). The WIC agued that Indonesia needed recognition as ‘a new community’ at the international level (Pringgodigdo 1953: 5–6). Kongres Wanita Indonesia’s efforts to establish relations with foreign women (such as the All-India Women’s Conference and Burmese Women’s Movement) were a way to attain international recognition of the Republic of Indonesia (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 68). Because Indonesia was a new state, many people that Indonesian women encountered overseas did not know where it was geographically located. Sudarpo remembers that ‘we were really the pioneers to introduce Indonesia, to put Indonesia on the map’ and to ‘make Indonesia known to the world’ (Surdarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). Women’s international activities were an opportunity to inform other states of the existence of Indonesia. This was usually done through the papers and reports presented at international meetings, as well as through the informal discussions that surround such events, but dress was also important in representing Indonesia to the world. Within Indonesia, the post-revolutionary period has been described as ‘cosmopolitan’ in its dress (Schulte-Nordholt 1997: 31). Photos in women’s journals show women predominantly wearing Western dress, especially the

Women’s international interests


leaders of the secular and socialist streams. When these women represented Indonesia abroad, however, they usually wore kain and kebaya (a traditional form of Indonesian dress), as photos of women at international conferences showed.13 Indonesian dress was worn to symbolize Indonesian identity, to show that Indonesia was an independent country and no longer Dutch (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). For Indonesian women it was a way to express ‘our own national identity so that’s why we wore the national dress’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997; also Supeni, interview, 26 March 1997). This emphasis on national dress is an example of Indonesian women taking on the role of signifier and symbol of the nation at the international level, showing Indonesia’s difference and uniqueness. Another example of the way that women signified the new Indonesian nation was apparent in the question of which women should represent Indonesia. In parliament in June 1950 Mohammad Yamin questioned the appropriateness of state officials who were married to non-Indonesian women representing Indonesia abroad. The women’s magazine Karya took up the issue, claiming it was more important now that Indonesia was an independent state and representing itself to the world. They also questioned whether foreign women could really understand the Indonesian situation. The article concluded that ‘it would be desirable’ if marriage to an Indonesian woman became a prerequisite for diplomatic postings. Anyone in an official position, especially those representing Indonesia to the international world, should have a wife who represented Indonesia. Men married to foreign women should not get the position (Karya 1950b). Wives of officials were expected to be signifiers of the Indonesian nation–state. In addition to actively promoting the Indonesian nation–state to the world, representatives of the Indonesian women’s movement also sought to advance national interests such as development, the West Irian issue and anti-imperialism. In this way women again acted as auxiliaries to the state. Indonesian women sought strategies from other states in solving the massive problems facing the fledging republic (especially in the areas of education and health) and the women’s press often mentioned the value of acquiring knowledge to assist the development of Indonesia. Women raised the West Irian issue at overseas forums (Suriadarma 1955: 391; Suwondo 1958b: 20). Gerwani used its international links with the WIDF to successfully mobilize international support for Indonesia’s claim to West Irian (Wieringa 1995: 237). Indonesian women also shared the government’s stance against imperialism, supporting independence struggles everywhere. The 1952 congress passed a resolution supporting the Tunisian independence struggle (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 47). Based on their own experiences of colonialism, Indonesian women clearly felt this was an area they were well qualified to address. At the 1955 WIDF Women’s Peace Conference, Indonesia’s delegate explained Indonesia’s stand against colonialism was based on being a ‘new state’ with experience of the misery, suffering and poverty colonialism brings


Challenging the national-level perspective

(Suriadarma 1955: 390). In 1955 Kongres Wanita Indonesia expressed support of anti-imperialist struggles (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 51). The clearest example of the Indonesian state’s agenda influencing the international actions of the Indonesian women’s movement occurred at the Asia–Africa Women’s Conference. Conference organizers, including Kongres Wanita Indonesia, had decided the conference would be non-political in the sense of not pursuing party/ideological politics or foreign affairs. In one of the final organizing committee meetings, however, the Indonesian delegates refused to support this so they could raise the issue of West Irian and the nationalist struggle in Algeria. They argued that the principle of freedom of speech gave them the right to speak on whatever topic they chose. The Indonesian delegation wanted to issue a statement from the conference against colonialism, but the other organizers would not agree. Nevertheless, Indonesian women raised the Indonesian foreign-policy issues of West Irian, anti-colonialism and opposition to nuclear weapons during the conference. Pursuing national and nationalist interests was an extension of citizenship. Indonesian women, like all women, felt loyalty to their own state. This was, and is, an important part of women’s rights and equal citizenship. Their new constitution gave them full citizenship and pursuing Indonesian interests at the international level was one way of implementing their citizenship. These national identity and development issues were difficult to separate from national gender interests and identity. National identity, it has been argued, was the most important form of identity during the 1950s (Scholte 1996; Kohn 1965). It prevailed as the form of group identity over ‘smaller-scale locality, larger-scale region, religious faith, class, race, gender, sexual orientation, age and so on’ and, because of this, social movements (including women’s movements) tended to organize along national lines and ‘rallied to “the national interest” ’ (Scholte 1996: 38). It is not surprising, therefore, to find women adhering to the agenda of the Indonesian state in their informal international activities. However, as feminists have argued (Steans 1998: 63–64), national identity has always been gendered. It is therefore important to consider how national interests were incorporated into ideas of Indonesian womanhood. Indonesian womanhood The women’s movement, like the Indonesian nation–state, was concerned with positioning itself globally, constructing its identity through comparisons with ‘other’ women. Conferences, tours and the large number and variety of articles on women in other states were opportunities to identify the progress of Indonesian women (or lack of progress) and their commonalities with and differences from other women. This served as a point of reference for Indonesian women defining themselves. The progressive nature of Indonesian women and society was emphasized. Noor suggested ‘Indonesia may become a model’ for having equal

Women’s international interests


pay, active political participation of women and a number of women in parliament that ‘far exceeds the number of women members in legislatures in western nations and the US’ (Noor 1956b: 17–18). Following the 1952 UNESCO seminar, Kartowijono argued that even without a marriage law, Indonesia was ‘still ahead’ of other Asian nations present because it had established a government committee to investigate the issue (Kartowijono 1953a: 23). Many women’s organizations noted the lack of political rights for women in Switzerland, marvelling at how this Western European state had still not given women the vote when Indonesian women already had full political rights. After a tour of the US, Kartowijono noted that there were only 5 women judges in the US compared to 15 in Indonesia. She also observed that American women did not yet get equal pay and that there was only one woman member of Congress and eight in the Senate (Kartowijono 1958a: 11). Suwondo made similar favourable comparisons with Australia (Suwondo 1958b: 21). An Indonesian paper to the Asia–Africa Women’s Conference (Asian–African Women’s Conference 1958) outlined all the progress that had been made and concluded that, except for the absence of a marriage law, the status of women in Indonesia was satisfactory. This pride in Indonesian achievements was always promoted and became an important component of Indonesian womanhood at the international level. But it was accompanied by an underlying sense of insecurity. As citizens of a new state and as new actors in a foreign world, it is not surprising that women should experience some uncertainty when encountering new people, environments and activities. Soedarpo accompanied her husband to the US and remembered ‘feeling so insecure and miserable about the unfamiliar things that were happening around me’ (Soedarpo 1997: 6). There were often stories of the challenges faced (but usually overcome). Sarwono, for example, had to learn to use a lift while in the US and noted other Asians in the party were too scared to use them (Sarwono 1956a: 8). Anecdotes noting different dress standards suggest that, underneath, Indonesian women may have been intimidated by this show of wealth. Delegates at the 1957 UN seminar in Bangkok were reputedly always trying to guess what the Hong Kong delegation would be wearing next, because they changed ‘their entire outfits morning, afternoon and evening – accessories included’ (Noor 1957: 453). This reminded Indonesian women that they were not from a rich country. Salyo recalled feeling that Indonesian women ‘couldn’t be properly dressed in European clothing, we were still a very poor country then so we couldn’t afford to have really nice European dresses’ (Salyo, interview, 19 January 1997). A Gerwani delegate to the WIDF remembers using Indonesian souvenirs as tips because she had no money (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996), which again highlighted the lack of Indonesian prosperity. Another feature of Indonesian womanhood was its identification with Asian and Third World women, based on their common problems and experience (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). Table 7.1 showed the


Challenging the national-level perspective

majority of international activities were based in Asia and articles noted the common problems facing newly independent countries. This common background led to the feeling that there were common bonds. This shared experience with Third World women contrasted with the differences already noted between Indonesian and Western women. Delegates often wrote that Western women activists tended to be older and usually unmarried and childless at an age when Indonesian women would normally be grandmothers. They found it ‘remarkable to see that those considered leaders of Asian womanhood were comparatively much younger than their sisters in the West’ (Noor 1956b: 17). Western women were also portrayed as more drably dressed (Noor 1957: 452). Australian and American women were found to be less politically active (Suwondo 1956: 216; Kartowijono 1958a: 11). This was explained by the expectation that women would give up work at marriage (Kartowijono 1958a: 11) and the difficulties they faced in working outside the home, especially without the domestic help that Indonesian women leaders were accustomed to. Suwondo (1958c: 216) was ‘amazed at how much work they were able to accomplish outside their homes without any domestic help’. This was a very different ideal of womanhood than that promoted by Indonesian women’s organizations. The identity constructed through international comparisons reinforced womanhood ideals promoted by the movement’s socio-economic, political and marriage-reform activism. International activities served to reinforce the objectives and interests of the national movement within Indonesia. As has been discussed in the previous chapters, the national priorities for the Indonesian women’s movement in the 1950s were education and welfare, a marriage law, implementation of their equal political and legal rights as guaranteed in the constitution, and defence of Indonesia’s newly won independence. All these issues were reflected in the international conferences attended. Indonesian women sought models of development and new strategies though their international exchanges. Several countries were viewed as good examples. Japan was noted for its successful rebuilding: ‘It is marvellous to see how this country, nearly devastated by the recent war, is now on its feet again. We can take Japan as a good example in developing our own country’ (Tambunan 1957: 7). Wanita dan Pemilihan Umum, a book that aimed to increase women’s knowledge about elections in the lead-up to Indonesia’s first general election, gave overseas examples to show what elections meant for women (Pudjobuntoro 1954a: 3). Suwondo commented on the value of observing US examples of projects that the Indonesian women’s movement was fighting for, including children’s courts and marriage counselling (Suwondo 1956: 330). Study tours to China inspected education programmes and facilities. In particular, the Indonesian women looked at how China, a largely illiterate country, was meeting its obligations to provide every citizen with access to education (Kartowijono 1959: 17). Lessons

Women’s international interests


applicable to the Indonesian situation could be learnt from women’s movements in other nation–states. Information on the status, rights and reforms of women overseas was collected to support Indonesian women’s calls for the same changes. Reports on marriage laws in other countries, and in particular advances made in other Third World countries (including Nepal, China, Vietnam and various Middle Eastern states) against child marriage, forced marriage and polygamy, were used to indicate where Indonesia was falling behind. Evidence of monogamous marriage regulations in Islamic societies was also presented. These articles did not make direct comparisons between Indonesia and the other country, but their inclusion in journals designed to educate women suggest the reported reforms were considered to be important. Through exchange of information, the Indonesian women’s movement could gather ideas, strategies and evidence for their own arguments. Although Tambunan (1957: 9) argued ‘we do not want to copy any of these countries – we are proud of our own’, it was recognized that ‘if we the women of Indonesia really want to do something for the good of the country, let us not hesitate to learn more from our sisters in other parts of the world’. Indonesian women approached women’s international relations with a focus on their national identity and needs. How could this be reconciled with the ideal of international sisterhood that has historically been the basis of much of women’s international mobilization? International sisterhood International women’s mobilization has largely been based on the idea that women share common problems as women, and need to work together and support each other to address those issues. The 1955 Pan Pacific Women’s Association Conference had a stated aim ‘to initiate and promote cooperation among the women of the Pacific region for the study and improvement of existing social conditions’ (Suwondo 1955b: 199–200). The Indonesian women’s movement supported this notion to some extent. Perwari argued that women’s problems were not restricted to any one state (Soekanto 1953b: 15) and magazine articles sometimes showed that women’s lives were essentially the same everywhere, especially in regard to their responsibilities for household, husband and children (Suriadarma 1955: 390). An Indonesian publication on women’s movements around the world sought to place the Indonesian women’s movement in a shared history (Schenk and Munar 1950) and also noted the commonalities of women’s lives. A woman in New York may cook different food than a woman in Indonesia and use modern appliances to clean her home, but ‘what is important is that these two have the same duty’ – that is, to help make the world better for their children (Schenk and Munar 1950: 8). The situations might be different, but the values and behaviour were the same, especially in relation to motherhood. In rhetoric, motherhood was seen to override difference.


Challenging the national-level perspective

Motherhood has long been identified as the common bond among women and, in the context of international relations, has been the basis for one of the few universally accepted roles for women. The idea of women as mothers making the world a better place for their children has given rise to the role of women as peace activists, which is an example of international activities being linked to gendered identity. Women being peacemakers is ‘a recurring theme’ in IR literature (Pettman 1993: 53; Halliday 1991: 162), based on the idea that a stake in the creation of life leads to a tendency towards pacifism (Sherrick 1982: 657; Kruse and Sowerwine 1986: 42). Peace has been an issue for international women’s movements since their beginnings. Indonesian women acknowledged this pacifist role. Articles would link motherhood and the desire, if not duty, to promote peace. Kartowijono (1953b: 2–3) argued that ‘we who give birth and love to our children must use our political rights to ensure peace in order to protect our children and homes’ (Kartowijono 1953b: 2–3). The WIC asked, ‘Are mothers, in particular, not praying that, somehow, a lasting peace can be obtained in order that their children can grow up safely as worthy members of the brotherhood of nations’ (WIC 1954: 3). In 1956 Kongres Wanita Indonesia passed a resolution opposing all actions leading to armed conflict (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52).14 The women regularly made statements against war and nuclear weapons. Gerwani viewed peace as a fundamental issue for women: ‘War only means sacrificing husband and children’ (Gerwani 1955: 7–8, 24). Gerwani congresses regularly issued resolutions against nuclear weapons and for world peace (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). However, pacifism may have created some dilemmas for Indonesian women who had fought in or supported an armed struggle for independence. Gerwani’s relations with WIDF soured from 1960, when the WIDF continued to advocate peace but Gerwani began to support Sukarno’s aggressive foreign policy and the need for Indonesian women to fight for the liberation of West Irian. Statements for world peace made at congresses seem to have been nods to convention rather than a serious engagement in the peace movement. The other issues from the first wave of international feminism, suffrage and slavery, also failed to capture the attention of Indonesian women in the 1950s. Indonesian women had won suffrage with national independence and most of the European states had granted women political rights, so suffrage was no longer on the international agenda. Reports and resolutions against the trafficking (and slavery) of women were made at various international women’s conferences (such as the Asia–Africa Women’s Conference), but there was little serious engagement with this issue by the Indonesian women’s movement in the 1950s. There was also little involvement in other forms of united global action. The debates of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in the early 1950s (concerning the political and economic rights of women), for example,

Women’s international interests


attracted little attention or interest from the Indonesian women’s movement. Most efforts at international action were directed at nationalist rather than gender issues. A 1958 women’s seminar in Jakarta, for example, decided to ‘appeal to women throughout the world to help the Indonesian people in the fight to return West Irian to the Republic of Indonesia’s authority (Harian Rakjat 1958: 3). International Women’s Day, celebrated primarily by socialist women’s groups, called for domestic reforms and made statements of support for the Indonesian government rather than supporting women in other countries. Although there was a discourse around shared identity, based on motherhood and responsibilities to the household, and a recognition of similarities, differences were also noted and identification was stronger with Third World women than with Western women. It was hoped that the 1958 Asia–Africa Women’s Conference would lead to the formation of a new international women’s body (Suwondo 1956: 13), suggesting a Third World sisterhood was favoured over a global one. Indonesian women did not seek entry into a global sisterhood, largely because of their national(ist) focus. But the absence of any major issues galvanizing an international female community into joint action, as had happened during the first wave, also seems significant and may be related to Cold War politics, which factionalized the women’s movement. Pursuing political interests The Cold War powers competed for influence over Indonesian women. Delegations were invited to the US and the USSR in quick succession. Each bloc also held women’s congresses. WIDF congresses were linked to the communist bloc and the US Committee of Correspondence (established in 1952 by US women active in international women’s organizations) ran seminars for Asian women on the responsibilities of freedom and citizenship in a free society (Suwondo 1956: 21). Other workshop titles and programmes, with their focus on civil responsibilities in ‘free’ societies, suggest Cold War endeavours to prevent the communist domino falling through Southeast Asia. Kongres Wanita Indonesia and the Perwari stream of the Indonesian women’s movement, however, made every effort to remain non-aligned. Writers recognized that the Soviet and US blocs were trying to influence the small governments of new states but that ‘our prudent government’ was practising non-aligned politics (Wanita 1953a). This was the practice the non-aligned secular stream tried to follow. While welcoming a WIDF women’s peace congress, for example, the journal Wanita went on to argue if the US side were to organize an international women’s congress to promote peace then they would support that too. They were in no way choosing the ‘red bloc’ (Wanita 1953a). Perwari in particular was careful to only involve


Challenging the national-level perspective

itself with foreign organizations that were politically neutral (Soekanto 1953b; Kartowijono 1958a). Representatives from non-aligned organizations visited both the Soviet bloc and the US (see Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52–54). As a communist organization, Gerwani was, however, unable to visit the US and was primarily involved in the socialist/communist WIDF, sometimes taking up Cold War issues such as petitioning for the release of the Rosenbergs in the US (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 166). As a politically aligned organization, Gerwani sought to strengthen its domestic agenda through its international exchanges. The Soviet Union was held up as an example of a country where the sexual division of labour had ended, prostitution was eliminated and women enjoyed truly equal rights. Reports on China and Vietnam also stressed socialism as the solution to women’s problems (Wieringa 1995: 228). They argued that gender equality in capitalist countries was merely words. It was not possible to have equal opportunities if you still had feudalism: ‘Only in communist states can women have the same rights and opportunities as men’ (Gerwani 1951: 7), implying this was the best hope for Indonesian women wanting to achieve true equality. Wieringa also argues that Gerwani used international activities to promote its position within the Indonesian women’s movement. It portrayed itself as sole protagonist of marriage-law reforms, leading to a report in a WIDF publication that ‘The initiative to draft this Bill and to put it on the parliamentary agenda was taken by Gerwani leaders who are members of parliament’ (WIDF 1958, cited in Wieringa 1995: 190), although Perwari had led the campaign for marriage law. This self-promotion caused conflict within Kongres Wanita Indonesia. Maria Ullfah (KWI Chair) explained to Wieringa that things came to a head for her when the WIDF organized an Afro-Asian Conference in Nairobi in 1958. The invitations passed through Gerwani and I was not invited; only some less influential women were handed the invitation to attend. I called a meeting and asked the Gerwani members why they stabbed the Kongres Wanita Indonesia in the back like that. I told them that if they wanted to set up their own women’s federation, they should go ahead. But then they had to choose, for nobody could be a member of both the Kongres Wanita Indonesia and an independent ‘mass movement’. No one left the Kongres Wanita Indonesia and that was the end of it. (Interview, 9 December 1984, cited in Wieringa 1995: 151) It is likely that Perwari, which also had its own international connections and relationships with women’s organizations abroad, also sought to represent itself as the Indonesian women’s movement. Another role of international activities, therefore, was to strengthen power bases within the national movement.

Women’s international interests


Are women’s interests international? The international sphere became an increasingly significant area of Indonesian women’s activism following the attainment of statehood. Although the 1950s have been overlooked in the history of women’s international organizing, the Indonesian experience demonstrates that women of new states viewed international exchanges as an important activity. It also shows that Third World women engaged in international activism primarily to pursue national interests rather than women’s international solidarity. The differences among women so clearly emphasized from 1975 were evident when Third World women first began to act, as members of independent states, in the international arena. Their international activities were an extension of their work within Indonesia and, as in other areas of movement activism, citizenship was important. International activities were based on understandings of the responsibilities of Indonesian citizenship. As citizens of an independent nation–state, Indonesian women had a responsibility to act at the international level and a duty to serve Indonesia. Indonesian women engaged in international activism to represent Indonesia and introduce the new nation–state to the wider world. They had an important role in symbolizing national difference and supporting new nationalist struggles, such as the fight for West Irian and development. Women, therefore, continued to be mobilized for nationalist purposes in a newly independent state. They also used international activities to further their domestic agendas, gaining support and learning strategies for socio-economic progress, political action and law reform. Again there was an overlap between national and gender interests. The concept of women as women having international interests did not have much of an impact. Independence gave Indonesian women an opportunity to act in the international system, but the demands and commitment to nationalism overrode concepts of global sisterhood. Indonesian womanhood and gender interests were defined in national terms and the national agenda dominated international activism. The following chapter will consider the extent to which the national agenda had relevance for regional activism.


Unity in diversity Women’s regional interests in 1950s Indonesia

Indonesian women – [you must] defend the unity of our nation. (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 57)

The preceding chapters have examined the main areas of Indonesian women’s activism at the national level. Conceptualizations of women’s interests, Indonesian womanhood, and citizenship were grounded in understandings of nationalism and the continuing nationalist struggle. But the extent to which women in the regions were integrated into this national movement and its imaginings of Indonesian womanhood has rarely been questioned. The national Jakarta-based women’s organizations presumed to represent women in the Outer Islands but a comparison of women’s mobilization in the regions with the agenda and activism of the national movement shows regional differences were not acknowledged at the national level. Because of the diversity and number of different regional and ethnic communities in Indonesia and the limitations of source material, it is not possible to give a comprehensive history of the women’s movement in all areas. Instead, this chapter raises some of the issues that emerge from a preliminary analysis of the regions, looking at how this challenges understandings based on the national-level perspective and indicating directions for further research. The first section examines the ways in which the national women’s movement incorporated women’s mobilization and issues from the regions in its organizational structures, agenda and activities. The second section explores women’s organizations in the regions by focusing on three case studies: Bali, South Sulawesi and Minahasa. Bali and Minahasa are included as examples of minority religions, Hinduism and Protestantism, within a predominantly Islamic nation. South Sulawesi represents a marginal area that shared the dominant Islamic religion, and both Minahasa and South Sulawesi are interesting cases because of the Sulawesi regional rebellion. These regions also represent the ethnic and developmental differences and diversity in colonial and political backgrounds that characterized the Indonesian state in the 1950s.

Unity in diversity 175

Centre/regions relations A Jakarta/Java or centre focus dominates studies of Indonesian history and politics, despite the fact that over 3,000 islands were united in the republic. This is especially true for the 1950s. As Kahin (1999: 15) comments, ‘there has been little consideration of how societies in the Outer Islands have adapted to independent Indonesia’. The centre focus occurs for several reasons, including the population density on Java, the colonial legacy of a Java-based education and administration system, the structure of Indonesian politics that has seen Jakarta as the centre, and the fact that Java was the heartland of the nationalist struggle. This creates a dichotomy between the centre (Jakarta/Java) and the Outer Islands. The large number of ethnic groups makes it difficult to fully incorporate all Indonesian ethnic identities in studies of Indonesian history and politics. There are at least 14 major peoples,1 each with its own particular region, language and culture (Legge 1980: 4–5), and in the 1950s between 100 and 366 ethnic groups were identified. The problem of accessing source material that records events and attitudes from the regions also results in the centre or national-level focus (Kahin 1985: 1). But failing to account for the important differences can produce a picture of homogenized Indonesian experience and character, obliterating the country’s ethnic, kinship-system, cultural, religious, geographic, rural/urban and economic diversity. The commonalities and differences between Java and the Outer Islands must be acknowledged or Indonesian identity and politics can become Javanized. This is more than an academic concern. In the 1950s the Outer Islands feared domination by Java, especially as the central government sought to exert its authority at the local level (Legge 1957: 3). The majority of the population was either Javanese or lived in Java. The 1930 census revealed Java was home to 68 per cent of the population; this had changed little by 1961, with 65 per cent living in Java (Nitisastro 1970: 176). Other regions and ethnic groups were significantly outnumbered. As discussed in Chapter 2, the colonial education system had restricted all higher education facilities to Java and, as Indonesia entered independence and appointed its own civil bureaucracy, most positions went to educated persons. This meant Javanese were employed. Regions resented the Javanese domination of the nation’s administrative apparatus and feared increasing Javanese influence (Kahin 1999: 168; Feith 1962: 488). Indonesian politics in the 1950s was also dominated by Java and Jakarta. Of the four main parties, three drew over two-thirds of their support from Java, with little involvement in the Outer Islands (Harvey 1977: 4).2 Feith (1962) has argued that the politicized community of the independent Indonesia was relatively small and based in Jakarta. There was little engagement with rural areas or the Outer Islands until the elections were called. The Javanese remained largely ignorant about other regions. Woodman noted that ‘the Islands of Kalimantan and Sulawesi are . . . little known to the people in Java’ (Woodman 1951: 5). The Outer Islands were also concerned about the distribution of government


Challenging the national-level perspective

funds and development programmes. Most of the exports came from the regions but most of the revenue went to Java. The question of local government was unresolved. A large degree of regional autonomy had been promised when the Federal States of Indonesia amalgamated into the unitary republic. Yet progress was slow (Legge 1957: 1–2). In areas such as West Sumatra, there was a belief that considerable local autonomy should characterize independent Indonesia. This contrasted with the prevailing view in Java that strong central control was needed to maintain national unity (Kahin 1999: 17). These trends and factors made centre/region relations tense in the 1950s. The Outer Islands were concerned about the dominance of the centre and, by implication, the Javanese and their culture. They also feared exclusion from a centralized state. This became increasingly important as political crises grew and regional unrest moved to open rebellion in 1958. The relationship between the centre of the women’s movement and women’s organizations in the Outer Islands suggests a similar domination. As Chapter 3 showed, membership of Kongres Wanita Indonesia consisted primarily of Jakarta-based organizations. Although the 1952 congress was attended by women’s organizations and branches from Kalimantan, Maluku, Sumatra and Sulawesi (Kowani 1986: 140–141), there is little other indication of the incorporation of regional groups. The structure of membership was changed in 1957 to exclude local organizations from full membership of Kongres Wanita Indonesia. Even regional umbrella organizations would have fallen outside the new structure, which limited membership to organizations with a head office and branches (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 57). The only regional organization operating at a national level was PIKAT, a North Sulawesi organization with its head office based in Manado. The national congresses of the umbrella organization of Indonesian women’s groups were mainly held in Java and, through the colonial and revolution eras, all national women’s congresses were organized in Javanese cities and towns. Of the four 1950s Indonesian women’s congresses, only one was held outside Java – the 1955 Palembang (South Sumatra) congress. South Sumatra was one of the closest non-Java regions to Jakarta, so while this was a significant effort to involve more Sumatran women, there was little real effort to take Kongres Wanita Indonesia to the Outer Islands. The leadership of Kongres Wanita Indonesia did not include any representatives from regional organizations (Kowani 1986: 142, 148, 153) and the agenda, examined in Chapter 3, had a national focus, with nothing region-specific included. In its structure, leadership and agenda, Kongres Wanita Indonesia neglected the regions. The largest women’s organizations did, however, have branches throughout Indonesia and therefore included women in the regions. Persit had branches in Sumatra (Medan, Padang and Palembang), Kalimantan (Pontianak and Bandjarmasin), Bali (Denpasar), South Sulawesi (Makasar)

Unity in diversity 177 and Maluku (Ambon) in addition to its Java-based branches. These branches were involved in educational activities, including kindergartens, schools, literacy courses, sewing and cooking classes, and welfare activities that included running orphanages and supporting widows (Persit 1955b). Perwari had branches in Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Maluku as well as throughout Java. Records of their activities are limited, but literacy courses, schools and health-information services were the main concerns (Perwari 1952d, 1952f). Perwari regional conferences stressed concerns with education, social welfare and marriage law that were similar to those expressed through the central committee, although it was mainly Java regional conferences that were reported (Perwari 1956a, 1956b, 1956c; Muharan 1956). Suwondo visited the Perwari branch in Bali during the 1950s and recalls it as largely inactive (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). While most Wanita Katolik branches were in Java, some were established in other areas including Medan (1945), Manado (1950), Bali (1950) and Flores (1951) (Wanita Katolik 1995: 45). In the 1950s Ikatan Bidan Indonesia’s membership included branches in South and West Sumatra, South Kalimantan and Ambon (IBI 1996: 17). Woodman visited South Kalimantan, where a range of national women’s organizations, including Perwari, PWKI, Persit and Islamic organizations, had branches. They operated kindergartens and two antenatal clinics (Woodman 1955: 75). Perwari, Persit, PWKI, GPII, Wanita Demokrat and Muslimat were also active in Ambon (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 215). It is not clear from surviving evidence how these regional branches were integrated into organizational structures and hierarchies of leadership. Suwondo recalls that ‘we are more active here in Java, the other Islands have less-educated people. But they are also doing their share of community organization’ (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 1996). The Jakarta-based organizations appeared to have little knowledge of activism in the regions. Activists interviewed recalled little about regional activities. Most national organizations had central committees based in Jakarta and held their congresses in Java. Bhayangkari, for example, had three congresses in the 1950s, all hosted by Javanese towns (Bhayangkari 1980: 20, 33, 42). Wanita Katolik held all its conferences in Java (Wanita Katolik 1995: 45, 47). Muslimat NU, however, held two of its five congresses in Sumatra (Muslimat NU 1996: Lampiran 2, 6–8). Some organizations formed regional committees under the central Jakarta-based leadership, suggesting some attempt to grant greater regional autonomy or recognition. Wanita Katolik established provincial committees in Manado (North Sulawesi) (1956), Kupong (Timor) (1956) and Bali/Lombok (1960) (Wanita Katolik 1995: 46). Bhayangkari established regional commissions in Java first (1955), then extended these to Ambon, North Sulawesi and South Kalimantan in 1958, and Nusa Tenggara, West Kalimantan, Riau, South Sumatra, South Sulawesi and East Kalimantan between 1959 and 1961 (Bhayangkari 1980: 24, 36, 45). National organizations, therefore, did extend into the Outer


Challenging the national-level perspective

Islands. However, there is nothing in the surviving journals of these organizations to suggest that regional issues were raised within the national network. While working in the local communities the expansion of organizations at the national level can be viewed in terms of creating a national solidarity and identity. The 1950s women’s press largely neglected the Outer Islands and regional difference. Only a very small number of articles about women in different regions feature in the journals that survive from this period. The Women’s International Club profiled the Minangkabau region of West Sumatra, recalling its traditional culture – based on a matrilineal kinship system – but warning that this did not mean women had held power in society (Pramono 1957a; Aulia-Salim 1959). As their audience was mainly foreign and highly educated Indonesian women, these articles carry a sense of reconstructing an exotic past. Sujatin Kartowijono (1953a) reported on a trip to Barito, Kalimantan, thereby indicating that national women’s leaders were travelling to the Outer Islands. She gave a brief overview of the regional lifestyle, educating readers about a different culture (Dayak) within the Indonesian nation. She observed only PWKI and Muslimat as active in the area, noting that both were engaged in literacy campaigns, extremely important in a poor region with few educational facilities. She concluded her report by stating ‘women in Barito, as Kalimantan women, form a strong link in the chain of women throughout Indonesia’ (Kartowijono 1953a: 17), emphasizing the idea of a shared identity as Indonesian women. Bali also featured as a regional snapshot in Suara Perwari, with a 1952 article examining its cultural arts, natural beauty, appeal to foreign tourists and observing it was women who did the hard labour throughout the island (Perwari 1952h). There was no discussion of women’s organizations or women’s issues in Bali. Polygamy in Bali, however, was raised in two Wanita articles (Poedjoboentoro 1951d; Sus 1957). Given the prolific writing on polygamy during the 1950s (see Chapter 6), this indicates that polygamy under Hinduism received virtually no attention from the national movement. Poedjoboentoro did explain that with no codified marriage laws in Bali, marriage was regulated by adat. This meant unrestricted polygamy was sanctioned, there was inequality in access to divorce and women received less inheritance than men. This was used to support the national movement’s campaign rather than to address Balinese women’s concerns. There was no comment on Balinese women’s activism on the issue. Instead, the main argument was that Bali, like the rest of Indonesia, needed marriage and inheritance laws. Sus suggested that in Bali polygamy was a common occurrence, conducted freely between women and men, and that it was not yet an issue for women. She compared this with the lack of freedom Javanese women faced in the practice of polygamy, once again using Bali to support the broader campaign. Persit also emphasized the national-level concern about marriage laws with an examination of marriage practices in South

Unity in diversity 179 Kalimantan (Persit 1954d). The only other region to feature in the women’s press was West Irian. Soemiharsi (1957) gave some background information on societal and family systems, and women’s roles within them, in an article that sought to give Indonesian women more information on the territory being claimed as part of the Indonesian nation–state. The limited coverage of Indonesia’s regions in women’s magazines is in marked contrast to the large amount of space devoted to women’s lives in other nation–states. While the women’s press talked about women’s movements in a variety of both Western and Third World states, it gave virtually no information on women’s organizations in its own Outer Islands or the regional campaigns in which regional women were engaged. Snapshots of women in the Outer Islands mainly supported the national marriage-law campaign, the struggle for West Irian or the Kongres Wanita Indonesia objective of building solidarity among all Indonesian women. This lack of information makes it difficult to uncover women’s history in the regions. It also suggests that regional activism remained outside national women’s activism. Indonesian womanhood at the national level was constructed in contrast to women of other nation–states rather than including or confronting its own ethnic diversity. The neglect of the regions is related to several factors. It was a time of nation-building and it is therefore not surprising that the women’s movement sought to construct and represent ‘Indonesian’ women as a way of creating and defending national unity. It also reflects the leadership of the movement. Most of the leaders were veterans of the nationalist movement and active within the small political circles based in Jakarta. Communication problems also contributed. The Outer Islands had little infrastructure from the colonial era and much of what there had been was destroyed during the revolution. The archipelago extended over 5,000 kilometres making inter-island communication slow. A government memo to the Governor of Sulawesi, for example, was dated in Jakarta on 10 January 1951 and replied to from Makasar on 24 June 1951 (Arsip Tana Toraja 639), suggesting either it was ignored or there were delays in mail delivery. Suryochondro recalls ‘it was very difficult to travel from one area to another’ (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). But women from different regions sometimes organized around local issues and there is evidence of women’s regional conferences. A conference of women from the province of Sulawesi was held in Makale in November 1950 (Gowani 1950) and PWKI held a convention in Tapanuli, North Sumatra, in December 1953 to discuss Batak adat and women’s role within it (Sarumpaet-Hutabarat 1955: 114, 120). They lobbied around their distinctive ethnic issues. The PWKI convention on Batak adat petitioned local chieftains for reforms (Sarumpaet-Hutabarat 1955: 122) and sent a resolution to the president concerning the unequal position of women in Batak adat law, including their exclusion from inheritance (Arsip Kabinet Presiden


Challenging the national-level perspective

771). National archives also include petitions showing women’s organizations and branches supported demands being made on local issues. These examples suggest that, although the national-level movement gave the impression there was little women’s activism outside national organizations, there were specific regional interests that needed to be addressed. The following section focuses on three case studies in order to explore how women organized in the regions.

Women’s organizations in the regions Very little has been written on women’s organizations in the regions. When incorporating a regional perspective into the history of women’s mobilization in Indonesia, the focus has been on the colonial era and the revolution (as in Nurliana et al. 1986), but these studies contain little substantive information on the Outer Islands. This is a significant problem for the 1950s. The surviving women’s press includes almost no material on the regions. Regional archives and surviving local newspapers also contain few references to women and women’s activities. However, placing women’s mobilization within the context of regional conditions and historical development enables us to speculate on the nature of 1950s women’s activism in various areas. Each region of Indonesia has a different history of women’s activism, some following a similar pattern to the national women’s movement (as discussed in Chapter 2) and others developing much later. This is linked to differing colonial, educational, political and cultural conditions. The following three case studies reflect these differences. Bali had a relatively short history of direct Dutch rule and was a Hindu region. Its complex and often violent political history was based on intra-Bali rivalries rather than an ethnic identity (see Robinson 1995). It was a largely uneducated region, with a literacy rate (in Latin characters) of only 3.9 per cent in 1930, in comparison to the national average of 7.4 per cent. Literacy for women was only 0.4 per cent (Nitisastro 1970: 85). South Sulawesi also had a much shorter and less intensive history of Dutch colonial occupation than Java and other regions. Dutch influence never extended far beyond the city of Makasar and traditional rulers were retained. The dominant culture was Makasar-Bugis and predominantly Islamic, although the region also included the Christian Toraja people. There was very little formal Westernstyle education and few government or private schools (Harvey 1977: 22). The Minahasa region of North Sulawesi, in contrast, was a highly educated region that had been extensively incorporated into Dutch colonial administration. The literacy rate in 1930 was 29 per cent (Nitisastro 1970: 85). In the 1950s around 90 per cent of the population was Christian (Woodman 1955: 79), most belonging to the local GMIM (Protestant church). These political, historical, religious and cultural differences had a direct impact on women’s mobilization.

Unity in diversity 181 Bali Women’s mobilization has a shorter history in Bali than in many other areas of Indonesia. The first women’s associations were founded in 1934 and 1936, two decades after their Java-based counterparts initially emerged and six years after women’s organizations had come together to form a national movement (see Chapter 2). This later start can be attributed to Bali’s colonial and nationalist experience, women’s low educational standards and the lower position of women in Balinese Hindu adat compared with the celebrated ‘high’ status of women in Java. Bali was not brought under direct Dutch authority until 1908, after a piecemeal colonization dating from the 1840s (Robinson 1995: 24). This shorter period of Dutch rule meant the colonial impact in Bali was different from that in Java and other regions. In addition, the Dutch adopted a unique ‘cultural’ approach in Bali, reviving and often creating Balinese cultural, religious and legal traditions in a way that promoted Bali as artistic, peaceful and apolitical (Robinson 1995). These images dominate scholarship on Bali, with the result that little political history of modern Bali has been examined, especially in the period from 1950 to 1965 (Robinson 1995: 3–8). This makes women’s political activities even more difficult to uncover. Although Robinson (1995) convincingly argues that a political consciousness and culture existed in Bali, it was not the highly nationalized and organizationbased politics of Java, and this had an impact on the development of women’s mobilization. The Dutch-led restoration of tradition, the small numbers of European officials and the use of Balinese agents to impose the colonial tax and corvée labour requirements demarcated class and caste cleavages. Balinese politics was based on disputes over caste and feudal, religious and cultural privilege, pitting Balinese against Balinese rather than creating an all-Bali ethnic consciousness or anti-Dutch Indonesian nationalist awareness (Robinson 1995: 20–30). The nationalist-inspired practice of organization-building and its accompanying politicization of the indigenous population, so important to the emergence of the Indonesian women’s movement, did not occur in Bali until much later. Dutch educational policy also contributed to the later development of women’s organizations. There were few schools in Bali and preference was given to the higher castes and civil servants (Robinson 1955: 49). Girls did not attend schools until the mid-1920s (Nurliana et al. 1986: 32). Secondary education was limited to Java and it was not until 1931 that Balinese girls got government permission to pursue these higher education opportunities, with the first 20 Balinese girls allowed to attend Javanese schools (Merta 1983: 101; Sukiada 1990: 2). Few women, therefore, had the education to begin articulating a discourse around women’s rights, an essential prerequisite for the emergence of the women’s movement, as Chapter 2 argued. Cultural attitudes also played a role. In Balinese culture, Balinese intellectuals argue, women are perceived as lower than men, requiring male


Challenging the national-level perspective

guidance, supervision and leadership (Bakker 1993: 74, 134–135, 171).3 They also had little freedom outside the home (Nurliana et al. 1986: 31). This made it more difficult to become publicly politically active. Change occurred as more Balinese students attended school in Java. There they came into contact with the emerging nationalist movement and the process of imagining an Indonesian nation. Balinese students were influenced by the developing nationalist discourse and learnt about organizational activities and objectives in other regions. They joined the debates around national independence both as Indonesians and Balinese, and brought those ideas back to Bali (Sukiada 1990: 13–14; Robinson 1995: 47, 49). Influenced by the growing women’s movement, Balinese girls studying in Java became aware of their low position as women in Balinese traditional culture (Wahyuni et al. 1991: 22). A movement for social reform was first established in the 1920s. Balinese identity was debated with a focus on caste, feudalism, the role of women and social change (Robinson 1995: 47; Vickers et al. 1998: 1), suggesting that women served to represent both the tradition and progress of Bali. The reform associations of the 1920s worked to advance Balinese society without losing its distinctive religion and culture (Wahyuni et al. 1991: 23). As in India, male social reformers addressed the ‘women’s question’ and founded the first school for girls in 1923 (Wahyuni et al. 1991: 22; Sukiada 1990: 2). In the Javanese case, by contrast, individual women are recognized as being the ones who started women’s formal education. It was not until the 1930s, when the impact of increasing education opportunities was felt, that Balinese women formed their own organizations. The first women’s organization in Bali was Perukunan Isteri (PI), founded in Denpasar in 1934. It was for the wives of civil servants and teachers, and followed civil-servant programmes. These women represented a minority within Bali and included women from other regions. They had little connection with the mass of Balinese women (Sukiada 1990: 2, 27). The organization seems to have been an elite-based social group. The second women’s organization to be formed in Bali was Puteri Bali Sadar (PBS). PBS was established by returned Javanese-educated Balinese women in 1936 as a reaction against the socially selective PI (Sukiada 1990: 3), although membership was limited to literate women (Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan 1978: 52). It has been identified as the first Balinese women’s organization in terms of mobilizing women around women’s interests and an emancipatory programme (Sukiada 1990: 3, 24). PBS aimed to increase solidarity among Balinese women, develop mutual assistance for members, run education courses, provide school fees for Balinese girls in financial difficulty, and offer adult women literacy and maths classes (Djatajoe, 25 April 1937, cited in Sukiada 1990: 26; Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan 1977–1978: 52). PBS also opposed adat that was detrimental to the status of women, such as the traditional practice of marriage by abduction, viewed as a

Unity in diversity 183 form of forced marriage (Merta 1983: 103). A PBS founder, Ibu I.G. Putu Merta, later recalled their purpose as being to raise Balinese women’s awareness of their rights and responsibilities as Indonesian women in the struggle for independence (Merta 1983: 103), linking Balinese women’s mobilization with the nationalist struggle. PBS was active in fighting illiteracy, offering educational courses to women and giving information to parents so they would send their children to school (Merta, interview, 15 February 1997). This agenda reflected both the concerns and interests of the national-level women’s movement and the emerging Balinese Indonesian nationalism that focused on education and modernity in response to the Dutch policy of keeping Bali in the dark ages (Robinson 1995: 48). PBS also worked to change the traditional dress practices of Balinese women (Sukiada 1990: 25). The image of bare-breasted women had dominated travel promotion of Bali (Travel 1939: 28) and was viewed as backward and exploitative within the new modernist and nationalist discourse. In the colonial context, the campaign took on a nationalist dimension. Robinson (1995: 49) argues that Dutch cultural policy, which required the wearing of traditional dress, meant that wearing a kebaya (Javanese blouse) was a subversive act on the part of Balinese women. This was also an ongoing issue in the 1950s. From the example of PBS it appears the beginnings of women’s mobilization in Bali were grounded within concepts of Indonesia, nationalism and modernity, looking to Java for guidance. My research found no record of other women’s groups in colonial Bali. PBS continued until the Japanese occupation. The organization was then dissolved and the members later joined Fujinkai (Departemen Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan 1977–1978: 53; Merta 1983: 104). As in Java, the Balinese suffered hardships under Japanese rule. Increased numbers were mobilized into political and military organizations and nationalist links with Java were promoted (see Robinson 1995: 70–90), preparing the ground for participation in the revolution. When news of the Proclamation reached Bali, women’s organizations, as elsewhere, were formed to assist the struggle and defend independence. Fujinkai continued under the new name of Perwani and gave village women information about independence (Merta 1983: 104). A group called PPRI (Persatuan Puteri Republic Indonesia) disseminated information about independence, collected funds for medicines and food, and established dapur umum operated by village women. Women also joined the Red Cross (Wahyuni 1990: 26–27). The Dutch occupied Bali in March 1946, marking the start of guerrilla warfare. Women took on roles supporting the guerrilla fighters with food, clothing, medicines, economic support, nursing, intelligence and communications. There was a division between the new Indonesiafocused leadership, committed to fighting for Indonesian independence, and some Rajahs who supported the Dutch (Wahyuni et al. 1990: 18–20). Given


Challenging the national-level perspective

the nationalist construction of revolutionary history, it is not surprising that the studies of this period have not explored the role of women in the pro-Dutch forces. There is very little evidence from surviving archives, the local newspaper (Suara Indonesia Denpasar) or the women’s press on the activities of women’s organizations in Bali in the 1950s. Women’s organizations in Bali during the colonial era were closely aligned with the pro-Indonesia sections of Balinese society who saw independence as meaning being modern, progressive and Indonesian. They also drew their membership from women educated in Java. It seems likely this trend of identifying with modernity and the national level would have continued. There is no recollection of specifically Balinese women’s organizations at the time. Instead there is a sense of the backward nature of women’s mobilization in Bali and looking to Java for guidance (Merta, interview, 15 February 1997). This also occurred with political parties (see Robinson 1995: 195–198). Most women’s organizational activity was conducted through branches of national organizations or had an Indonesian focus. Merta for example, was active in Wanita Demokrat, the women’s sections of PNI, the party her husband represented (Merta 1983: 105). Another prominent Balinese woman, Gedong Bagoes Oka, organized weekend sessions for students from 1956 to make them aware of their position in a free state with a developing democracy (Bakker 1993: 202), again suggesting a national-level focus. Because of this close connection to the national movement, Balinese women actively campaigned on the marriage issue and protested Sukarno’s polygamous marriage. Supporting the campaign for marriage law conducted by the national women’s movement was a way to act against polygamy in Bali, where the Rajahs had been able to marry as many as 15 or more wives (Merta, interview, 15 February 1997). On visiting Bali in the early 1950s, Coast observed the older generation still felt it an honour if ‘some decrepit rajah compliments them by taking a fifteen-year-old daughter for a twentieth wife’ (Coast 1951: 400). Yet, although Balinese adat sanctioned polygamy, the unrestricted nature of Hindu polygamy did not enter the debates about marriage law. In the development and welfare sector, Balinese women seem likely to have engaged in similar activism as the national level discussed in Chapter 4. Bali faced the same, if not worse, educational and health shortages, with the need for adult literacy classes and high infant mortality noted (Coast 1951: 404). There were serious economic problems from 1950, when Bali was gripped by ‘poverty, hunger and spiralling inflation’ (Robinson 1992: 59). Crop failures and shortages of imported basic necessities pushed the price of rice to Rp 1.75 a kilo in 1950. The average daily wage was Rp 1.50. By 1952 the price of rice was Rp 3.5, higher than other regions, and in 1957 jumped again to Rp 7.5 (Robinson 1992: 60–61). There were reports of starvation and malnutrition (Suara Indonesia (Denpasar), 11 November 1957, cited in Robinson 1992: 61). The social-welfare sector, claims Merta, was the priority, with

Unity in diversity 185 kindergartens and literacy courses run by women’s organizations (Merta, interview, 15 February 1997). Balinese women supported the national agenda, but they would also have confronted specific regional interests. A 1957 conference of Angkatan Muda Hindu-Bali issued demands to the central government that illustrated local priorities. In terms of the local religion and culture, the conference demanded a Hindu section in the Ministry of Religion, the teaching of Balinese culture and religion, and the establishment of a Balinese cultural institute. Education was a priority, with financial support for university students and more schools needed. Health was also important, with increased health information for villages, clinics at the village level and child and maternal health centres being demanded. Other issues included increasing the number of orphanages, establishing cooperatives, and opposing pornography and prostitution. There was also a request that tourism be developed. Women’s issues were raised in the form of a request for a marriage law with a special regulation for Balinese Hinduism and inheritance rights for women (Angkatan Muda Hindu-Bali 1957). A dominant theme was the question of Balinese identity within an Indonesian state; as in earlier debates, women were used as a symbol of the local identity. As already noted, Balinese politics had been dominated by questions and divisions around culture and tradition. By the 1950s this was strongly linked to the pro-Republican/pro-Dutch divide from the revolution years. The Indonesia-focused leadership spoke of the dangers of feudalism and caste privilege, while their opponents emphasized preserving Balinese tradition and culture (Robinson 1995: 16). Bali’s new leaders saw Bali as being ‘Indonesian first and Balinese second’. Bali needed to progress, they argued, and not be kept as a cultural museum. Balinese must become educated and modern, with good housekeeping and sanitation (Coast 1951: 405) – another role for women in the modernizing project. But progress and modernity were debated against losing ‘Balinese-ness’ (Coast 1951; Hanna 1957; Vickers et al. 1998). The progress of women in Jakarta was presented in Balinese short stories and editorials as threatening to create a moral crisis and unwanted pregnancies (see Vickers et al. 1998: 5–6). Western styles of dress were linked to immoral behaviour that was inconsistent with Balinese ways (Keiling 1953 and Suara Indonesia, 13 February 1957, cited in Vickers et al. 1998: 4). Related to this move toward modernity, the regional parliament issued a new marriage law. The July 1951 marriage regulation was enacted to allow inter-caste marriage (DPRD Bali 1951: 30). One justification was that, in the new Indonesia of ‘one nation, one language and one state’, it was inappropriate to make distinctions about who could marry whom (DPRD Bali 1951: 30). This was part of a social-reform agenda that sought to abolish ‘customary practices which discriminated along status lines’ as the ideals of equality espoused through nationalism were embraced (Warren 1989: 40; see also Coast 1951; Bagus 1991).


Challenging the national-level perspective

Another important aspect of Balinese identity-formation within an independent multi-ethnic nation was state recognition of the Hindu religion. While other regions engaged in movements for greater autonomy, the Balinese intelligentsia and leaders never questioned Bali’s integration into the Indonesian nation. But they sought to have their differences respected and fought to have Balinese Hinduism recognized as an official religion at the national level. The Ministry of Religion had been established in 1946 with sections only for Islam, Christianity (Protestantism) and Catholicism. The Balinese lobbied until a Hindu subdivision was established in 1958 (Vickers et al. 1998: 12–13; Bagus 1991: 207; Bakker 1993: 48, 97, 102). It is not clear what role, if any, women played in this campaign. One local campaign that did involve women was the move for Balinese women ‘to cover their breasts and not shame their country by demonstrating their Eden-like primitiveness’ (Coast 1951: 405). The Balinese tourism industry had been promoted through images of beautiful Balinese women. Even in the 1950s KLM travel posters continued to promote Bali with the image of ‘a splendidly proportioned Balinese woman, red hibiscus flower in her hair, breasts proudly bared, hand stretched out to pluck a water lily’ (Hanna 1957: 2). Women’s organizations and youth groups in Bali led a campaign to stop the traditional practice of women wearing no upper garment. Women’s organizations got fabric from Balinese students in Java to enable them to distribute blouses to women in the villages. They objected to the immoral and disrespectful manner in which foreign tourists approached bare-breasted Balinese women (Merta, interview, 15 February 1997). This was viewed as too primitive and ‘inconsistent with the dignity of a modern state’ (Pender 1957–1958: 21–22), especially as the numbers of Western tourists grew and they took increasing numbers of snap shots home with them. By the early 1950s the pressure from the women’s campaign had resulted in signs being displayed at Denpasar airport and in the Bali Hotel. The announcement from the Resident of Bali stated: It is prohibited to anybody to make photographs of Balinese women without breast-covering or nude, done on purpose or accidentally, as it is considered undignified and humiliating to the Balinese women in particular and the Indonesian nationality in general. (cited in Woodman 1955: 115) Women in the regional parliament suggested the central government should prosecute anyone who took photos of topless Balinese women, but Sukarno rejected this, saying it was up to women to decide whether or not to be photographed (Woodman 1955: 116). Gerwani was also concerned about the exploitation of women through tourism (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). This campaign shows elite women taking on a ‘civilizing’ role towards poorer, uneducated women in the villages. This is similar to the

Unity in diversity 187 construction of ‘needy’ women in the social welfare activities of women’s organizations, as discussed in Chapter 4. Women’s mobilization in Bali, therefore, confronted the issue of tourism, which had little impact elsewhere. It was also constructed within a continuing discourse of Bali culture in which women were symbols of local identity. But most of their activism addressed the development issues that the national-level movement prioritized. Politically active Balinese women seemed to look to Java for guidance and to promote their ‘Indonesian-ness’. South Sulawesi South Sulawesi has an even shorter history of women’s organizations than Bali. The first women’s organizations did not emerge until after the Proclamation of Independence in 1945 (DPK 1985: 154). As in Bali, this can be explained in terms of colonial history, educational levels and the status of women under local adat. In Makasar and Bugis society, women had little freedom outside the house, and Toraja culture was considered backward. During the Dutch colonial era, which only dated from 1908, there were few modern schools, so women remained uneducated. Higher education was restricted to Java and few women had permission to live away from the family household (DPK 1985: 152–154). Women therefore lacked the societal support and freedom as well as the education to analyse women’s interests in the ways that occurred in Java. South Sulawesi was on the periphery of Dutch colonial administration and few students from Sulawesi, male or female, attended high school in Java, meaning they had less contact with other regions. As a consequence, nationalist mobilization was weak (Amal 1992: 2; Harvey 1985: 209), precluding another opportunity for women’s organizing. Indonesian regional histories have found no evidence of women’s involvement in the few nationalist organizations that were established in the 1930s or in pre-independence women’s associations (Nursina 1982: 25; DPK 1985: 154). However, several women were active in the anti-Dutch fighting from 1905 to 1908 and there is some indication that Aisjijah branches were established in the 1930s as the national Islamic organizations entered South Sulawesi (Moehammadijah 1932).4 Even during the Japanese occupation, which in Java led to an expansion of organizational life, drawing in greater numbers of women than ever before (see Chapter 2), there was no mobilization of women in South Sulawesi. Sulawesi fell under the control of the Javanese Navy, which opposed the army policy of developing mass organizations and therefore left the population unpoliticized (Nursina 1982: 31; Harvey 1985: 209). It was only during the revolution era that women in South Sulawesi began to overtly engage in political action. There is little evidence, however, of their roles and activities. An Indonesian thesis on women in South Sulawesi was only able to identify and provide information on three women tokoh of this era (Nursina 1982: 41). These women were involved in similar


Challenging the national-level perspective

roles to those discussed in Chapter 2: nursing, spying and propaganda. Nursina also claims that many women participated with their husbands, although this (particularly for the uneducated classes) was a way to act in their capacity as wives, assisting their husbands, rather than a commitment to the republican cause (Nursina 1982: 34). South Sulawesi had a contradictory experience of the revolution. It was both the setting for some of the fiercest and most bitter resistance to the Dutch outside Java and the centre of the most fully developed Dutchsponsored federal state, the NIT (Negara Indonesia Timur, the State of East Indonesia) (Harvey 1985: 207). The region also suffered cruelty and huge casualties as the Dutch sought to reassert control. The infamous ‘pacification’ campaign under Westerling, with killings, intimidation, public executions and torture, claimed at least 4,000 to 5,000 lives – republicans at the time claimed 40,000 deaths (Amal 1992: 28; Harvey 1985: 218–219).5 Although there had been few links to the Java-based nationalist movement of the colonial era and no South Sulawesian in nationalist leadership, suffering and martyrdom became South Sulawesi’s contribution to Indonesian nationalism (Amal 1992: 29–30; Harvey 1985: 227). It also became an important welfare issue for women’s organizations. At the same time South Sulawesi was ‘tainted’ by its collaboration in establishing the NIT, yet it also felt abandoned by the republic because South Sulawesi had not been claimed as republican territory in the Linggajati Agreement. It was seen as a marginal region (Harvey 1985: 227). This background was a significant factor in regional unrest. It also shows that there were problems integrating all the regions into a single nation–state. For women, the revolution was significant for marking the start of their organizational mobilization. A range of women’s organizations emerged that reflected the diversity of the national-level movement. The first women’s organizations to be established were small local groups. Kaum Ibu Oraet Labora was founded in July 1946 and, in the Christian Toraja area, Kaum Ibu Masehi Dorkas was founded in October 1947 (Arsip Tana Toraja 641, 639). These groups were based on a local Protestant identity. Kaum Ibu Oraet Labora aimed to unite Protestant women in a Christian organization and included sewing and assisting the government as its main activities. By 1954 there were 58 members. Kaum Ibu Masehi Dorkas also engaged in sewing activities, selling the handicrafts they produced to assist members, and social work, which included helping the local hospital and local population. Its other main activity was biblereading. The statutes also spoke of uniting Christian women, defending women’s status and fighting cultural norms that opposed the Christian religion. In 1954 there were 48 members (Arsip Tana Toraja 641, 639). The emphasis on their Christian identity could suggest concern about the place of Protestantism in a united Indonesia, especially as the region was predominantly Islamic. It could also reflect the impact of church-based education programmes. PWKI also opened branches in South Sulawesi. The

Unity in diversity 189 Makale branch had 46 members in 1954. It held sewing, cooking and literacy classes for members, and assisted with social-welfare needs (Arsip Tana Toraja 641). Muslim women in the region joined branches of the national-level Islamic women’s organizations with Aisjijah and Muslimat groups recorded from 1948 (Arsip Tana Toraja 639). Muslimat had 140 members in 1954 and Aisjijah had 62. The main activities were prayer meetings, education, social work, assisting members and advancing Islam (Arsip Tana Toraja 641). The Islamic women’s organizations Wanita PSII and Muslimat signed a 1953 petition from Islamic parties and organizations in Makasar that requested a mosque for Makale (Arsip Tana Toraja 635). Secular and non-aligned local organizations were also formed in the 1950s. Wanita Sosial Indonesia (Wansi) was established in October 1950 to defend women’s interests where necessary and to guide women towards achieving progress both within and outside the home in accord with the local culture. Wansi’s activities included helping children, especially orphans; fighting illiteracy, particularly among women; and giving assistance to women. It had no political, religious or class affiliations (Arsip Tana Toraja 639). Persatuan Wanita Sosial (Perwansi) was established in September 1950. It was based on the pancasila. Perwansi aims included social justice and women’s emancipation, uniting and educating women about their responsibilities, social work (including sewing, cooking and literacy courses), and assisting both government and members. The organizational objectives were also to build connections with women’s organizations throughout Indonesia (Arsip Tana Toraja 639, 641), showing Perwansi to be the only local South Sulawesi women’s organization embracing a national outlook. There were 100 members in 1954. Perwani was also active in Sulawesi. The Bonthain branch established girls’ schools and took action against forced marriage, which was still happening in the area (Perwani Bonthain, in Gowani 1950: 13). Perwani Polombangkeng worked with the victims of the 1947 Westerling campaigns, establishing orphanages with government help and seeking greater assistance for child victims (Perwani Polombankeng, in Gowani 1950: 13). Persit had a branch in Makasar which operated a kindergarten, sewing courses and an antenatal clinic (Persit 1955a). Perwari also had a local branch (Perwari 1952f). A Gerwani branch was formed in the Tana Toraja district in February 1955. Its main concerns emphasized the ongoing impact of colonialism, arbitrary divorce, women’s lack of awareness of their rights in the household, problems for women workers and peasants, forced marriage, and polygamy. Gerwani also opened sub-branches in the surrounding areas. They held an open meeting for women in the buildup to the 1955 elections, addressing the political situation, the general election and the fight for women’s rights. Reports on a 1956 meeting in Rantapao again showed that the main issues for Gerwani in South Sulawesi were women’s rights, equal


Challenging the national-level perspective

pay, voting rights, marriage law, child welfare, opposition to forced marriage, and the need to eradicate the remnants of feudalism in order to achieve complete independence. The Gerwani branch also demanded increased numbers of orphanages and child-care facilities for working mothers (Arsip Tana Toraja 640). Gerwani emphasized its national concerns and interests in the regions. A former activist says that, although there were different conditions in each region, ‘the main women’s problems are the same’ and women looked to Gerwani to express these (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). This overview shows that there was a range of women’s organizations based in South Sulawesi during the 1950s, although membership numbers were small. Low educational levels probably limited potential membership. The mixture of local groups and branches of national-level organizations represented Christian, Islamic, secular/non-aligned and socialist interests, paralleling the streams operating at the national level. It is interesting to note that the local political leadership did not consider the activities of women’s organizations to be political action. A memo to the Governor of Sulawesi in Makasar from the Department of Internal Affairs in Jakarta, dated 10 January 1951, complained that the mandatory reports on organizational and party activities did not include women’s organizations. More information on the actions of women’s organizations was requested. The reply was that in South Sulawesi the women’s movement was ‘only of a social nature’ and only Kaum Ibu Masehi Dorkas, Aisjijah, Wansi and Perwansi were listed as active (Arsip Tana Toraja 639). The priority areas of activity for the women’s organizations fell outside conventional understandings of the political. They included increasing women’s skills in sewing, social welfare, education, religious education and mutual assistance. These issues were also prioritized in a 1950 regional women’s congress. It is important to take note of the ongoing unrest in South Sulawesi and consider the impact this had on women’s mobilization in the region. There was a failed revolt in April 1950, when Andi Aziz Affai, a member of the local aristocracy and a commander in the Dutch army, attempted to maintain the NIT (Amal 1992: 45). A longer term insurgency was led by Kahar Muzattar, uniting uneducated former guerrillas in protest over their proposed incorporation into the new Indonesian army. The trained proDutch soldiers were favoured over the uneducated republican fighters, leading to resentment that the sections of society that cooperated with the Dutch were given positions of power, while republicans were overlooked.6 Muzattar’s rebel movement joined the Darul Islam movement in 1953, drawing on a South Sulawesi ethnic identification with Islam, and by 1956 controlled most of rural South Sulawesi (Amal 1992: 60; Harvey 1977: 29–30). Independence, therefore, did not mean a return to settled conditions in South Sulawesi and the difficulty of asserting authority created problems for personal safety. Women and children were among the victims of theft, abductions and village burnings (see reports in Arsip Bulu Kumba 86 and 87). The insecurity also made it difficult to increase the number of women

Unity in diversity 191 teachers. A report from the schools’ inspectorate noted it was impossible to employ more female teachers because of the lack of funds and safety issues in the regions (Arsip Bantaeng 414). Because of this instability, military and security issues overshadowed politics and there was little party political activity in the region. Large areas were controlled by ‘war lords’ and election rallies were only held in urban centres. The region had Indonesia’s lowest voter turnout at the 1955 elections. The weak nationalist movement of the colonial era meant that political parties were very new and did not capture society’s attention (Amal 1992: 60, 63). The ongoing insecurity meant any women’s activism was conducted under difficult circumstances and this may account for the lack of records on South Sulawesian women’s organizations for most of the 1950s In November 1950, 25 women’s groups from throughout Sulawesi, including South Sulawesi, attended a regional congress in Makasar. The conference decided to form an umbrella organization for women’s associations in Sulawesi called Gowani (Gabungan Organisasi Wanita Indonesia). Gowani was to be based in Makasar and join Kongres Wanita Indonesia (Gowani 1950: 2): the organization did attend the 1952 Kongres Wanita Indonesia congress (Kowani 1986: 141), but there is no further record of Gowani or its membership of Kongres Wanita Indonesia. Holding the conference is an interesting example of building regional unity within the new Indonesian state and provides a record of the issues confronting women in Sulawesi. The aims of Gowani were to strengthen unity among Indonesian women; to advance women’s knowledge, and their spiritual and physical development; and to implement and defend social justice. Its main activities were to be fighting illiteracy, educating women about their responsibilities, and providing information for women (Gowani 1950: 3). This supported the national movement’s objectives and activism, and Suwarni Pringgodigdo sought to further this connection with a keynote address on ‘Unity and Women’s Progress’. The congress resolutions also indicated an overlap with the agenda of the national women’s movement. The congress demanded the government work to regain West Irian, claiming the nationalist struggle was not yet complete. It also called for the national government to work towards world peace and ensure social justice prevailed in the new nation (Gowani 1950: 23). In particular, the congress demanded: • • • • • •

the removal of pay differences between women and men the enactment of laws to defend the position of Indonesian women an increase in the number of schools for girls, teacher-training schools for women and the provision of asramas for female students overseas study tours for Indonesian women special attention and assistance for war victims, especially orphans and widows action against illiteracy

192 • • • •

Challenging the national-level perspective the enactment of marriage laws to prohibit forced marriage and child marriage (under 16 years old) assistance for Sulawesi industry an increase in asramas for university students the establishment of education courses. (Gowani 1950: 23)

This agenda shows women in Sulawesi shared the national-level movement’s priorities (education, welfare and the need for a marriage law), but within these areas addressed specific regional concerns. The emphasis on asramas and their link to educational needs reflected the lack of educational facilities in Sulawesi and the need for students to travel to Java. They required cheap and appropriate accommodation in order to continue their education. War victims were a special issue in South Sulawesi because of the Westerling pacification campaigns. The marriage issue focused on forced and child marriage, rather than polygamy, which dominated the national level. South Sulawesi archives contain numerous letters and petitions from the early 1950s opposing child marriage and wanting it prohibited (Arsip Tana Toraja 1056), and according to local groups, as noted above, forced marriage was a recurring practice in the region. The call for assistance for local industry showed the need for regional development. There were also concerns about regional and ethnic ‘backwardness’ among the Toraja people (Persatuan Wanita Suku Bangsa Toradja, in Gowani 1950: 18), showing a perception of inequality within the new nation. Minahasa In the 1950s North Sulawesi shared the regional insecurity of South Sulawesi with its involvement in the Permesta rebellion. However, in most other respects it was in marked contrast to South Sulawesi and Bali. The Minahasa region of North Sulawesi was a highly educated region and more economically developed than its neighbour. It was fully incorporated in the Dutch colonial administration and strongly represented in the colonial civil and military services (Harvey 1977: 21). The Dutch established a large number of primary-level schools (Nurliana et al. 1986: 19) and there were many private church schools, giving Minahasa the highest literacy rate in Indonesia (Harvey 1977: 21). Women had high status in Minahasan society, receiving equal treatment with men, and many had the freedom to pursue a higher education in Java (Nurliana et al. 1986: 17, 19). The first Indonesian women doctors were from Manado, some of the first women teachers were Minahasan and the first woman mayor in Indonesia was Augustina Waworuntu, who served as Mayor of Manado in 1950 and 1951 (Watuseke 1995: 38; BKOW 1984: 2–3). Due to these factors, Minahasa had a much longer history of women’s organizations.

Unity in diversity 193 The first women’s groups were founded in 1917, not long after the first women’s organization in Java. PIKAT (Percintaan Ibu Kepada Anak Temurunnja) was formed in July 1917 by Maria Walanda-Maramis, who was later incorporated into Indonesian nationalist myth-making as a tokoh of both the women’s and nationalist movements.7 PIKAT’s objectives were similar to the early women’s organizations in Java, except they were based on a Minahasan identity. The aims were to develop sisterhood among Minahasan women, nurture the future generation, accustom women to stating their opinions freely, raise the status of Minahasan women, and increase their love for their homeland (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1993: 2–3). The main activities were education-based and the organization established girls’ schools (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1993: 4; Walanda and Matuli 1989: 48). The other main women’s organizations in North Sulawesi were Christian women’s organizations, based around the GMIM (regional Protestant church). Christian women’s groups were established in Amurang and Manado in 1917, at a similar time to PIKAT, and an organization of ministers’ wives and government officials was founded in November 1919 (ManoppoWatupongoh 1989: 1–2; Sinsuw-Gundung 1994: 1). These organizations aimed to raise women’s status, assist members and engage in social-work activities, particularly for women and children. In 1937 the women’s Christian groups in Minahasa were brought together by the GMIM and united into a formal organization called PKIKM (Pergerakan Kaum Ibu Kristen Minahasa, Women’s Christian Movement of Minahasa). The priorities of PKIKM were child and maternal welfare, education and social work, and it established mother and child welfare centres, kindergartens and orphanages (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1989: 1; Sinsuw-Gundung 1994: 1). A report to the GMIM synod in 1940 claimed there were 235 women’s groups in Minahasa with 7,000 members and a 1942 report claimed 135 PKIKM groups with 4,000 members (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1989: 2–3). This shows much greater level of participation in the women’s movement of North Sulawesi than in that of the South. More Christian women’s groups formed in response to the needs of the revolution and joined PKIKM (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1989: 3). During the revolution, Minahasan women were active in dapur umum, Red Cross and social-welfare activities, including caring for refugees (BKOW 1984: 19, 24). They engaged in the supportive roles adopted by women throughout Indonesia. As Indonesia entered independence both PIKAT and PKIKM remained active and the area was known for its high level of women’s mobilization. A 1952 article on Minahasa in a central government journal observed that in ‘this part of Indonesia you can find women’s organizations everywhere’ (Indonesian Affairs 1952: 38). In response to the changing conditions, PIKAT replaced its Minahasan focus with an emphasis on Indonesian women. Within this new identity, however, Minahasan women continued to


Challenging the national-level perspective

receive special attention. PIKAT’s objectives were now to ‘unite Indonesian women from Minahasa in particular’ and women from other regions more generally, to educate women as a ‘foundation for carrying out their duty concerning children’s education’ and, through this, to ‘raise the status of Indonesian women’. PIKAT also aimed to develop women’s commitment to their homeland. Membership was open to all Indonesian women. Activities included meetings to discuss and analyse problems related to women’s duties in Indonesian society, the establishment and running of schools and hostels, women’s education in household duties, and working ‘for Indonesian women in particular and Indonesian society in general’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 310). The only women’s organization with headquarters outside Java that was nonetheless a member of Kongres Wanita Indonesia, PIKAT had branches in Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan, Maluku and other areas of Sulawesi (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1993: 3). Although it was based in Manado, PIKAT thus operated nationally and followed similar aims and agenda to those promoted by Kongres Wanita Indonesia. The PKIKM remained a local regional organization without branches outside Minahasa. In independence its aims were caring for women’s spiritual and material well-being, uniting Minahasan women, and uniting women around the world. The organization was committed to assisting the government and church in their social welfare/development activities. Membership was open to all women who were members of the GMIM and activities included caring for the sick, organizing nursing services for village areas, setting up girls’ schools, establishing orphanages and hospitals, assisting the anti-prostitution committee, and other social work. Members were encouraged to become nurses and midwives (ManoppoWatupongoh 1989: 4). Christian education was also an important focus (Sinsuw-Gundung, interview, 8 March 1997; Pantouw Nigi, interview, 8 March 1997). Throughout the 1950s education and health were the priority and PKIKM worked closely with the church. Its main activities were kindergartens, orphanages and maternal health clinics (Sinsuw-Gundung, interview, 8 March 1997). In 1951 the GMIM established a Christian foundation to oversee all social-work activities conducted through church organizations, including PKIKM.8 In 1953 the church established nursing and midwifery schools that were run by PKIKM. An antenatal clinic was opened in Manado with the assistance of government funding. A PKIKM representative was also sent to Bandung to study kindergarten teacher training and returned in 1954 to teach PKIKM members. Subsequently, the organization opened a kindergarten teachers’ school in Tomohon in 1955. PKIKM also provided financial support to Minahasan students studying in Jakarta. In 1955 PKIKM opened a maternity hospital, which went from seeing 632 pregnant women in 1955 to seeing 2,105 by 1957. Births at the hospitals increased from 152 in 1955 to 393 in 1957, while 391 babies were examined in 1955 and 935 in 1957. The discrepancy between the number of

Unity in diversity 195 women seen and the in-hospital births suggests that most women continued to give birth at home. Plans for a Children’s Clinic were disrupted by the Permesta rebellion. The PKIKM also sought to develop international relations independently of the Kongres Wanita Indonesia, making contact with international Christian women’s organizations and Christian women in the US and Australia (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1989: 5–7). In 1951 a women’s cooperative bank (Kooperasi Bank Wanita) was established in Manado. It was one of the first of its kind in Indonesia and by 1952 had 47 branches throughout the Minahasan region (Indonesian Affairs 1952: 38). This is further evidence of the level of women’s mobilization in the area. The central governemnt supported the bank with advice and loans (Indonesian Affairs 1952: 40). PKIKM activities received a degree of government assistance, suggesting that women’s organizations in Minahasa worked closely with the central government. Activists perceived the national movement as a Jakarta-based movement that engaged in little activity in Minahasa (Pantouw, interview, 10 March 1997), although there was an exchange of ideas. They felt that in social issues, including family welfare, education and health for women, they shared the same concerns as the national-level movement (Sinsuw-Gundung, interview, 8 March 1997). Education and welfare, particularly maternal and child health, were priorities for women’s organizations in Minahasa, as they were for organizations at the national level. This again shows that the development problems facing the new state were widespread. But other parts of the national agenda had little relevance. There seems to have been little activism around the 1955 elections and women’s political participation. The 1955 elections attracted less interest than elsewhere because ‘for Minahasa elections were not new’ (Watuseke 1995: 39): Minahasans had been able to vote for a local council since 1919 (Harvey 1977: 21). There had also been regional elections held in Manado in 1951. Women in Minahasa did not need to be encouraged to vote, observed Pudjobuntoro. Because of their high literacy and previous experience, they realized the importance of voting (Pudjobuntoro 1954a: 99–100). Hence, the public education campaign run by women’s organizations in other regions was unnecessary. The high status of Minahasan women also meant they felt there were few obstacles to their public participation. As already mentioned, Indonesia’s first female mayor served in Manado. In 1953 the first university in North Sulawesi, Universitas Pinaesaan, was opened with a law faculty due to the work of a female education campaigner Miss W.B. Politton (Watuseke 1995: 38).9 The first woman was ordained in the GMIM in 1955 (Sinode GMIM 1997). Women, therefore, held various public positions in North Sulawesi. The marriage-law debate had little significance. In the predominantly Christian Minahasa polygamy was not an important issue for women’s groups. Marriage in Minahasa was regulated by Dutch ordinances (see Chapter 6), which set minimum ages and prohibited forced marriage. A


Challenging the national-level perspective

Catholic Minahasan journal opposed Sukarno’s polygamous marriage to Hartini, arguing that although the issue of a second marriage was the concern only of those who practised polygamy, this was a special case. ‘The President of the Republic of Indonesia is a representative of the Indonesian people, not personal concerns’ (Malonda 1954: 6). The marriage was opposed because it could be seen to align Indonesia with the ‘crescent bloc’. But the women’s organizations had little concern. They supported the national movement’s campaign for a marriage law and against Sukarno’s marriage in broad terms, but seemed to view the marriage as an indication of the backwardness of Islam or as a bit of a joke. Activists recall that ‘they found it horribly amusing’ (Pantouw, interview, 10 March 1997) and were not really involved in any protest because it was allowed for Muslims, so ‘why should we bother about it?’ (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997). The issue that consumed the national women’s movement had little relevance in a region that did not practice polygamy and already had a codified marriage law. Women in Minahasa did, however, face their own regional issues. The most important of these were the Permesta, to be discussed below, and their role in the church. Much of Minahasan women’s mobilization was under the auspices of the local church and they pursued Christian-based issues. During the 1950s the first women trained as ministers and Eleanora Waworuntu was ordained in 1955 (Sinode GMIM 1997; Pantouw Nigi, interview, 8 March 1997). There are no sources to show whether women’s groups lobbied for this, but it shows again the relative equality women experienced in Minahasa. At the time there was some societal concern about female pastors, especially if they were single and serving in rural areas. Many of the first female graduates from the GMIM seminary went into social work before seeking parish duties (Pantouw Nigi, interview, 8 March 1997). By the 1990s the GMIM women’s commission reported the impressive figures that 50 per cent of pastors and 60 per cent of ministry students were female. Although some parishioners preferred a male minister, they reported that such attitudes were becoming less dominant (Sinsuw-Gundung 1994: 4). The religious identification of most Minahasan women’s organizations left these women outside the mainstream of the national women’s movement, as the national movement either embraced Islam as part of Indonesian womanhood or worked from a secular basis.

These three regional case studies have shown the variety in historical development of women’s organizations around Indonesia. Although the same prerequisites were necessary for the emergence of each of these organizations, they appeared at different times due to the diverse interplay of colonial history, nationalist politics, cultural practices and levels of education in each region. These different regional conditions also influenced the agenda and women’s activities in each area.

Unity in diversity 197 During the 1950s women’s organizations in Bali, South Sulawesi and Minahasa shared some similar interests with the agenda represented at the national level. This was most evident in their development activities. All the regions discussed were active in education, health and welfare projects. These were important concerns throughout Indonesia as the new nation sought to establish a modern state. It also appears that women’s organizations were responsible for children’s well-being in addition to their mandate for women’s interests, again mirroring the agenda of the national movement and concepts of women’s duties to family and society. It is difficult, however, without access to more source materials and records of the time, to ascertain the extent to which these development priorities were constructed in terms of national and nationalist needs or regional interests. The support given to the fight for a marriage law suggests a sense of solidarity with women of other religions and regions. Women in the Outer Islands, however, also had issues that fell outside the national movement and its conceptualization of womanhood and women’s interests. Region-specific issues were confronted and, as discussed above, these were not acted on or supported by the national movement. Women in the Outer Islands therefore worked to meet both national and regional issues, and in some cases religious demands. They had yet another site of identity to incorporate into their understandings of women’s interests. Kahin’s regional case studies of the revolution show that, although there was diversity of experience and an intermingling of national and local concerns, in all cases the regions shared the goal of independence for Indonesia (Kahin 1985: 265). This seems true for the 1950s women’s movement in the sense that they were committed to the Kongres Wanita Indonesia programme and to the national basis of Indonesian womanhood, while still recognizing their difference. We now need to consider what happened when regional interests were brought into conflict with national interests, as women responded to and engaged with the regional rebellion in North Sumatra.

Women in rebellion As the new Indonesian state embarked on its nation-building programme during the 1950s, the issue of regionalism became increasingly important. The place of the regions in an Indonesian republic had not been fully resolved. Economic and political crises mounted, and there was continuing debate over the dasar negara, fuelling anti-Jakarta resentment in the Outer Islands. The Republic of South Moluccas, defended by Ambonese soldiers, was not defeated until 1952; there was an insurrection in Aceh in 1953; and the Darul Islam movement, concentrated in West Java, was fighting for an Islamic state (Wertheim 1959: 85–86).10 Demands for regional autonomy grew throughout the decade (Feith 1962: 491) and culminated in the PPRI/Permesta regional rebellions in Sumatra and Sulawesi between 1958 and 1961 (Harvey 1977: 1).


Challenging the national-level perspective

The reasons for regional unrest are complex. Feith (1962: 284–286) argues that electioneering from early 1953 began to undermine the political unity of the Indonesian elites, bringing ideological conflicts to the fore. Social unrest grew considerably and regionalist and ethnic protest was one of its manifestations. Anti-Jakarta resentment was increasingly evident. There was violence between Javanese and Sulawesi students in Yogyakarta, calls for a State of Sumatra from July 1952, anti-Jakarta protests in the Minangkabau, and the formation of federalist/regionalist organizations in Sundanese West Java and in Sulawesi. These regions demanded effective regional autonomy. Budget allocations were viewed as unrelated to a particular region’s record of fighting in the revolution or current export earnings. The appointment of ethnic Javanese in top-ranking bureaucratic positions in the Outer Islands was disputed and there were fears of a Javanization of Indonesian culture. As a contemporary observer, Feith claims these views were stated more frequently than press reports suggested, as the national press was reluctant to record such anti-nationalist feeling (Feith 1962: 286). The economic dimension was important. Most of Indonesia’s export earnings came from the Outer Islands, but the bulk of spending occurred in Java. Fiscal policy included an overvalued exchange rate that favoured Javabased importers over the regional exporters. There were also arguments over the lack of development projects in the Outer Islands. Demands for regional autonomy were linked to demands for a more equitable sharing of revenue (Kahin 1999: 167–168, 189; Harvey 1977: 6–7; Feith 1962: 488). To some contemporary observers the Sumatra and Sulawesi revolt questioned whether Indonesian political unity had been established with sufficient solidarity and pointed to a lack of post-colonial progress (Wertheim 1959: 85; Mintz 1961: 100). But the main impetus came from demands for economic equity and increased local autonomy, resentment about the number of Javanese officials, and military rivalries between regional and national levels (Kahin 1999: 184–189; Harvey 1977: 38–41) rather than from any disillusionment with being Indonesian. Regional tension and anti-Jakarta feeling in Sumatra reached a climax in 1958. Disillusionment with the republican government in Jakarta had been growing in West Sumatra since 1951 (see Kahin 1999) and led to the proclamation of the PRRI (Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia) in February 1958. The PRRI received immediate calls of support from North and Central Sumatra and North Sulawesi (Feith and Lev 1963: 35). In Sulawesi the beginnings of revolt came in March 1957. The senior military commander for East Indonesia, Sumual, declared martial law in Sulawesi on 2 March 1957 and drew together 50 prominent residents in Makasar to sign and support a Permesta (total struggle) Charter at a midnight meeting. This charter demanded increased regional autonomy and more economic development in the regions, seeking 70 per cent of the region’s export earnings, a five-year development plan and the appointment of more locals in administrative positions (Amal 1992: 66; Harvey

Unity in diversity 199 1977: 42; Feith 1962: 545). One woman was included in the 50 signatories (Harvey 1977: 47). Civilian support was mobilized through public rallies. A Central Advisory Council was appointed, which included some female members (Harvey 1977: 52–54). Initially Sulawesi was united but growing divisions within the movement led to a unilateral declaration of a separate province of North Sulawesi. Tensions with central government increased when it became clear that the rebels were seeking and receiving foreign support, including the supply of arms and military hardware (Harvey 1977: 62, 82). South Sulawesi chose not to join the PRRI, while in North Sulawesi there was widespread public support for the rebellion. The Permesta revolt thus came to be based in North Sulawesi. The central government bombed the rebel capitals of Padang and Manado on 21–22 February 1958, marking the start of the armed struggle, and invaded both Sumatra and North Sulawesi.11 By July 1958 no major towns remained in rebel control, but the revolt continued as a guerrilla war with much of the population evacuated to the jungle. A settlement was finally negotiated in 1961 (Harvey 1977; Feith 1962: 586–588). Women and Permesta Women’s involvement in the Permesta rebellion recalls the activities of Indonesian women in the revolution. They provided the food, nursed the injured, acted as couriers, and struggled to keep their families together and their children clothed and fed under the warlike conditions. They suffered hardships when evacuated to the jungles with their husbands. Women were not involved in the leadership of the rebellion and had a limited profile in its public dealings. When ‘mass’ organizations issued a statement in Manado in June 1957, for example, to support the Permesta Charter, there were no women’s organizations listed among the signatories (Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). Most of their involvement was channelled through the women’s units: the PWP (Pasukan Wanita Permesta). The PWP was formed in March 1958 (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997). Every battalion of Permesta troops had a PWP auxiliary (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997). PWP concentrated on administration, communication, transportation, Red Cross-type roles, first aid, health care, food, dapur umum and intelligence (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997; Harvey 1977: 105). Morale was their responsibility and the PWP had ‘a group of girls singing to please [the] sad and hungry’ (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997). Harvey also claims PWP was famous for its combat (Harvey 1977: 105) but Permesta participants say women did not fight at the front. ‘They just cared for the sick and the wounded and prepared food for the pasukan’ (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997). Women were trained to use weapons but, as in the revolution era, did not join the fighting, fulfilling important auxiliary support roles instead.


Challenging the national-level perspective They were trained to use the guns and pistols, but they were not really involved in the field. What they really did was welfare . . . as nurse, as cooks for the military . . . and they also worked in communication, telegraphing and so on. (Pantouw, interview, 10 March 1997)

Training was back-up for survival purposes only (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997). Manoppo was active in the student corps, which had only two female members. She recalls one order according to which she had to make contact with a ship bringing in supplies from foreign sympathizers because ‘a woman was not as threatening as sending a man’ (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997). The Permesta supporters were less likely to think it was a trap. Most women accompanied and supported their husbands or male relatives. Women’s involvement in Permesta does not seem to have come from ideological belief in the cause (in contrast to the fight for independence) but from their roles as wives supporting their husbands or as daughters following the family lead. Participants claim they were ‘not politically aware’ and joined because everyone was involved (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997). Harvey’s study of the Permesta concluded there was not an ideological commitment to the revolt but rather a commitment to regional identity. She argues that ‘popular support for the rebellion was based more on ethnic and regional sentiment than on any broadly based commitment to abstract principles or ideological appeal’ (Harvey 1977: 153). The guerrilla war had marked a choice between ‘being on the side of the region or on the side of the centre’ (Harvey 1977: 101). There was a strong sense that women’s involvement was linked to their duty to ‘support the men and give them spirit . . . I don’t think they knew a lot about the political problems’ (Pantouw, interview, 10 March 1997). Manoppo remembers that everyone was talking about Permesta ‘but we didn’t know what Permesta was actually’ (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997). PWP was started out of a need to do something and from an enthusiasm for the way events were playing out, but with little idea of what to do (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997). In the same way that the revolution fostered a need to be active, Minahasan women fully supported the local struggle. ‘We could feel the unity, I think, because the majority were involved with the uprising’ (Pantouw, interview, 10 March 1997). We all thought that it’s good because we have all this development, buildings and roads and we had everything on the market that you could buy . . . It was good because they told us that the copra was not sent to Jakarta . . . we got money from it. (Manoppo, interview, 7 March 1997) Involvement in the Permesta intensified the participants’ regional identity as Minahasans (PWP, group interview, 10 April 1997).

Unity in diversity 201 It is not clear what role PIKAT fulfilled in the Permesta, but GMIM women’s groups were active in social welfare. PKIKM branches assisted with community care (Manoppo-Watupongoh 1989: 6). Churches served as distribution points for food and other supplies (Pantouw Nigi, interview, 8 March 1997). At the national level, women’s organizations also responded to the regional revolts. Kongres Wanita Indonesia issued a statement expressing concern about the PRRI/Permesta rebellions. It called on the government and people of Indonesia to act prudently so there would be no unnecessary victims (Kowani 1986: 133, 154). Individual organizations made stronger statements. Some Gerwani, Perwari and Wanita Demokrat branches joined other organizations and political parties to sign joint declarations from different towns and areas (see Arsip Konstituante 119; Arsip Kabinet Presiden 771). These statements opposed the rebel governments in West Sumatra and North Sulawesi, urged the central government to act against them, and offered support to the national government. The justification was that the regional rebellions undermined national unity. Suwondo says Perwari was behind the central government but because of communication problems were unaware of branch activities in the affected regions (Suwondo, interview, 27 December 96). Sudarpo notes that GWS too lost contact with its branches in Sumatra during the rebellion but trusted its members to know what the party stood for and not to join the revolt (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). The 1958 National Conference of Communist Women issued a resolution stating opposition to PRRI/Permesta and thanking the army and the people of Indonesia, especially women, who were fighting against the fascist revolt (Harian Rakjat 1958: 8). They drew special attention to the arming of underage youths and to the uncouth behaviour towards women of the rebel armies. A former Gerwani activist says Gerwani branches in the rebel regions assisted government troops when the central army launched its attacks (‘Dewi’, interview, 14 December 1996). As the regional rebellion was in part protesting against the increasing power of the PKI at the centre, socialist women’s groups were acting for party political interests when they opposed the rebellion, as well as from a nationalist commitment to a united Republic of Indonesia. Wanita Demokrat had a similar political interest in supporting Sukarno. Perwari’s stance can be attributed to its nationalist commitment.

Womanhood in the regional context Indonesia’s motto since independence has been Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, ‘Unity in Diversity’. But as this and previous chapters have indicated, the diversity embraced by the national women’s movement was primarily the Islamic/secular division. There was some recognition of Christian communities, but Hindu women and women in the regions were not specifically addressed. The national movement did not acknowledge regional difference


Challenging the national-level perspective

in its agenda, structure or leadership. Regional diversity was not highlighted and women in the Outer Islands appear marginal to its activism. The case studies of Bali, South Sulawesi and Minahasa suggest that women in the regions supported the national-level conceptualization of Indonesian women as having a responsibility and duty to assist with the development of the state. Welfare activities were a priority, with women taking responsibility for community and child well-being. Discourse around women’s strategic gender interests seems to have been developed in Java, which had a much longer history of women’s organizing and was the base for the movement’s leadership. But women in the regions also addressed regional interests and constructed a regional identity. This meant they had an additional site of identity to reconcile with their gender interests, in contrast with women at the national level who had a regional identity largely synonymous with Java and Jakarta priorities. The Indonesian women’s movement, therefore, homogenized the women of Indonesia to some extent, obscuring regional diversity. Constructing the ideals and interests of women in a new nation–state was focused primarily at the national level. The regional experience is hidden within the records of the national movement and there is a need for further research on women’s mobilization in the Outer Islands. Some studies have focused on women’s organizations in other regions, such as Aceh (for example, Siapno 2002) and West Sumatra (for example, Emilia 1995 and Whalley 1993), in addition to the research discussed here. However, greater attention needs to be paid to the regions so they can be compared and contrasted with the national-level women’s movement presented in the previous chapters.


Conclusion – constructing womanhood in a new nation-state Indonesian women’s experiences of independence and democracy in the 1950s

The 1950s marked a dynamic and vibrant period in Indonesian women’s activism. With national independence won and a parliamentary democracy established, Indonesian women’s organizations actively engaged with their new state to fight for women’s rights and construct notions of women’s citizenship. The preceding chapters have examined in detail the diversity and activities of Indonesian women’s organizations during this period and the interplay between gender, nationalism and democratization in defining womanhood and women’s political participation. By focusing on Indonesian women’s self-proclaimed concerns, this research has presented a history of women’s mobilization neglected in both women’s studies and political/ historical scholarship on Indonesia. It serves as a case study of Third World women as political actors and also raises important questions about how women politically organize in what is an exhilarating and expectant period of any nation–state’s history: its first taste of national independence and democracy. In conclusion, I will review the concepts of womanhood and activism that dominated this study to consider what independence and democracy mean for women. Indonesian women and their interests were represented by women’s organizations within the Indonesian polity. It was elite, Western-educated and largely urban women who took it upon themselves to speak for Indonesian women. Yet, as has been examined, there was considerable diversity even among these Indonesian women. The category ‘woman’ is complex and women’s organizations represent a variety of identities and interests, as the discussion in Chapter 3 demonstrated. Indonesian women’s organizations were based on Islamic, Christian, socialist, communist, nationalist and professional identities, as well as women’s identity as wives, and politically and religiously non-aligned groups. Nevertheless, the women’s organizations that constituted the national women’s movement supported a general programme of action for the 1950s, sharing a gender identity and an understanding of the priorities for women in the new republic. Education, health, welfare, political participation and marriage-law reform were considered the most pressing problems. The development and political issues discussed in Chapters 4 and 5 represent practical gender


Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state

issues, where improvements were sought to enable women to better fulfil their prescribed gender roles. In contrast, the campaign for marriage law, discussed in Chapter 6, was a strategic gender issue that sought to use the state to change gender relations. These issues had been raised from the beginnings of the women’s movement in the early twentieth century and remained unresolved when sovereignty was won. They became even more important in the new era of national independence and democracy. In relation to marriage-law reform, this was the first opportunity for Indonesian women to lobby their own state and there was an expectation that, because of their commitment to the nationalist struggle and participation in the revolution, new legislation would be quickly enacted. The development sector became more significant because Indonesians now had the responsibility for ensuring the well-being and advancement of their own society. The nationalist realization of independence carried with it expectations of benefits and progress for the population. Women’s emancipation through education and development was also a symbol of the nation’s progress and status, with women signifying national identity and well-being. Winning independence brought new issues for women, as women’s organizations and leaders sought to establish the role and place of female citizens in a new nation–state. Indonesian women had full and equal rights under the 1945 and 1950 constitutions, and the movement grappled with the questions of how women should use these rights, how they should act as citizens and how they should act internationally as members of a sovereign state. At the same time, winning independence did not signal the end of Indonesia’s nationalist struggle. New nationalist endeavours emerged as Indonesia sought to consolidate national authority and identity, and develop the nation–state to ensure economic and social freedom accompanied political independence. The programme of the women’s movement in education, health and welfare supported state-development plans and international links were based on national(ist) needs to promote an international profile and identity and seek support for national development and nation-building. The agenda of the women’s movement at the national level continued to be closely aligned with nationalism and there was a considerable overlap of gender and national interests. The interplay between gender and national needs was informed by further identity issues, including religion, political affiliation, profession, regionalism and, less explicitly, class. Gender and women’s interests were conceptualized and understood in relation to these other subjectivities. Nationalist thinking was shared by women’s organizations at the national level and women were predominantly represented as Indonesian women. But this was further refined to represent women as Indonesian Muslim women, Indonesian communist women, Indonesian female teachers and so on, each with their own perspectives and approaches to women’s interests. The most significant differences at the national level were a result of religious and political divisions. The divide between Islam and secularism dominated religious

Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state 205 identities, with some minority representation of Christian women through the nationwide Protestant (PWKI) and Catholic (Wanita Katolik) women’s organizations. Political affiliation divided Indonesian women into three camps, broadly speaking: socialist/communist, political nationalism and political Islam, paralleling the conflicts within mainstream Indonesian politics. Within a parliamentary democracy, these political and religious divisions became increasingly significant and made it difficult for women to unite around gender issues. Women’s organizations worked to advance interests associated with their religious, political, professional and regional positions, and viewed gender through the prism of these other identities. At times it was difficult to reconcile gender interests with non-gender subjectivities, as demonstrated most clearly in the fight for a marriage law. A new marriage law challenged gender norms because it promoted an alternative set of arrangements for gender roles and relationships. While all agreed on the need for change, the actual details of the proposed changes were hotly debated on the basis of religious and political allegiances. This diversity among women made presenting united demands problematic, a fact that was recognised by the movement itself. In an effort to hold onto unity, decisions and demands made by Kongres Wanita Indonesia were often compromises and, as such, were weaker than resolutions emerging from individual organizations. The diversity acknowledged and embraced within the movement, however, was of a limited nature. It was Islam/secularism and differences between political ideologies that dominated, reflecting the opposing views being played out in the democratic politics and constitutional debates of the decade. These differences were accepted as part of Indonesian democracy, but other areas of diversity were neglected as they threatened understandings of an Indonesian nation. Hinduism, indigenous religions and regional Protestant churches were not included in the religious positions constructed within the movement. Chapter 8 demonstrated how regional interests and ethnic differences were not incorporated into the movement at the national level, a tension that still exists today between Jakarta and the Outer Islands. Leaders called for women to develop a national identity, glossing over very real differences within the new nation. Although Muslimat and Aisjijah had village networks and Gerwani spoke for peasant and labouring women, the movement in its structure, leadership and membership remained overwhelmingly the domain of urbanized, Western-educated elites with the resources and family support to be publicly politically active. In discourse around education, social welfare, political awareness and community action, women’s organizations and journals created a dichotomy between those Indonesian women in need of assistance and those responsible for assisting their poorer sisters. Despite their differences, all women’s organizations promoted assisting society as their duty. This was the basis of their mutual understanding of womanhood in the newly independent Indonesian state. The cornerstone of


Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state

this conceptualization was women’s responsibilities as citizens of a sovereign state and the duty that constitutionally guaranteed equal rights entailed. Duty and commitment to the new nation–state took on greater importance because women had actively fought for Indonesia’s independence. It became women’s responsibility to implement their rights and embrace citizenship duties. This sentiment was regularly expressed and is best summarized in a 1953 Perwari statement that equal rights meant women had obligations ‘as a citizen to the state . . . as a wife to the family . . . as a member of society to society, especially women’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 143). Citizenship was communitarian and clearly gendered, incorporating women into citizenship through their roles as wives and mothers. For an Indonesian woman, being a good citizen meant being a good mother. In the familial imagery of nationalism, this motherhood role was extended to the nation. Hari Ibu, celebrating the founding of the Indonesian women’s movement, was explained in these terms: ‘The celebration of this day stresses the tasks and duties of the Indonesian woman as a mother, not only as a mother of the family, but also as a mother of the whole community and nation!’ (WIC 1955d: 483). The role of motherhood was closely linked to nationalism, with the prioritising of women’s education, health and welfare argued in terms of the need to produce and raise healthy and strong future citizens. Even marriage law was discussed in terms of women needing to feel their position in the marriage was secure so that the household would be happy. A happy household was perceived to be the basis of a strong nation–state. In all areas, women’s citizenship duty of assisting the government and developing the state was linked to motherhood and responsibility for children. Demands for women’s progress were argued in terms of these roles, in part justifying advancement because it would enable women to become better mothers. When women’s organizations acted on other identity interests, such as religion and political ideology, they used similar rhetoric, highlighting women’s responsibilities in these areas. Being a wife and mother represented the realities of most women’s lives and it is therefore not surprising that most discourse and activities focused on these. In the context of the new state, which faced huge development problems, it was also important to stress citizenship duty as a way to continue mobilizing women for the nationalist struggle. Most women were politicized through the nationalist movement and they therefore had a strong commitment to national issues, choosing to address the needs of gender and nation simultaneously through their construction of womanhood. Indonesian women’s activism was based on these conceptualizations. Within organizational activities there was a considerable emphasis on selfhelp to make women aware of, and able to act on, their rights and responsibilities, on mutual assistance among members, and on working with various sectors of the government and state. The close links with government were an important new feature. For the first time Indonesian women were free to lobby an Indonesian parliament,

Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state 207 directly representing the Indonesian people, and this fostered optimism that women’s needs and demands would be met. Parliamentary democracy brought greater freedom to organize, lobby and protest than had existed under colonial regimes. As citizens of their own sovereign state, Indonesian women had greater opportunities to engage at the international level. But the new political climate also brought obstacles to women’s mobilization. There were increasing demands for women to participate in nationalist development projects. Women’s organizations worked closely with state departments to expand educational opportunities, increase health information services and clinics, encourage women’s political participation in the democratic process, and represent the Indonesian nation to the international world. The overlap between national and gender interests meant that this assisted women’s organizations to address important needs for women. It also meant that women’s energies were again mobilized for the national cause with little reciprocation by various arms of the state to advance gender issues. The examples of the marriage law and family planning show how difficult it was to put women’s issues on the agenda when they did not correspond with state priorities or nationalist discourse. Neither was addressed until they became important to the state, interestingly under more repressive governance, and unsurprisingly they were constructed to meet non-gender needs. The difficulties experienced in attempting to advance some issues also reflect the contested nature of democracy for women. Women are usually under-represented in democratic institutions and political leadership, and Chapter 5 confirmed this was true for 1950s Indonesia. Women had difficulty in putting strategic gender interests on the agenda in a democracy when the support of society and political parties was required for political change. Women’s organizations were unable, because of the diversity among women, to present themselves as a political bloc and women were elected as party not gender representatives. This made it difficult to use the democratic political system to effect legal change for women. The failure of the campaign for marriage law and the low level of participation by women in political institutions shows independence and democracy did not resolve the problems women had identified within their society. In the development area, women’s organizations also had difficulty getting women’s basic needs met. Because these were associated with the nation’s development needs, women’s organizations were able to command government attention and support for their campaign. But in a struggling new economy, the state was unable to provide the educational, health, welfare and economic services women required. This marks an important difference between women in Western and in post-colonial states. Whereas Western feminism has struggled with the dilemma of working through or fighting against the state, and the state has often been a site of struggle, post-colonial women have faced a situation where the state is too weak to impose change for good or bad. The links between women’s organizations and the


Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state

nationalist movement are also important as women in post-colonial societies have usually fully participated in the transition politics that led to the new nation or system, and therefore feel closer ties and commitment to state apparatus. Although the problems facing Indonesian women in the 1950s were not surmounted, the period was important for activists because their nationalist goals were being met and they were fulfilling their self-defined roles of participating in the development of the nation. Salyo (interview, 19 January 1997) recalls the 1950s as a time of really feeling free. Suryochondro believes the 1950s were important for Indonesian women because they were so involved in national issues and building the country. The women’s movement was ‘very dynamic and very much involved in the nationalist struggle because at that time there was still uncertainty. We had to establish our national identity and recognition by the world’ (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). Former Gerwani members recall the strong spirit of the nationalist struggle during the 1950s (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996; ‘Dewi’, interview, 14 December 1996). Sudarpo views it as a time of consolidation ‘to give an identity to the women of Indonesia in the young republic’ and stressed the important progress that had been made for women now that Indonesia was independent. ‘It was a feeling of being a completely independent country. You cannot understand that because you have never been a colony but the feeling is there that you are free and standing on your own’ (Sudarpo, interview, 13 January 1997). Being full citizens of an independent state gave women the opportunity to participate in public life and to develop the nation they envisaged and were committed to realizing.

Gender and nation in a new democracy Indonesia in the 1950s was a time of change and political transition. An account of this period serves as a case study of women in post-transition politics. Most studies of post-transition politics have focused on the process of democratization following the transition from an authoritarian regime controlled by elites within a given society, but the democratization of a postcolonial society in transition from rule by foreigners to self-rule can also be viewed in this way. The Indonesian case provides an important contrast to the studies from Latin America and Eastern Europe because it reveals the impact of a greater emphasis on nationalism than had existed in other posttransition contexts. The question of the connection between gender and nation therefore becomes more significant, especially in understandings of the meanings of national independence and democracy for Indonesian women. A dominant theme has been the continued importance of nationalism in the post-colonial setting. The influence and significance of nationalism does not end with the attainment of independent statehood, although this has received little scholarly attention. Understandings of nationalism are

Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state 209 broadened beyond winning independence to include economic development and defence of the new nation–state. The post-colonial Indonesian women’s movement cannot be understood without appreciating its commitment to nationalism and nationalist projects. This is especially important in the context of a developing nation, where the state does not have the resources or influence to instigate social control or change gender relationships. Women needed to work with the state for change, embracing a conceptualization of citizenship as centring on ‘responsibility’ in order to develop and improve the position of women in particular and society in general. This was an example of West’s (1997) concept of a feminist nationalism, where both national and gender interests were concurrently pursued. While feminists argue that gender is central to constructions of identity, I have argued that the nation is equally central to constructions of gender identity and interests. As nationalist demands continue, the contested nature of nationalism for women presents ongoing contradictions. The Indonesian case study reinforces the arguments of many feminist writers that nationalism simultaneously allows an expanded political and public role while reinforcing traditional female roles of motherhood and symbolizing cultural values. These roles enabled women’s progress to be demanded for the good and benefit of the nation but meant that when women’s interests were not grounded in nationalist discourse or agendas it was difficult to mobilize wider support, exposing the dilemma created when feminist nationalism is embraced. This was further exacerbated by the limited political power of women in a new democracy. The Indonesian case study conforms to the pattern of women mobilizing in a time of crisis and then being marginalized once the cause is won. It also demonstrates the difficulty faced by women who try to represent women and act as a political bloc in a democratic system. Democracy seldom serves to represent women in equal numbers or advance gender interests. The multiple identity interests of women and how this contributes to the difficulty of representing women in a new nation–state is another important theme. In a post-colonial democracy, the common enemy of the colonial regime has been overcome and differences within the nation emerge. This study has shown that some differences were dominant and others overlooked as a concept of national womanhood and national identity developed. With an emphasis on developing the Indonesian nation it was not surprising that ethnic and regional difference was downplayed. Within national politics, however, religious and political difference was accepted as characterizing the national motto of ‘Unity in Diversity’. While academics need to be wary of homogenizing the category ‘women’, we also need to be aware that the groups and leaders who seek to represent ‘women’ may also homogenize the experiences and concerns of those they claim as members in order to meet their own agendas.


Conclusion – womanhood in a new nation-state

Indonesia in the 1950s was a new state struggling to build the nation, consolidate national identity and engage in a process of democratization. Indonesian women’s organizations embraced a variety of roles in this new polity, stressing women’s responsibilities to assist their government and work for the benefit of their family, community and nation. However, their active participation in both the nationalist struggle that overthrew colonial rule and the post-transition politics that followed in the first decade of recognized independence did not mean their gender interests were met. The emphasis on communitarian and motherhood conceptualizations of womanhood made it difficult to assert individual rights. The diversity of women in a multi-ethnic/ religious/cultural nation made it difficult to act as a political bloc in a democratic system and recognize all regional identities within the nation and within Indonesian womanhood. The economic and political instability made it difficult to meet women’s basic needs. While independence signified success in achieving women’s nationalist goals, it failed to fully address their other regional, religious, ideological, economic, class and gender objectives. Indonesia has once again entered a period of post-transition politics, moving from the legacies of Suharto’s authoritarian regime to a new phase of democratization and nation-building. Many of the issues that confronted Indonesian women and Indonesia 50 years ago are re-emerging. Regional, political and economic unrest threaten constructions of Indonesian national identity and raise tensions and contradictions within the women’s movement. While Megawati Sukarnoputri, President of Indonesia during the transition, is the first woman to achieve such high political office in Indonesia, this does not necessarily lead to gains for women. Like the women MPs of the 1950s, she represents a range of identity interests, including party political, religious, family and class, in addition to being a woman. She has not fought on a gender platform. The experience of the 1950s suggests that not all women’s needs and objectives will be met. Diversity among women remains an important issue as a new generation of activists seek to reconcile their gender and non-gender interests and act for women in the new democracy. The challenge for Indonesian women’s organizations is to develop conceptualizations of womanhood and democratic citizenship that enable women’s needs to be successfully represented and addressed within the new polity.

Appendix Women’s organizations of the 1950s

The following is a selection of the women’s organizations that belonged to Kongres Wanita Indonesia in 1958, reflecting the variety of types of organization and those organizations for which sources are available.

Wives’ organizations Bhayangkari (Persatuan Isteri Polisi ‘Bhayangkari’) The Association of Police Wives was initially formed in Yogyakarta on 17 August 1949 and a coalition of police wives’ organizations from throughout Indonesia established on 19 October 1952. By 1960 there were 120 branches with 40,000 members (Woodsmall 1960: 232). The aims of Persatuan Isteri Polisi ‘Bhayangkari’ were to improve the well-being of police officials’ families in particular and Indonesian women in general, to strengthen the ‘ties of fraternity’ among police families, and to offer material and spiritual support to police and their families (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 323–333). Ikatan Wanita Kereta Api (IWKA) IWKA (established 31 August 1955) was an organization for the wives and widows of railway department employees, the wives of retired employees and women employees of the department. The association claimed to be non-political. Its aims were to ‘study problems related to the interests of women’ and to establish courses to deal with these. It gave assistance to members in times of need (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 365). Persatuan Isteri AURI (PIA) The wives’ association of the air force (AURI) was founded in Bandung on 25 November 1956. It had its headquarters in Jakarta. PIA also stated it was



a non-political organization, aiming to reinforce the sense of a family atmosphere between members in particular and AURI families in general, to secure the well-being of AURI families in the social sector, and to increase the knowledge of its members. PIA focused on education and health. Activities included providing courses and lectures, kindergartens, family nursing, cooperatives and student hostels for children whose parents had been transferred to areas without schools. PIA fulfilled a social function for the air force by running libraries and providing entertainment (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 363–364). Persatuan Isteri Kaum Tehnik The wives’ association of engineers and other technicians was founded on 8 August 1958 in Semarang. Its headquarters were in Jakarta with branches (consisting of at least five members) throughout Indonesia. The association’s aims included uniting and strengthening relations between engineers’ wives, attempting to lighten the load of the household, boosting the quality of the household, and helping the efforts of engineers. It worked ‘in accord with womanhood in social, economic, and education spheres’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 353). Persatuan Wanita Keluarga Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) The association for the wives of Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) officials was established on 30 January 1951. Its aims were to strengthen communication among women and families at UGM and to give assistance to develop UGM in areas other than teaching. The organization was involved in educating members, economic support and social work (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 246). Persatuan Wanita Lingkungan Djawatan Pelajaran (Perwali Djapel) The wives’ association of the government’s shipping department was founded on 7 May 1951 in Jakarta. Its principles were listed as faith, humanitarianism and friendliness, along with ‘neutrality concerning nation and religion’. Its aims were similar to those of the other publicservice wives’ groups – strengthening ties among the shipping department in general and between wives of department employees and women employees in particular, carrying out community self-help where necessary, and alleviating burdens placed on members (in their duties as wives). Its work was in the social sphere, giving ‘moral as well as material’ assistance to members and their families, and running courses on household management and other issues (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 361).

Appendix 213 Persaudaraan Isteri Tentara (Persit) The army’s wives’ association was established on 3 April 1946 at Purwakatra. The location of its headquarters was determined at each congress. Persit was based on the principle of kekeluargaan (family spirit) and followed the ideology of the Republic of Indonesia, the pancasila. It aimed to strengthen the relationship between members, to give material and spiritual aid, and to develop members’ consciousness of their roles and position ‘as army wives’. Persit was engaged in education, social welfare, economic support and the dissemination of information. Membership was open to wives of active and retired army personnel and to army widows (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 332). Pertiwi The wives’ association attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs was, like the other wives’ organizations of government departments, a non-political organization based on the pancasila. It endeavoured to improve the destiny and living standards of ministry employees’ families in particular and Indonesian women in general, to strengthen the ‘ties of fraternity’ among ministry families, and to offer material and spiritual assistance to ministry employees and families. Pertiwi was involved in educational, social and economic activities (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 356–359).

Islamic organizations Aisjijah Aisjijah was founded by Muhammadijah to lead its female members. All fees paid to Muhammadijah by female members were transferred to Aisjijah, along with some donations. Aisjijah was not an autonomous women’s group. It remained under Muhammadijah control. Aisjijah had its own tanfidz (executive) and congress, and could make its own decisions, but any decisions had to be approved by the Muhammadijah congress. General decisions from the Muhammadijah executive that concerned women members were passed to the Aisjijah executive. Aisjijah’s role was to carry out charity work and tasks that ‘particularly concern womanhood’, as well as providing religious education (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 308). Gerakan Pemuda Islam Indonesia Puteri (GPII-Puteri) GPII-Puteri was affiliated with Gerakan Pemuda Islam Indonesia (GPII). It was established on 2 October 1945. GPII-Puteri put its emphasis on the Islamic religion, wanting an Indonesian society and state based on Islam. It worked to put ‘into practice the doctrines of Islam’ and to ‘enhance



intelligence and skills of young Indonesian Muslim women in matters pertaining to society and the state’. Membership was open to all Indonesian Muslim women aged from 15 to 40 years old (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 323). Gerakan Wanita Partai Sjarikat Islam Indonesia (Gerakan Wanita PSII) Gerakan Wanita PSII was the women’s section of Partai Sjarikat Islam Indonesia (PSII). Its aims were to develop a strong association of Islamic women, in accordance with Islamic law, and to make women aware of their rights and duties in religion and in the nation. Gerakan Wanita PSII appealed to Islamic teaching on the equality of men and women. It wanted to raise awareness among Islamic women that, in the view of Allah, men and women have a similar value. The activities of Gerakan Wanita PSII included providing religious lessons and general education deemed necessary for women, combating illiteracy, and fighting adultery and other actions in marriage that ‘damage achlaq [morals] and character of women’. Gerakan Wanita PSII would work alone or with other organizations on anything that ‘creates unity and improvement of women’s fate’. Membership was open to Muslim women of any race or nationality, as long as they were aged 16 or over (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 329). Muslimat Muslimat was an autonomous body of Masjumi, the largest political party in 1950. In 1960 it had 249 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 232). Its aims concerned Islam rather than pursuing exclusively women’s issues. Goals included ‘upholding the sovereignty of the Republic of Indonesia and Islam’ and ‘bringing about Islamic sentiments in affairs of the state’. The organization followed the political programme of Masjumi and was involved in raising women’s political and religious consciousness, and improving their understanding of the ‘position and duties of women in the household, society, and the state’. Any Islamic women who were Indonesian citizens were eligible to apply for membership (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 328). Muslimat NU (Nahdlatul Ulama Muslimat) An autonomous body of Partai Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muslimat NU was founded after discussions at the 13th NU congress (1938) about women’s issues and requests for women to become members. NU was concerned that the entry of women would damage the organization, but as women outside the organization were forming and joining associations it was eventually decided (at the 16th NU congress in 1946) to form a women’s section (Muslimat NU 1955: 21, 31). Muslimat NU’s aims were to ‘make Islamic

Appendix 215 women aware of their rights and obligations so they become true mothers’ and ‘can join and aid NU’s efforts to maintain Islamic law’. Muslimat NU worked to unite Islamic women, expand women’s knowledge about Islamic doctrines, broadcast Islam among women with courses and publications, and encourage social work (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 361).

Christian organizations Persatuan Wanita Kristen Indonesia (PWKI) PWKI, an organization of Protestant women, was established in Solo on 28 November 1946. In the 1950s the PWKI Central Committee was based in Jakarta. PWKI was based on ‘God’s commandments in the Bible’ and the belief that ‘Christian women have great duties in the family and in Indonesian society’. Its aims were to unite Christian (Protestant) women throughout Indonesia, to ‘broaden awareness about members’ duties as Christian women in Indonesian society’, and to implement those duties. This was done through meetings; through publication of a journal, books and reports; and through courses held for members. PWKI would work with other organizations in the social sector as long as the work was not in contradiction with its Christian principles. Membership in PWKI was open to any Protestant woman of at least 18 years of age who was an Indonesian citizen and agreed with the organization’s stated aims. PWKI was affiliated with Parkindo (the Indonesian Protestant party) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 318). Wanita Katolik (WK) Wanita Katolik, Catholic women’s organization, was also affiliated with a male-led organization, Partai Katolik. The organization was established in Yogyakarta in 1924 (Wanita Katolik 1988: 31) and then relaunched, following the Japanese occupation, in Mataram on 12 December 1948 (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 319). Wanita Katolik was based on the Catholic religion and its aims were advancing Catholic women and women in general, especially Indonesian women. The organization stated it was not political (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 319–320). Wanita Katolik was founded in response to the appalling situation of working women in the 1920s: they received low wages, were vulnerable to ‘violent and arbitrary concubinage’ and had to ‘neglect’ their children to go to work. A group of Catholic women began work to alleviate these problems. They ran courses to fight illiteracy, sewing courses, a crèche at the Taru Martani cigarette factory (Yogyakarta) and first aid courses, as well as arranging nursing care for villagers (Wanita Katolik 1988: 31). In the 1950s Wanita Katolik was working with a rochaniwan (spiritual adviser) to advance Catholic women in religious matters. Wanita Katolik also addressed social/economic burdens



and youth issues. They worked with other organizations in the social sphere, when such action did not contradict their Catholic principles (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 319–320). Membership was open to any Catholic women who were citizens of Indonesia, aged over 18 (or younger if they were already married) and paid a regular contribution. Members could be discharged for failing to carry out their religious obligations. Wanita Katolik had branches in Java, Bali and Flores.

Socialist/communist organizations Gerakan Wanita Sosialis (GWS) Gerakan Wanita Sosialis (the socialist women’s movement) was affiliated with Partai Sosialis Indonesia (PSI). In 1960 it had 115 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 231). GWS was based on democratic socialist ideas and sought to mobilize women in the struggle for a socialist society. GWS raised members’ consciousness and understanding about socialist ideology and the socialist struggle, broadened the knowledge and skill of women to increase their standard of living, and fought ‘for women’s interests in the social/economic and education areas’. GWS believed that women had an important role to play in contributing to ‘the spirit, enthusiasm and attitude for continuing struggle’. Membership was open to women who were Indonesian citizens aged 16 years old and over, who agreed with the aims of GWS (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 359–360). Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia) Gerwani was one of the largest women’s organizations in the 1950s. In March 1954 there were 80,000 members. By the end of February 1955 there were 403,000 members and 146 branches. In December 1955 Gerwani reported a membership of 500,000. In December 1957 there were 671,342 members from Java (613,262), Sumatra (59,740), Sulawesi (2,680), Nusatenggara (2,260), Maluku (1,900) and Kalimantan (1,500). By 1960 there were 182 branches (Gerwani 1955: 15; Woodsmall 1960: 231; Hindley 1966: 204, 206). In June 1950 six local women’s groups (Rupindo Semarang, Isteri Sedar Surabaya, Isteri Sedar Bandung, Gerakan Wanita Kediri, Perdjoangan Puteri Republik Indonesia di Pausuran and Wanita Madura) merged to form Gerwis, which became Gerwani in 1954. Gerwani was closely linked to the PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, the Indonesian communist party) and aimed to fight for ‘women’s rights, children, democracy, complete national independence and lasting world peace’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 312). Membership was open to any Indonesian female citizens aged over 16 (or younger if they were already married) who agreed with Gerwani’s programme (Gerwani 1954: 3).

Appendix 217 The section established for ‘protection of women’s and children’s rights’ focused on women’s rights in the political, economic and civil spheres, and investigated children’s rights. The section’s activities included running courses on handicrafts; setting up cooperatives; approaching the issue of the rising prices of everyday necessities, among them food, medicine and clothing; raising concerns about child labour, infant mortality and the lack of medical services; setting up educational courses; and making demands for marriage law, as women were ‘still victims to adat, feudal customs’. The organizational section carried out selection, promotion and transfer of cadres, pursued connections with subordinate groups, studied the conditions of women in Indonesia, arranged connections with other women’s organizations and led women who were not yet involved in any organization. The section responsible for information, education and culture published books, studied the history and development of Indonesian women’s organizations, organized courses to combat illiteracy, and arranged cultural events (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 314–317; Gerwani 1955: 9, 12). Persatuan Wanita Murba (Perwamu) Affiliated with Partai Murba, Perwamu was based on democratic centralism. It was involved in the education, social and economic sectors. Its activities included ideological indoctrination and education about the ‘problems related to the people’s struggle’, and the general education of the female masses. To do this they established schools and reading rooms. In the social sphere Perwamu worked to ‘decrease the occurrence of prostitution’ and ‘reform those who become prostitution victims’. They also accommodated ‘neglected children and women’ and were involved in other humanitarian endeavours. Perwamu’s economic activities included ‘developing household industry’ such as weaving, batik or whatever was characteristic of a particular region, helping women by accumulating financial capital, giving advice on getting credit from the government, and working to ‘alleviate the burden on women in the household’ by introducing saving and joint-purchasing plans (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 352).

Nationalist organizations Partai Kebangsaan Indonesia Wanita (Parkiwa) Parkiwa was the women’s section of Partai Kebangsaan Indonesia (Parki), but it had its own regulations and committee. In 1960 it had 15 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 232). Parkiwa was based on the pancasila and its aim was securing the people’s ‘well-being and prosperity in a free, independent, democratic and just state’. It aimed to ‘motivate Indonesian women to join work in all fields to fulfil Indonesian independence and sovereignty as proclaimed on 17 August 1945’ and to mobilize women’s support for Parki.



In the political sphere, Parkiwa followed the Parki political programme. In the social sphere, Parkiwa’s priority was women. Their focus included the condition of women workers, child care for working mothers, and setting up advice bureaus. They also established orphanages for girls and lodgings for women, housing for grandmothers, and first aid groups. Economic activities included running cooperative banks for women, especially for small traders. Parkiwa offered educational courses, covering literacy, handicrafts, general knowledge, housekeeping and political ideology. Members of Parkiwa had to be Indonesians who agreed with the organization’s aims and were 18 or older (younger if they had already married or left school). Non-Indonesian women who agreed with Parkiwa’s aims could become donors, but had no voting rights and could not attend member or committee meetings. Any member who was not able to read and write had to learn to do so. Education began within the organization (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 297–300). Wanita Demokrat Wanita Demokrat was affiliated with PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia). In 1960 it had 350 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 231). It defined its nature as Gerakan massa wanita Indonesia, ‘the movement of the Indonesian female masses’, and was founded on the principle of marhaenisme (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 338). Marhaenisme was a concept of Sukarno’s that looked to ‘adapt the Marxist concept of a proletariat to the social circumstances of an agrarian society’ (Legge 1972: 72). The concept was used from the 1920s by Sukarno and others to refer to the destitute people of Indonesia, the impoverished masses, the typical peasant. Wanita Demokrat took a very women-centred approach to this concept, with the stated belief that women must have a status that is congruent with being a ‘free and independent human’. Wanita Demokrat had a programme that was both political and socio-economic. It sought a free and independent Indonesian state, a marhaenis society that would ‘guarantee the position of women based on equal rights’, and world peace, which would guarantee that ‘relations between nations are based on equal rights’. They fought for laws and regulations that would ‘guarantee the position of women is based on equal rights, especially in marriage, education, labour, and agriculture’. Wanita Demokrat gave education and guidance to Indonesian women for self-development in all areas, ‘particularly her position as mother and wife’, and endeavoured to ‘coordinate and develop small industry’ established cooperatively by women (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 338). Wanita Indonesia Wanita Indonesia was affiliated with Partai Indonesia Raya. It was established on 11 September 1953. The organization was based on ‘nationalism, democracy, and humanitarianism’. Wanita Indonesia believed that all

Appendix 219 sections of Indonesian society had ‘duties and rights’ in relation to the state. Although it stated that ‘Indonesian women citizens do not constitute a separate group in Indonesian society’, the aims of Wanita Indonesia primarily concerned women. Every Indonesian woman had an obligation to ‘fulfil the sentiments asserted in the Proclamation’ and to ‘devote self to community, nation and state’. The organization’s activities included establishing cooperative and savings bodies, running household-management courses, and preparing women’s forces if society required it. Indonesian women were eligible for membership if they were citizens aged over 15 who agreed with the principles and aims of Wanita Indonesia (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 344). Wanita Nasional Wanita Nasional was affiliated with Partai Rakjat Nasional and in 1960 it had 90 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 232). Wanita Nasional was established on the principles of ‘nationalism, democracy and the family’. Its aim was to achieve ‘state law based on democracy’ and a ‘prosperous society’. The organization’s activities included spreading information about the general election, increasing people’s standard of living, assisting in improving the lives of workers and agriculturalists, increasing the value of (and devotion to) national characteristics, improving health and education, and ‘perfecting national culture’. Membership duties included paying fees, carrying out work ordered by the organization, and ‘guarding the good name of the organization’. A member could be discharged if she became a member of another political organization or lost her Indonesian citizenship (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 341).

Broad-based membership organizations Partai Wanita Rakjat Partai Wanita Rakjat was founded in Yogyakarta in September 1946. Its aim was to improve the position of women by political and parliamentary action (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 15). It had its own list of candidates stand in the 1955 general elections, without success. Partai Wanita Rakjat was founded on the principles of ketuhanan, kerakjatan dan kebangsaan (religion, democracy and nationalism). Religion was one of the party’s principles in the sense that there was a religious basis to humanitarianism. Democracy was stressed because it ‘guarantees human rights to every person, with no differentiation’. The concept of democracy ‘demands that every person, man or woman, has the same value’, that all religions have the same value, and every person ‘both man and woman’ has the same opportunities and rights in all spheres – political, economic, social and cultural. Nationalism was used as meaning people ‘who have the same



destiny, same history, and same sentiments’. Any woman who was an Indonesian citizen aged over 18 years old could become a member of Partai Wanita Rakjat (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 306). Partai Wanita Rakjat demanded marriage laws that ‘guarantee democracy in the husband–wife relationship’ and labour laws that ‘give security and protection to every woman worker’, and provided education services. Their activities in the economic sphere included demanding ‘the restriction of the entry of foreign capital so the people’s economic power can grow’, educating and preparing women to produce and distribute vital goods, and establishing ‘people’s cooperatives’ that involved women. The party’s political programme included defending the independence of the Republic of Indonesia; fighting ‘capitalism, imperialism, and fascism’; demanding voting rights and direct general elections; striving for a declaration (both oral and in writing) of rights to assemble, demonstrate and strike; demanding ‘democratisation in all government bodies’; and working towards ‘world peace based on democracy’. Partai Wanita Rakjat also demanded laws that would guarantee every women could ‘carry out duties as wife, mother and as citizen’ (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 306). Pemuda Puteri Indonesia (PPI) PPI, a national young women’s organization, was founded on 15 December 1945. It was based on nationalism, democracy and the principles of the pancasila, but did not follow any political ideology (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 330). In 1960 it had 60 branches (Woodsmall 1960: 233). The aim of PPI was ‘that all young Indonesian women pour their energy into the development of the Republic of Indonesia’. Education was a priority. Membership was open to all women who were Indonesian citizens aged between 15 and 40. It was active within both the women’s movement and the youth movement (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 330). Perwari (Persatuan Wanita Republik Indonesia) Perwari was one of the largest women’s organizations, with 214 branches in 1960 (Woodsmall 1960: 233). It was established on 17 December 1945 and based on the pancasila. The principal aim of the organization was to ‘demand and defend social justice so that, in Indonesian society, welfare and humanitarianism is guaranteed’. Perwari’s activities included making all women aware of their ‘position and obligations as citizens’, ‘fighting for women’s interests in social, economic, and education areas’, working with other organizations holding similar interests, keeping members informed about political developments, and getting women into the regional, national and constitutional parliaments. Branches organized marriage advice and ‘mother and child’ bureaus (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 321–322; Kartowijono 1983: 83). Perwari published a monthly journal, Suara Perwari,

Appendix 221 which included news of the organization and articles on topics such as care of infants, women as mothers, the women’s movement and health issues, the progress of Indonesian women, marriage-law campaign issues and Indonesian politics, as well as having recipes, fashion tips and household hints. Rukun Ibu Rukun Ibu was established in Jakarta on 3 March 1954. It was a social organization based on the family, with no political or party affiliations. Rukun Ibu worked to raise the education of women in all areas and was active in social work (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 355).

Professional women’s organizations Ikatan Bidan Indonesia (IBI) IBI, the Indonesian Midwives’ Association, was formed in 1951 and joined Kongres Wanita Indonesia in 1956. It was established as a national organization based on the pancasila. Its founding objectives were to unite midwives, increase their skills and knowledge, assist government in developing community health, and raise the status and position of midwives in society (IBI 1996: 17–18). Perhimpunan Wanita Universitas di Indonesia The aims of the Indonesian Association of University Women were to ‘strengthen the relationship among university women throughout Indonesia and abroad taking no account of race, religion or political convictions’, and to broaden knowledge and research for use in Indonesian society generally and by the women’s movement in particular. The association was involved in the analysis of problems facing society and held meetings and lectures about these. It sought to establish links with similar associations both within the state and outside it, so as to exchange knowledge. Full membership was open to women who had finished a diploma or foreign degree (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 354).



custom, tradition


Islamic women’s organization


regular series of meetings at which members contribute a sum of money and take turns to receive the total

Arsip Kabinet Presiden RI

archives of correspondence to government (1950–1959), National Archives

Arsip Konstituante

Constituent Assembly Archives, National Archives



Bahasa Jawa

the Javanese language

Bahasa Indonesia

the Indonesian language


police wives’ association

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika

‘Unity in Diversity’, the Indonesian state motto


trained midwife

BPOW (Badan Penghubung Organisasi Wanita)

coordinating body of women’s organizations



dapur umum

communal/public kitchen

Glossary 223 Darul Islam

movement (based in West Java, Aceh and South Sulawesi) fighting for the establishment of an Islamic state

dasar negara

ideological basis of the state

DPR (Dewan Perwakilan Rakjat)

People’s Representative Council (parliament)

DPRD (Dewan Perwakilan Rakjat Daerah)

Regional People’s Representative Council


village/traditional midwife


official women’s organization of the Japanese occupation

Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia)

communist women’s organization, aligned with PKI


Protestant Church of Minahasa

GWS (Gerakan Wanita Socialis)

socialist women’s movement, affiliated with PSI

Hari Ibu

Mother’s Day, 22 December, commemorating the beginning of the Indonesian women’s movement

Hari Kartini

21 April, commemorating Kartini’s birth

IBI (Ikatan Bidan Indonesia)

Indonesian Midwives’ Association



Ibu Bangsa / Ibu Negara

mother of the nation


Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association


traditional dress, sarong


village/urban residential quarter


traditional dress, blouse





Kongres Wanita Indonesia

Indonesian women’s congress, the umbrella organization for women’s organizations at the national level


Constituent Assembly

Kowani (Kongres Wanita Indonesia)

the umbrella organization for women’s organizations at the national level between 1945 and 1949 and during the New Order


Islamic political party, one of the four largest parties in the 1950s




Islamic women’s organization, affiliated with Masjumi

Muslimat NU

Islamic women’s organization, affiliated with NU

NIT (Negara Indonesia Timur)

state of East Indonesia

NTR Committee (Panitia Penyelidik Peraturan Hukum Perkawinan Talak dan Rujuk)

committee established by the government to investigate marriage law

NU (Nahdlatul Ulama)

Islamic political party, one of the four largest parties in the 1950s


Indonesian state doctrine

Partai Katolik

Catholic political party

Partai Wanita Rakjat

Women’s People’s Party, a women’s political party

PBS (Putri Bali Sadar)

Balinese women’s organization during the colonial era


youth, associated with soldiers during the revolution

Glossary 225 Permesta (Piagam Perjuangan Semesta) Charter of the Common Struggle, a regional rebellion based in Sulawesi Persatuan Wanita Keluarga UGM

Wives’ Association for UGM (Gadjah Mada University)

Persit (Persaudaraan Isteri Tentara)

army wives’ association

Perwari (Persatuan Wanita Indonesia)

secular, non-aligned women’s organization, one of the largest parties in the 1950s

PIKAT (Percintaan Ibu Kepada Anak Temurunnja)

Minahasan Women’s Organization, operating nationally

PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia)

Indonesian Communist Party, one of the four largest parties in the 1950s

PKIKM (Pergerakan Kaum Ibu Kristen Minahasa)

Women’s Christian Movement of Minahasa

PNI (Partai Nasional Indonesia)

Indonesian Nationalist Party, one of four largest parties in the 1950s

PP (Peraturan Permintah)

government regulation

PPI (Pemuda Puteri Indonesia)

Indonesian women’s youth association

PPI (Perikatan Perempuan Indonesia)

Union of Indonesian Women, first federation of Indonesian women’s organizations, founded in 1928

PPII (Perikatan Perhimpunan Isteri Indonesia)

Formerly PPI, renamed in 1929


Javanese aristocracy

PRRI (Pemerintah Revolusioner Republik Indonesia)

Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia, proclaimed at Padang, West Sumatra, on 15 February 1958

PSI (Partai Sosialis Indonesia)

Indonesian Socialist Party

PWKI (Persatuan Wanita Kristen Indonesia)

Association of Indonesian Christian Women



PWP (Pasukan Wanita Permesta)

Permesta Women’s Troops


the 1945–1949 revolution

RI (Republik Indonesia)

Republic of Indonesia


reconciliation, if it is used before the talak has been issued three times the marriage is reconciled

RUU (Rentjana Undang-Undang)

draft bill presented to parliament


formula used by Muslim men to divorce their wives, has to be stated three times for the divorce to be final (see also rujuk)


prominent person

UU (Undang-Undang)



People’s Council (Dutch colonial era)

Wanita Demokrat

women’s organization affiliated with PNI

Wanita Katolik

Catholic women’s organization


food stall


Women’s International Club


1 Missing images 1 They say that organizations were managed ‘less professionally’, operating out of committee members’ houses rather than the offices most now have. There was thus no place in which to keep records and files. 2 Noor was active in Pemuda Puteri Indonesia (a young women’s organization), Perwari (the main secular/politically non-aligned women’s organization of the 1950s) and in the elected leadership of Kongres Wanita Indonesia. She served as editor of Suara Perwari, represented the Indonesian women’s movement at international conferences, and had her own dentistry practice. 3 Other factors include higher education opportunities for colonial subjects in the metropoles, participation by colonial armies in World War I and II, and even festivals in the colonies celebrating the independence of the ‘home country’. Anderson (1991: 117) cites the famous article by Suwardi Surjaningrat (Ki Hadjar Dewantero), published in 1913 in reaction to Indonesians having to celebrate Dutch independence from the French (and having to pay for those celebrations). He imagined himself as a Dutchman and asked if, in that position, he would expect the people whose independence had been stolen to celebrate their occupier’s independence. 4 The 14 ethnic groups Legge refers to are the Acehnese, Batak, Minangkabau, Coastal Malay, Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Balinese, Dyaks, Makasarese, Buginese, Toradjas, Menadonese and Ambonese. A 1958 survey recorded over 360 different ethnic groups and 250 distinct languages in Indonesia (Jaspan 1958, cited in Legge 1980: 4). 5 It should also be noted that in multi-race/multi-ethnic nations, the state gives ‘different content to motherhood according to race and class’ (Gaitskell and Unterhalter 1989: 59). This means some women may be encouraged to reproduce while others of different class, race or sexuality are not (Charles and Hintjens 1998: 16). Nationalist discourse on reproduction can draw on eugenicist understandings, concerned not only with the quantity but the quality of the ‘nation’, and Malthusian concerns about the dangers of overpopulation (Yuval-Davis 1997: 29–34). 6 The most obvious example of this has been men’s duty to defend the nation through military service, from which women have historically been excluded. Joining the fight for the nation can therefore become a basis for women’s full citizenship. 7 The exception is Blackburn (1994), who raises some of the questions addressed in this book.



2 Emergence of a women’s movement 1 These included Raden Ayu Ageng Serang (1752–1828), who fought the Dutch in Central Java and was an advisor to Diponegoro; Cut Nyak Dien (1850–1908) and Cut Metuia (1870–1910), who were active in Aceh’s military campaigns; and the daughter of Pangeran Surjansjah, who fought the Dutch in Kalimantan. 2 It is interesting to note that these women were active in different regions of present-day Indonesia and can therefore also represent the development of a national Indonesian identity based on diverse religious, ethnic and regional groups. 3 Kartini has also been mythologized to meet other political agendas in different periods. She has been a symbol of the Dutch ethical policy, Javanese nationalism, and both the Old Order and New Order regimes, as well as the women’s movement. The Kartini we know has been constructed through the editors and translators of her letters to meet these agendas (Taylor 1976; Rutherford 1993). 4 J.H. Abendanon published an abridged selection of Kartini’s letters to his wife as Door Duisternis Tot Licht in 1911. An English translation was published in 1920 and a Malay edition in 1922. Cote (1992) provides a complete translation of Kartini’s letters. 5 The women’s movement celebrated Kartini’s birthday (Hari Kartini) throughout the 1950s, providing an opportunity to assess women’s progress against Kartini’s objectives. 6 The most important of these was the Inquiry into the Declining Welfare of the Native Populations of Java and Madura. This inquiry produced The Report of the Improvement of the Position of the Native (read Javanese) Woman, published in 1914. Nine Javanese women made submissions to the inquiry (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 174–175). 7 It is only in the writings/discourse of Chinese women that a pre-colonial tradition is evoked. However, that recalls Confucius-era Mainland China, not an idealized Indonesian past (see Coppel 1993). 8 Almost all the speakers at the first women’s congress in 1928 had received a Western-style education (Suratmin et al. 1991). Other women’s leaders note the importance of their ‘modern’ fathers, who broke with tradition by giving their daughters an opportunity to attend school and receive a Dutch education (Kartowijono 1983: 12; Soebadio 1981: 7–8). 9 Maria Ullfah Soebadio identifies her aunt’s suffering from arbitrary divorce as the reason she became involved in women’s issues (Soebadio 1981: 8). Kartowijono experienced problems in pursuing higher education: the asramas at the law school were for men only, preventing her from pursuing legal studies (Suratmin et al. 1991: 63). 10 In 1909 only 3,097 girls attended village schools. By 1914 there were 19,455 girls attending village schools, but girls only constituted 10 per cent of the native school population. In 1927/1928, only 1 per cent of women attended school (Blackburn 1997b: 4, 6). 11 There were other debates and agendas surrounding girls’ education, including the views of Dutch colonialists and Indonesian nationalists and conservatives (see Blackburn 1997b). 12 This phrase is borrowed from Takashi Shiraishi (1990: 48) and captures the spirit of the time. 13 It should be noted that there were regional differences. Aisjijah women in Yogyakarta did speak in front of men, but Aisjijah groups in the more devout area of West Sumatra protested against the practice (Emilia 1995: 9). 14 For example, Rasuna Said, Sri Panggihan, Nj Ali Archan, Trimurti (Kartowijono 1976: 7) and Siti Roekaeni (Blackburn 1999c: 18).

Notes 229 15 An invitation for Indonesian women to attend a women’s conference in Hawaii in part prompted this, revealing that there was no process for selecting an Indonesian representative (Suratmin et al. 1991: 11). 16 It was organized by Soerwarni Djojoseputro and involved a number of secular women’s groups (Brown 1981: 73–74). 17 The first women’s association was Gerakan Isteri Tiga A. This was replaced by Barisan Pekerja Perempuan Putera, the women’s section of Putera, in March 1943. When Putera was banned in March 1944, Fujinkai became the main women’s organization. Fujinkai groups were first established in November 1943, but became branches of Djawa Hokokai when it was established in March 1944 (Kowani 1986: 83–87). Women’s youth and paramilitary groups, such as Barisan Srikandi, were also established. 18 Waylen (1996a: 70) has argued that colonial liberation movements are not real revolutions in the sense of bringing radical social reconstruction. I am using the term ‘revolution’ as a translation of revolusi and to differentiate this period of fullscale confrontation with the Dutch from the preceding years of the nationalist movement. 19 Organizations formed in 1945 included Persatuan Wanita Republik Indonesia (Perwari); Perkumpulan Pekerja Puteri (Surakarta); Perwani (Persatuan Wanita Indonesia); Wani (Wanita Negara Indonesia); the youth group Gerakan Puteri Indonesia; Gerakan Pemuda Islam Indonesia, an Islamic girls’ organization; and Muslimat Masjumi, the women’s section of Masjumi. In 1946 these organizations were established: Persatuan Wanita Kristen Indonesia (PWKI), women’s section of Partai Kristen Indonesia; Muslimat Nahdlatul Ulama, the women’s section of Partai Nahdlatul Ulama; Partai Wanita Rakjat, Yogyakarta; Persatuan Isteri Tentara Persit Kartika Chandra Kirana; and Barisan Buruh Wanita Klaten, part of Barisan Buruh Indonesia. 20 The Indonesian Red Cross was established on 17 September 1945 (Djajadiningrat 1953: 9). It can be seen as part of the trappings of new statehood and another means of promoting the Indonesian-ness of the new nation–state. 21 Their access to citizenship, however, was denied if they were married to European, Arab, Chinese or other non-Indonesian men (Taylor 1996: 31). Citizenship was based on native-ness, excluding minorities. Children of these marriages were also denied Indonesian citizenship. This demonstrates that Indonesian women were used to reproduce both the members and boundaries of the nation, fulfilling women’s roles in the nation as discussed in Chapter 1.

3 The promise of independence 1 This is in contrast to the First World experience of movement contraction in the 1950s. The 1950s have been viewed as a period spent ‘in the doldrums’ between the first (suffrage) and second (1960s women’s liberation) waves of Western feminism. Western women’s movements in the 1950s have been characterized by contraction, sustaining a limited presence with little widespread activity, mobilization or growth. 2 Wieringa, for example, views such New Order women’s organizations as ‘the perfumed nightmare’ in contrast to the ‘more or less progressive women’s organizations’ of the 1950 to 1965 period (Wieringa 1985: 5). 3 IBI was concerned about the lack of respect for midwives and ran midwifery courses (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 136; IBI 1996: 18). Wanita Persatuan Guru RI provided teacher-training services for women and worked to encourage more women to take on management roles within the teachers’ association (Warnaen, interview, 8 January 1997).



4 A committee was elected at each congress to represent Kongres Wanita Indonesia and make any necessary decisions or statements between congresses. 5 Organizations with one to five branches were entitled to two votes and those with six to ten branches had three votes. Organizations then got one vote for every five branches over ten, up to the maximum allowable number of votes. 6 New Order memories recall a communist plot for Gerwani to take over Kongres Wanita Indonesia. Suryochondro, for example, speaks of the communist women who ‘tried to get hold of leadership’ (Suryochondro, interview, 26 November 1996). Kowani publications also see Gerwani as a disruptive influence (Kowani 1976, cited in Wieringa 1995). It is difficult to know, with memories influenced by political developments since 1960, to what extent this was true. See Wieringa (1995) for an analysis of post-coup constructions of Gerwani.

4 Addressing practical gender interests 1 16 per cent of the government budget was allocated to promoting education (Woodsmall 1960: 198). 2 The Women’s International Club established a scholarship scheme for girls who wanted to enter higher education as a contribution to Indonesia’s development (Sajono 1957). The recipient had to agree to work for at least one year to ensure the ‘development’ of Indonesia in the field in which she was trained (Sajono 1959). 3 It was also observed that one problem facing women was how the household could be well run if the economy was not (Esdees 1951: 17). 4 Jajasan Beribu (Jajasan bersekolah pada Ibu), schooling at home with mother, was a joint initiative undertaken by 12 women’s organizations in Bandung. It was established in 1951 to address the shortage of teachers. ‘The aim of the Jajasan Beribu is to take mothers who can at least read and write and give them an elementary training plus a General Knowledge Course so that they will be able to teach their own children and other children who reside in the same neighbourhood.’ The government provided small subsidies and by September 1953 the group had opened its 13th school and had over 400 pupils. However, it needed more government support to open more schools (Saleh 1953: 8–9, 13). 5 The organizations included Parkiwa, Gerwis, PWKI, Partai Wanita Rakjat, Wanita Katolik, Perwari, GPII Wanita, Muslimat, Gerakan Wanita PSII, PPI, Pembanguan Putri Republik Indonesia, Ikatan Perawat Wanita Indonesia and the Jajasan Kesedjahteraan Anak (Melania), representing all streams. 6 This was compared to much lower rates in the West. In 1948, for example, the US maternal death rate was 0.11 per cent, in the UK it was 0.1 per cent and in the Netherlands 0.12 per cent. 7 By 1968 Kowani had listed family planning as one of the areas of education proposed as part of a strategy to improve family well-being (Kowani 1969: 21). 8 These included Hurustiati Soebandrio, Nani Soewondo and M. Hutasoit. 9 Contributors to a family-planning booklet that sought to include the views of all sectors of Indonesian society, for example, discussed family planning from the perspective of population density and national development. None tackled it as an issue of women’s rights and only a few mentioned any concern for women’s health (Soemartono 1960). 10 The New Order family-planning programme was one of many national population-control schemes criticized for threatening women’s health and reproductive rights because of its level of compulsion and the lack of contraceptive choice (Smyth 1998: 221). 11 Diah was the first Indonesian woman to study in the US and therefore received media attention when she returned to Indonesia in 1941.

Notes 231

5 Representing women in a new democracy 1 The Dutch would only agree to transfer sovereignty to a federal state. The Republic of the United States of Indonesia was therefore founded, of which the Republic of Indonesia was one member-state. Following the transfer of sovereignty, Indonesian leaders moved quickly to form a unified state. 2 From the proclamation of independence, Indonesia’s constitutional history is complicated. The first constitution was that of 1945. A more detailed provisional constitution was drafted for the United States of Indonesia in 1949, with provision for an elected constitutional body to prepare a new constitution. The 1949 Constitution became the basis for the 1950 Provisional Constitution, which was in force until Sukarno’s 1959 decree for the return to the 1945 constitution. 3 There was, for example, no incorporation of representation, minority rights, rights of individuals or institutionalized opposition (Feith 1962: 38–40). 4 There were two major rebellions in 1950s Indonesia: Darul Islam, a movement with strongholds in West Java, Aceh and South Sulawesi that was seeking to establish an Islamic state; and the PRRI (West Sumatra) and Permesta (North Sulawesi) revolts, which were battles for greater regional autonomy from the Jakarta national leadership. See also Chapter 8. 5 Indonesians had previously lived under the authoritarian police states of the Dutch and Japanese (Ricklefs 1993: 237) and from 1945 to 1949 had been preoccupied with fighting for the survival of the republic (Feith 1971: 7). The regimes that followed were also authoritarian, until 1999 when Indonesia began a new phase of democratization. Few Indonesians have had the opportunity to freely participate in politics except in the 1950s and the post-Suharto era. 6 Masjumi had 21 per cent; the next highest was the PKI (Communist Party) with 16 per cent (Ricklefs 1993: 242). 7 These were the PNI (Nationalist), Masjumi and NU (Islamic), and PKI (Communist). 8 Cabinet transitions were accompanied by women’s organizations lobbying to ensure representation of women’s interests. Following the 1953 fall of the Wilopo cabinet, for example, Perwari and Gerwani lobbied Ki Sarmadidi Mangunsarkoro and Moh. Rum, who were the first invited to form a new cabinet. When this did not eventuate and discussions moved to Mukarto, Partai Wanita Rakjat lobbied Mukarto for a women’s programme to be included (S.P.B. 1953). 9 Women headed the departments of Community Health and Health Education, as well as the Foreign Relations Department of the Ministry of Information, and served as deputies in the UN and International Organizations division of the Foreign Office and the Civil Law Department of the Ministry of Justice. 10 Supeni Pudjobuntoro (Poedjobuntoro) was a prolific writer on women and politics. She was a member of the provisional parliament and was elected to the DPR in 1955 as a PNI representative. As a member of the government election committee, she travelled to various countries to observe elections in practice. She paid particular attention to women in general elections, publishing Wanita Dan Pemilihan Umum in 1954 (Pudjobuntoro 1954a), in which she analysed women in Indian and US elections, as well as the Indonesian regional elections in Minahasa and Yogyakarta, and problems for Indonesian women’s organizations. 11 In 1951 only 3.5 per cent of the National Assembly members were women. In Norway female representation was less than 5 per cent, although in West Germany it was 9.2 per cent (Duverger 1955: 84, 86). In Australia there were only 5 women among the 234 parliamentarians and senators who held office between 1951 and 1956 (Commonwealth Parliamentary Library 1957). The Indonesian women’s press often compared the favourable number of women in parliament with the situation in other countries, such as the Philippines with only two female



members of parliament (Wanita 1956b), as Chapter 7 discusses. In 1987 the global average of female members in national legislatures was still only 10 per cent (Waylen 1996a: 11). 12 Women held 5 of PKI’s 39 seats, 5 of NU’s 45 seats, and there were 4 women out of 57 members for both PNI and Masjumi. One of the five PSI representatives was a woman but there were none from the other parties that held eight and less seats. This further confirms the observation that women were placed lower in candidate lists as, with the exception of PSI, it was only the parties with a large number of seats that had women MPs. 13 The story related to a male MP refusing to work with a woman MP in the Central Java regional parliament (see Joesoepadi 1951). Former Gerwani members recalled another case where Sarawati, a chairperson of Gerwani who was a member of the East Java parliament, brought a knife into the house after another deputy made a speech against women’s rights in 1958 (‘Kartini’, interview, 22 December 1996). However, such cases appear isolated. 14 Pancasila is the five basic principles that form the ideological basis of the Republic of Indonesia. These five principles are belief in God, just and civilised humanity, the unity of Indonesia, democracy, and social justice.

6 Confronting the state 1 The 1847 Burgelijk Wetboek, duplicating Dutch marriage laws, governed marriages of Europeans and Chinese, and a 1933 ordinance regulated marriage within Indonesian Christian communities. 2 Under Islamic law a man can obtain a divorce by issuing a talak three times before (male) witnesses. The wife does not have to be present and may only know of her divorce after the event. After the first or second talak, a rujuk (reconciliation) is possible, but the divorce is final after the third talak. It was much harder for women. A taklik, a marriage contract stipulating conditions under which a divorce would be automatic, allowed women to initiate divorce, but only under certain conditions. The taklik had to be part of the Islamic marriage ceremony and was not common. Grounds for divorce included cruel treatment, desertion or the husband’s failure to pay maintenance or fulfil his duties as a husband for three months (Noor 1954: 11, 12). 3 Soewondo, a lawyer, was active in several organizations including Perwari and the Indonesian Federation of University Women. She was a member of various committees on marriage law and vice-chairperson of Kongres Wanita Indonesia in 1955. Her other main area of advocacy was family planning, with her becoming the first vice-president of the Indonesian Family Planning association. Soewondo regularly represented Indonesian women internationally and was a prolific writer in women’s magazines. 4 2.3 per cent had two wives, 0.1 per cent had three wives and only 0.03 per cent had four wives (Nitisastro 1970: 85). According to Jones (1994: 269), 92.7 per cent of polygamous marriages involved two wives, 6.2 per cent involved three wives and 1.1 per cent of polygamous households had four wives. 5 This had dropped to 11 per cent by 1965, 5.2 per cent in 1970 and only 1.1 per cent in 1990. 6 It is interesting to note that while Indonesian women were trying to get greater control on divorce, women in other societies were engaged in long battles to legalize divorce (see Kinnear 1997: 46), a reminder of the complexities of ‘women’s interests’. Related to this is the advantage arbitrary divorce offered to some women. Jones (1994: 307) suggests easy divorce worked as an ‘escape valve’ in the system of arranged marriages and could be initiated by the husband at the wife’s request.

Notes 233 7 Members included Nani Soewondo, Maria Ullfah Soebadio and Sujatin Kartowijono from the Perwari stream, Kwari Sostrosumarto from Wanita Katolik, and Mahmudal Mawardi representing Islamic women’s groups (Wieringa 1995: 142). 8 In fact the bill that was to be discussed was not a new marriage bill but the 1946 regulation on registration. Women MPs refused to discuss this law, arguing instead for the NTR Committee’s draft (Wieringa 1995: 147). 9 Dutch colonial regulations (Staatsblad 1931 No. 473 and Staatsblad 1940 No. 419) made civil servants with multiple wives nominate one wife to receive the pension. In 1950 the Republic of Indonesia introduced PP 40, which still paid only one pension but stated that the pension was to be divided evenly between the widows (Poedjoboentoro 1952: 314). 10 Each male civil servant had to contribute 7 per cent of his pay to the scheme and female civil servants gave 2 per cent. Men practising polygamy had to pay an additional 2 per cent for each wife to a total of 4 per cent (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 127). 11 The statement was made on behalf of Wanita Katolik, Isteri Sedar, Bhayangkari, Persit, PWKI, Sehati, Ikatan Perawat Wanita Indonesia, Perwari, PIKT, IKAL and Pertiwi. 12 Hartini did not take on any role as First Lady. Although she tried in 1963 to have a women’s congress consider a resolution to accept her as Ibu Negara, Sukarno removed her from the meeting so it could not be discussed (Legge 1972: 334). Legge claims Sukarno’s decision not to advance Hartini to the position of First Lady was the result of a promise to Guntur, his son by Fatmawati, and does not touch on the campaign of women’s organizations on this issue (Legge 1972: 278).

7 Women’s international interests 1 In particular, women are increasingly taking on military roles and serving their nation–state in wars and peacekeeping missions. It has been argued that for women to claim full citizenship rights, they must accept full citizenship responsibilities, including bearing arms (Pettman 1993: 54). It is interesting to observe that at the very time when more women are serving in military roles around the world, such service is becoming a professionalized occupation rather than a citizenship duty (Yuval-Davis 1997: 90). 2 I would suggest that the experience of Third World women is excluded from interpretations of global feminism in much the same way as their history of national organizing falls outside conventional (Western-centric) accounts of women’s mobilization. These identify a first wave (suffrage phase) and second wave (feminist phase) in the history of women’s movements, which denies the reality of non-European histories (see Chapters 1 and 3). 3 As discussed in Chapter 2, Indonesian women were also considered auxiliary members of the nationalist movement. Colonized women were marginalized in both gender and national movements. 4 This does not mean there were no differences or conflicts among European and North American women, but that the cultures and political backgrounds were relatively homogenous. 5 See, for example, Mazumdar (1977), Minh-ha (1987), Mitchell (1994) and hooks (1996). A legacy of this period of interactions among women from different nation–states has been an ongoing examination of feminism and difference that questions whether international feminism is possible. 6 Most noticeably Leili Rusad, Indonesia’s first woman ambassador, who was appointed Indonesia’s ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg in 1959. Women served at diplomatic missions (including the republic’s unofficial missions during









the 1945–1949 revolution) and entered the diplomat training school in Jakarta (although there were questions raised about whether they were training to be diplomats or diplomats’ wives), as well as joining government delegations to the UN and other official missions. A 1958 Kongres Wanita Indonesia report, however, suggests they resigned over procedural points. It states that they withdrew from Kowani because they wanted Kowani to act as a contact body rather than an organization and demanded all decisions to be taken by unanimous vote, which was rejected by the congress (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 41). Nevertheless, Kowani’s WIDF membership was clearly opposed by Islamic sections of the women’s movement. Political Islam and communism had a long history of conflict within the Indonesian nationalist movement. That this became increasingly disruptive during the Parliamentary Democracy period was reflected in the women’s movement. Wanita Katolik joined the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations in 1957 (Wanita Katolik 1988: 40). Perhimpunan Wanita Universitas di Indonesia, the Indonesian Association of University Women, joined the International Federation of University Women (Woodman 1955: 233). Perwari was approached by numerous organizations seeking to develop relations, including the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, League of Women Voters (US), and the International Alliance of Women (Soekanto 1953b: 15). The Indonesian Association of Nurses was affiliated with the International Council of Nurses (Woodsmall 1960: 231). Gerwani delegates were invited to visit the USSR by the Soviet Women’s Committee, Czechoslovakia by the Czechoslovakian Women’s Committee, and China by the All-China Federation of Democratic Women (Gerwani 1955: 22). Sujatin Kartowijono was invited by the US Information Service (USIS) to visit the US on a leaders’ exchange programme in 1957 and, as chair of Perwari, was invited to visit China in 1959 (Kartowijono 1983: 138, 192). Nani Suwondo was invited to the regional meeting of the International Federation of University Women and the Pan Pacific Women’s Association Conference, both in Manila in January/February 1955 (Suwondo 1955b: 197). She also attended a conference for Asian women on the ‘Responsibilities of Freedom’, held in the US in 1956 (Suwondo 1956: 329), and was invited by the Australian National Council of Women to visit Australia to address women’s organizations in 1958 (Suwondo 1958c: 214). Nani Suwondo, for example, sent a paper on ‘The role of women in the development of Indonesia’ to the 30th session of the International Institute of Differing Civilizations Conference, which was held in Brussels in September 1958. Reporting on this, Vreede-de Stuers noted somewhat despairingly that ‘there were more masculine faces to be seen than feminine, more white faces than coloured ones’ and regretted that ‘the Asiatic and African women-participants were so few in number, to explain in person their problems and ideals’ (Vreede-de Stuers 1958: 209, 211). There were two representatives from Islamic organizations on the 1954 study tour of the US, compared with five from the secular women’s rights stream, and no Islamic organizations were represented in the ten woman tour of the USSR (Islamic opposition to communism may have been a contributory factor) (Kongres Wanita Indonesia 1958: 52). Of nine women selected by Kongres Wanita Indonesia to attend the 1958 Asia–Africa Women’s Conference, only one represented an Islamic group; six were from the secular women’s rights stream (Vreede-de Stuers 1960: 123). It should be noted that the opportunity to travel was generally welcomed. When S.R. Tambunan wrote about the US leg of her ‘world tour’, she noted that ‘I had been dreaming about America since my youth and here it was in all its beauty

Notes 235 and splendour’ (Tambunan 1957: 8). Sujatin Kartowijono asked ‘Who wouldn’t want to go to Paris?’ (Kartowijono 1983: 186). Travelling and attending so many meetings was, however, acknowledged to be tiring work (Suwondo 1958c: 214–215). 13 During this period, the very notion of ‘Indonesian dress’ was in fact being created. Every region of Indonesia had its own form of dress, but a new national Indonesian dress was being developed based on the Javanese style. 14 They drew attention to Israeli, English and French actions against Egypt during the Suez crisis, Russian aggression in Hungary and French opposition to the independence movements in Algiers and Morocco.

8 Unity in diversity 1 The 14 groups are the Acehnese, Batak, Minangkabau, Coastal Malay, Sundanese, Javanese, Madurese, Balinese, Dayaks, Makasarese, Buginese, Torajas, Menadonese and Ambonese. 2 PKI, PNI and NU were primarily based in Java. It was only Masjumi that attracted more widespread support. 3 Although cultural belief also says women should be honoured and have an important role in giving birth to the next generation. 4 Women who fought against the Dutch included Pancai Tana Bunga Walie, Indok Caba and Opu Daeng Risaju; they reputedly played similar roles to those of Cut Nya Dien, Christina Martha Tianhuhu and Raden Ayu Agung Serang (Nursina 1982: 23–25). It is interesting to note that these fighters from South Sulawesi have not been incorporated into the history of the national women’s movement as tokoh in the way their counterparts from Java, Sumatra, have been (see Chapter 2), which suggests the marginalization of South Sulawesi. 5 It was important for the Dutch to reclaim Makasar as this was to be showcased as their puppet state, supporting demands that Indonesia become a federal state and demonstrating that not all regions wanted to embrace the republic. 6 Central government prioritized administration, the economy, and law and order, and looked for appropriate education levels in their appointees. In the case of South Sulawesi, where few people had received a formal education, this meant appointing the pro-Dutch and colonial elites or Javanese, creating resentment that contributed to the regional unrest (Amal 1992: 32, 46; Harvey 1985: 227). 7 Maria Walanda-Maramis was proclaimed a national hero on 20 May 1969 (Walanda and Matuli 1989: 88) and appears in Kongres Wanita Indonesia (Kowani 1986: 35–36) as a tokoh of women’s mobilization. 8 From 1970 all social movements working in cooperation with the GMIM were brought under formal church structures and control. The PKIKM has since been known as Komisis Pelyayanan Wanita Kaum Ibu and Kaum Ibu GMIM (Sinsuw-Gundung 1994: 1). 9 She later stood, unsuccessfully, in the 1979 elections for Governor of North Sulawesi, Indonesia’s first female candidate for Provincial Governor (Watuseke and Watuseke, interview, 10 March 1997). 10 Dissident Islamic militias based in West Java proclaimed the Islamic State of Indonesia on 7 August 1949 and fought an ongoing guerrilla war until the 1960s. By 1950 they controlled one third of West Java, mainly concentrated in the remote highland areas (Kahin 1999: 175). 11 See Harvey (1977) and Kahin (1999) for a comprehensive overview of the events that led to the regional rebellion in Sulawesi and Sumatra, and for description of the course of the armed revolt.


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Aisjijah 13, 37, 39, 64, 79, 85, 86, 91, 129, 134, 157, 163, 187, 213 Arab women 38, 69 arisans 95 Army: role in state 62, 101; wives’ organization see Persit Asia–Africa Women’s Conference 73, 158, 166, 167, 171 Bali 6, 178, 180, 181–187; Balinese identity 185–187; Balinese women’s organizations 182–187 Batak women 179 Bhanyangkari 60, 62, 63, 73, 109, 126, 132, 177 Chinese women 38, 68–69 Christian women’s organizations 64–65, 130, 188–189, 193–196, 215–216; see also PKIKM; PWKI; Wanita Katolik citizenship: and women 25–27; Indonesian women’s understandings of 56–57; 74, 78–79, 96, 97–98, 106, 124, 166, 184, 204, 206 Cold War: and women 163, 171–172 communism: role in the state 57, 62 communist/socialist women’s organizations 65, 107–108, 128, 163, 216–217; see also Gerwani concubinage 36 conferences: women’s international 72, 156, 158–159, 162, 169; women’s regional 177, 179, 191–192; see also Asia–Africa Women’s Conference congresses, Indonesian women’s 40–42, 49, 52, 55, 56, 70, 72, 73, 78, 107, 176 Constituent Assembly 117–118; dissolution of 119–120

constitution and women’s rights 55, 81, 103–104, 118 constitutional debate 117–120 Darul Islam 17, 190 democracy: and gender 27–29, 114; Indonesian 56–57, 100–103, 105 democratization 4, 8–9, 27, 56, 75, 106, 207, 208 development agenda, national 77–79, 82, 87; and women’s organizations 79–80, 85–87, 88, 168 Diah, Herawati 95, 156 divorce 34–35, 126; incidence (1950s) 124, 128; Islamic 123 dress, women’s 46, 164–165, 167, 183, 186 Dutch women 38, 155, 156 economic situation 44, 77–79, 93, 184, 198 education: citizenship duties 75, 82–84, 105–106; girls’ 33–34, 84, 181–182; health 89; political 65; religious 64, 85; rights and laws 72, 81; teacher shortages 78; vocational 33, 84; and women’s organizations 39–40, 41, 49, 80–86, 105–106, 168, 182–183, 188–189, 193–195; see also literacy campaigns; motherhood elections: Minahasa (1951) 114–115; national (1955) 102–103, 113, 191, 195; and women 28, 72, 109–110, 168; women candidates 109, 110, 111, 113, 115; Yogyakarta (1951) 106, 114–115 employment, women’s 35–36, 67, 72, 73, 95–97



family planning 90–92; and Islam 91–92, 163; and the state 90–92 Fatmawati 125, 135, 136–137, 143 Fujinkai 44, 183 Gerwani 9–10, 59, 60, 65, 71, 73, 79, 85, 86, 89, 94, 95, 96, 109, 118, 120, 128, 131, 132, 136, 157, 163, 164, 165, 170, 172, 186, 189–190, 216–217 GMIM (Gereja Masehi Injili Minahasa) 180, 193, 195–196 Gowani 191–192 Guided Democracy 29, 101 Hartini 135–137 health: infant mortality 92–93; maternal 87–88, 194; system 78; and women’s organizations 33, 88–89, 93, 185, 195 Hinduism: and the state 186 identity 11, 21, 37; Indonesian women’s 41, 46, 48, 74, 79, 61, 124, 144, 165–169, 193–194, 203–205; see also national identity Ikatan Bidan Indonesia 67, 177, 221 Indonesian foreign policy 158, 164 Indonesian independence 8, 45–46, 48–49, 156, 164; and the women’s movement 46–48, 55–59, 164–166 Indonesian Planned Parenthood Association 90–91 Indonesian Revolution see Revolusi international relations (IR): and gender 150–151, 166–167, 169–171 international women’s conferences 72, 156, 158–159, 162, 169; see also Asia–Africa Women’s Conference Irian Barat/Irian Jaya see West Irian Islam: and the state 57, 67, 102, 119, 130, 138–139, 140–141, 142 Islamic state, campaign for 64, 102, 108, 119, 144 Islamic women’s organizations 37–38, 42, 63–64, 108, 128–130, 134, 157, 162–163, 189, 213–215 Japanese Occupation 43–45; Bali 183; and mobilization of women 44; South Sulawesi 187 Javanization 175–176, 198 Kalimantan 178 Kartini 31–32, 34–35; and women’s demands 56

Kartowijono, Sujatin 131, 136, 167, 170, 178 Kongres Wanita Indonesia 5, 13, 49, 70–71, 79–80, 84, 94, 95, 105, 107, 119, 125, 130, 132–133, 157, 158, 162, 164, 172, 176, 201 Konstituante see Constituent Assembly labour legislation 97 literacy campaigns 72, 73, 82, 85, 86, 191 marriage: child 34–35, 49, 115, 123, 126, 129, 192; forced 34–35, 182, 192 marriage bills 132, 138–139 marriage consultation bureaus 130–131 marriage law 24, 49, 56, 123, 124, 185, 195; parliamentary debates 138, 139–140 marriage law reform: anti-polygamy 126–128; Christian women’s organizations 130; communist/ socialist women’s organizations 128; demands for 35, 49, 72, 73, 123, 131–133, 134, 143–144, 167, 169, 178, 182, 184, 192; divisions in the movement 125, 130, 134, 144; Islamic women’s organizations 128–130 Members of Parliament, women 49, 104, 114, 116, 132–133, 139, 143, 167 Minahasa, North Sulawesi 6, 180, 192–196 Minangkabau, West Sumatra 178 motherhood 17, 20, 105, 167–170; and citizenship 25, 98, 206; and education 34, 83–84, 93; and the nation 18, 41, 74, 80, 92, 206 Muslimat NU 59, 64, 73, 85, 94, 129, 214–215 national identity: Indonesian 47, 58, 60, 68; international recognition of 48, 58, 68, 157, 160, 164, 165, 179 nationalism 15–16, 23; Indonesian 16–17, 23, 37, 44, 56, 58, 78; and Indonesian women’s movement 37, 43, 50–51, 59, 60, 72, 75, 98–99, 165, 187, 193–194, 204, 208; and women 15, 17–21, 22, 31, 36, 46, 209 nationalist women’s organizations 66, 107, 217–219 New Order 8, 10, 62, 144–145, 210 Noor, Jetty Rizali 14 North Sulawesi see Minahasa NTR Committee 125, 132, 138

Index 263 pancasila 49, 119 Parliament and women see women and politics; Members of Parliament, women Partai Wanita Indonesia 60, 66, 101, 112, 219–220 PBS (Puteri Bali Sadar) 182–183 Permesta rebellion 198–201; and women 199–201 Persit 13, 60, 73, 86, 126, 132, 135, 136, 137, 176–177 Perwari 13, 49, 58, 59, 66–67, 73, 79, 84, 86, 90–91, 94–95, 110, 111, 120, 126–127, 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, 157, 162, 164, 169, 177, 206, 220–221 PIKAT (Percintaan Ibu Kepada Anak Temurunnja) 39, 176, 193–194 PKIKM (Pergerakan Kaum Ibu Kristen Minahasa) 193–195, 201 polygamy 34–35, 38, 41–42, 123, 195; Balinese polygamy 178, 184; incidence (1950s) 124, 127; and Islamic women 41–42, 129, 134, 136–137, 142–143; male defence of (1950s) 127, 141–142; proposed regulation 42, 139; and the state 133–136; Sukarno’s polygamous marriage 134–137, 184, 196; women’s opposition to 34–35, 42, 126–127, 133–134, 139, 184 PP 19 133–134 PPI (Pemuda Puteri Indonesia) 60, 66–67, 112, 220 professional women’s organizations 67, 221 prostitution 36, 41, 45, 185, 194 provisional parliament (1950–1955) 101–102 PWKI (Persatuan Wanita Kristen Indonesia) 64, 179, 188–189, 215 PWP (Pasukan Wanita Permesta) 199–200 regional rebellion 9, 17, 190, 197–201; women’s opposition to 117, 201; women’s participation in 199–201 Revolusi 46, 188; women’s participation 46–48, 183, 188, 193 Santoso, Maria Ulfah (later Maria Ulfah Soebadio) 5, 42, 49, 71 social welfare: women’s activities 40, 47, 58, 73, 92–93, 182, 188–190, 193, 194, 201

Soebadio see Santoso, Maria Ulfah South Sulawesi 6, 180, 187–192 suffrage 43, 55, 102–103, 106, 155 Sukarno 15, 34, 101; divorce 125; polygamous marriage 134–137, 196 Sukarnoputri, Megawati 210 Suwondo, Nani 123, 128, 135, 160, 167, 177 Third World: citizenship 26; states 24; women 3–4, 11, 23; see also women’s movements Trimurti, S.K. 49, 128 village women 69, 82, 89 Vreede-de Stuers, Cora 9–10, 55, 123 Wanita Demokrat Indonesia 86, 126, 133, 134, 218 Wanita Katolik 39, 59, 60, 64, 73, 94, 108, 177, 215–216 West Irian: struggle for 73, 116, 164–166, 170, 171, 179, 191 WIDF (Women’s International Democratic Front) 156, 157, 165, 170, 171, 172 wives’ organizations 62–63, 67, 85, 108, 211–213 women and politics 1–2, 8–9, 27–28, 41, 50, 103–113, 116–117, 120–121, 131–133, 144–145; see also democracy; elections; Members of Parliament, women women and the state 22, 24; in Indonesia 26–27, 48–49, 56–57, 78, 79–80, 85–87, 88, 90–92, 93, 97–99, 104–105, 116–118, 131–133, 163, 165–167, 194, 207 women’s banks and cooperatives 94–95, 195 Women’s Charter 73, 96 women’s interests 11–12, 22, 33, 34, 50, 74, 79, 87, 122, 131, 204 Women’s International Club 13, 67–68, 160–161, 164 women’s movement, Indonesian: agenda 33–36, 41, 49–50, 57, 59–61, 72–75, 78–82, 87, 93–94, 105, 116, 118, 123–125, 130, 131,158, 163, 165, 168, 176–179, 182–185, 188–196; divisions within 41–42, 49, 61–62, 70–71, 107, 119, 125–130, 136–137, 162, 204–205, 209; membership 13, 59–70



women’s movements: definition of 4, 11, 12, 31, 59, 69; first wave 7, 152–153; international 150, 152–155; second wave 7, 153; Third World 4, 7, 15, 20, 59–60, 156, 158 women’s organizations, Indonesian: membership 13, 38, 61; nationalization 60, 71; regional

39, 176–180, 196–197 (Bali 182–187; Minahasa 192–196; South Sulawesi 188–192); structure 59–60; types 37–39, 59–70 women’s press, Indonesian (1950s): 13, 40, 83, 89, 93, 105, 106, 117, 123, 131, 133, 143, 161, 166, 168–169, 178–179, 180