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Saturday, 07 June 2014 08:56

Initiative and Strategy of Civil Society in advocating for Women’s Sexuality Issue Study area: Java and Sumatra

Semarak Cerlang Nusa – Consultancy, Research and Education for Social Transformation (SCN-CREST)

Women Reclaiming and Redefining Culture (WRRC)


A. Rationale

For many Indonesian women, sexuality is a strugle, as women’s sexuality commonly used to disempower women. The recent example is when Julia Perez, Indonesian actress and adult magazine model, was candidating for Head of District Pacitan – East Java. There were many refusal from civil society. The arguments of refusal was not her leadership incapability or intelectual capacity as leader. The argument was as a woman Julia Perez does not allowed to be leaders, and on top of all as an actress Julia Perez considered immoral. She shows her sesuality and frequently becomes adult magazine. In this case, her seductive behaviour and sexy clothes becomes the standard of immorality. Interestingly, the double standard apply to poligamist men. 


B. Objectives 

The objectives of this study are as bellow: 

  1. To identify civil society organization or group who are advocating for women’s sexuality issues;
  2. To identify the range of women sexuality issues that is advocated by civil society organization or group;
  3. To identify the capacity building needed by civil organization or group in advocating women’s sexuality issues. 


C. Sexuality framework

  1. Sexuality is perspective, way of thinking and behaviour that is resulted from the social construction process and evolving from time to time (Derrida: 1981). This construction is about becoming and performing feminine or masculine, so that women or men are accepted by constucted society (Butler: 1999)
  2. Women sexuality the construction of and constructed through power (Foucault: 1997), and the construction is contested not for women interest. 
  3. Knowledge of sexuality is produce and reproduce that in the end creates common knowledge and behaviour. Hence, within unequal society contexts, the unequality remains (Foucault: 1997)
  4. In a context where the sexuality construction is disadvantaging and disempowering women, intervention is needed to be taken. To endorse the equality, elimate the discriminations against women. Thus it is important to consider women’s experiences in this particular advocacy. 


D. Methodology

The method in this mapping is qualitative. This method is expected to give indepth description on civil society efforts on women’s sexuality. While the sampling method is using Snowball Sampling (Bola Salju) , this method is to identify the potential subject in the mapping.  This method is choosen realizing that many civil society who focuses on sexuality has not categorizing their effort as sexuality. In addition to that, sexuality issues considered as taboo issues. Therefore, be very open in sexuality might threatening the activist. 


E. Findings

This research is a qualitative study with feminist perspective. The data was collected through interviews and focus group discussions. Below, are brief findings of the study that is divided into few sections. The first is Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), who advocating on women’s sexuality issues, and its relation with the comperehension on sexuality concept; Second, the range of sexuality issues taken; Third, challenges and CSOs dilemas in advocating women sexuality issues that can be considered as area of capacity building needed. 


The CSOs who are advocating women’s sexuality issues

At least there are 15 organizations in Java and 22 organizations in Sumatra that is advocating for women’s sexuality issues. Some of them identify themselves as women’s organizations, while other are LGBT, HIV/AIDS or university research institution. 


The range of issues taken: 

The range of CSOs who are advocating for sexuality issues are very wide. The focuses of the organizations who considered themselves advocating for sexuality issues are:  Health, women healthcare, reproductive health, and medication for women with HIV/AIDS; Economic, economi empowerment through saving schemes; Politics:  women’s political representation in decision making process; Sexual Orientation Rights, usually LGBT; Violence, women legal aid, women conseling and shelters services, also the prostituted women. The study also finds the intersections on the issues. 


The study identifies three diverse comprehension on women sexuality concept. First, women sexuality concept is very broad and complex, it covers sexual arrousal and erotism, sexual orientation, and gender performativity; Second, sexuality is genital and reproductive organs including its function. Last opinion, sexuality is women’s feeling of love and intimacy that is attached to a person from birth. Those comprehensions relates to the background and focus of each organizations.


Strategies taken in women’s sexuality advocacy 

The organizations use different strategies, again it is based on their focus and field area. Particular strategy might appropriate to moslem boarding school students, but might not appropriate to urban poor community. The study finds five strategies taken by the organisations and those are: 


  1. Covering the women’s sexuality issues: Other issues as entrance and religion as protection: Some issues that is used as entrance are economic empowerment and reproductive health. Then, the organizations address the inequality issues through discussions or consultations. One of the reasons is to avoid the resistance from the women and society. Religion can also be protection from the resistance, usually the organizations relate the sexuality issues with article in holy book or provide alternative interpretation. 
  2. Policy advocacy: the advocacy is for local and national policy. The advocacy includes legal drafting, proposing new policy, proposing policy revision, and monitoring the implementation. 
  3. Case handling: this includes the providing shelters, conseling, and cases litigation or non-litigation process. 
  4. Support group: the support group is divided into internal and external the organization. The external support group consists of academician, religious leaders, social leaders, and other groups who concern on women sexuality issues. While the internal support group usually peer group among the survivors. 
  5. Survivors as agent of change: this strategy is part of survivors empowerment. The organizations consider that survivors have more emphaty to other survivor, and her experience will help them understand the victims’s situation. 


The Challenges 

The CSOs commonly face challenges, that effects their achievement in advocating for sexuality issues, and those are: 


General challenges, it is commonly experiences accross the CSOs in Indonesia:  

  1. The sporadic movement of women sexuality’s focussed CSOs, that might be resulted from the diverse comprehension of sexuality concept. Some organizations, such as Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) organization or HIV/AIDS are rarely relating their issues with women and gender issue, or put power relations as key analysis. In addition to that, some CSOs have partial understanding on women sexuality issues, that reflects on refusal to discuss LBGT or polygami issues. 
  2. The strengthening of fundamentalism issues, particularly the moslem fundamentalism movement. This movement commonly targeting LGBT groups or prostituted women. However it is also against the sexual education, women leaderships, or women’s dress code. 


Particular challenges, it is considering the subject of advocacy

  1. Beneficiaries, most of beneficiaries are constructed by bias sexuality concept. This may influence the effectiveness of advocacy or even make the unequality worst. 
  2. Beneficiaries family: similarly to the beneficiaries, the family are unaware of equal sexuality concept. Therefore blaming the victims is commonly happened during the case litigation process.  
  3. Government: beside the fact that government perspective is commonly constructed by the disadvantaging women sexuality concept, the study finds contradictions between institutions. 


CSOs dillema

  1. Against the culture and religion, realizing that advocating women’s sexuality issues is also advocating for cultural and religion, most of CSOs aware on the threat they have to face. In this situation, some of the activists may struggle with their own beliefs that might influence their decision to stay or leave the movement.
  2. Pro-Life or Pro-Choice, classical debate that is faced by the CSOs as the Indonesian government does not provide the facilities needed for every options. In many cases, pro-choice CSOs might be facing criminalization. 


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Additional Info

  • Publised Year: 2010
  • Publication Type: Research Report
  • Topic: Gender analysis

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