Strippers Arrested in Indonesia
Toronto Sun, 1/6/10 - Indonesian authorities will prosecute four exotic dancers arrested at clubs on New Year’s Eve for allegedly violating a new anti-pornography law, a police spokesman said Wednesday.
The female dancers and two male club managers were detained in Bandung, a city southeast of the capital, Jakarta, said West Java provincial police spokesman Col. Dade Ahmad. They appeared to have been preparing for a striptease and “were wearing sexy clothing,” Ahmad said, when the police raided the Bellair Cafe and the Music Lounge after midnight.
Indonesia’s 2008 anti-pornography law was pushed through parliament by conservative Muslim parties, but opposed by rights groups that argue it criminalizes traditional dance and art, particularly in far flung provinces where partial nudity is culturally accepted.
Police confiscated skimpy underwear and nearly $200 in cash believed to have been from tips, Ahmad said, adding that they could be sentenced to prison terms of five to 10 years if convicted.
Ahmad said the six will be the first people prosecuted under the law in Bandung, where the mayor recently announced a crackdown on behaviour considered un-Islamic. It is unclear if it has been applied elsewhere in the country.
“They are not criminals; they are only the victims of female exploitation,” said Ellin Rozana, a women’s rights activist in Bandung who will help defend the dancers. “The fear we had about this law being misused to criminalize women has become reality.”
Bandung Mayor Dada Rosada told reporters earlier Wednesday he was also considering revoking the cafes’ operating permits.
Ninety per cent of Indonesia’s 235 million citizens are Muslim, most practicing a moderate form of the faith. But many of its islands have large Christian and Hindu populations and some women in tribal regions, like Papua, still go topless.
Indonesian Lawmakers Pass Porn Bill
AP, 10/31/08 - Indonesia's parliament passed a bill banning pornography Thursday, ignoring opposition from lawmakers and rights groups who worry it will be used to justify attacks on artistic, religious and cultural freedom.
More than 100 legislators stormed out ahead of the vote saying that -- while the bill's final version removed contentious clauses regulating dress and social behavior -- it went against the country's tradition of diversity.
Ninety percent of Indonesia's 235 million citizens are Muslim, most practicing a moderate form of the faith. But many of its islands have large Christian and Hindu populations and some women in tribal regions, like Papua, still go topless.
A small group of hard-line Islamist parties argued that globalization was chipping away at the country's moral fiber and dusted off an anti-pornography bill originally drafted in 1999.
They were forced to revise it several times, dropping a ban on bikinis at tourist resorts, for instance.
The version that eventually passed Thursday focuses instead on the dissemination of material that contains pornographic images, gestures or even conversations. Violators can be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison and fined up to $750,000.
"We're worried it will be used by hard-liners who say they want to control morality," said Baby Jim Aditya, a women's rights activist, noting that the bill allows ordinary people to play a role in preventing pornography. "It could be used to divide communities."
Minister of Religious Affairs Maftuh Basyuni insisted that the bill, which must be signed by the president before taking effect, would protect women and children against exploitation.
Members of two parties -- the second-largest Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and the smaller Christian-based Prosperous Peace Party, which together have 20 percent of the 550 seats in Parliament -- disagreed.
They walked out ahead of the vote in protest.
"The public strongly opposes this bill," Cahyo Kumolo from the PDIP told lawmakers, pointing to street rallies in recent weeks that have drawn thousands. "We don't want to be involved in the process of adopting it into law."
Indonesian Lawmakers Delay Passage of Porn Bill
Australasia World News, 9/20/80 - Alarmed by widespread opposition, Indonesian lawmakers have delayed passage of a controversial anti-pornography bill that critics say would hurt local cultural traditions, lawmakers and media reports said Friday. The anti-smut bill aims to shield the young from pornographic material and lewd acts, but also contains provisions that could jail people for kissing in public and criminalize many forms of art or traditional culture that hinge on sensuality.
Some political parties are hoping for its approval this month when the final draft is tabled in parliament. An Islamic party lawmaker has said the bill would be a Ramadan gift.
The fasting month of Ramadan began on September 1 and ends with Eid el-Fitr celebrations a month later.
House special committee chairman Balkan Kaplale confirmed Friday that the schedule for a plenary session to endorse the bill will be "postponed," because the committee needed to extend the deliberation period to get more input from the public.
"We still need to hold a series of discussions to gather further input after we have conducted public assessment in four provinces. We have set up a technical team to discuss the assessment results," Yoyoh Yusroh, a member of the special committee deliberating the bill, was quoted as saying by The Jakarta Post.
Eva Kusuma Sundari, a lawmaker from the Indonesian Democratic Party Struggle (PDIP), one of two parties opposing the bill, said: "We will make sure that the people's voice to oppose the bill is accommodated."
The PDIP of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, along with the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), have opposed the bill and both walked out of deliberations during the previous plenary session. Eight other factions at parliament, including Islamic hard-line lawmakers, were responded positively to the bill.
Its main backer is the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a new force in Indonesian politics which has caught the eye of mainstream parties as a potential coalition partner after general elections next April.
If passed, the bill - which has been held up in parliament for over three years because of criticism - will criminalise all public acts and material capable of raising sexual desires or violating "community morality," including poetry and music.
Earlier this week, thousands of people on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali, staged a rally protesting the contentious bill, arguing that on Bali people see the body as aesthetic but the pornography bill sees the body as an object of sin.
Explicit material is available in Indonesia, and television programmes regularly feature bare flesh and sexual innuendo.
Critics say the law could pave the way for vigilante groups to take the law into their own hands under a pretext of upholding morality. They also claim it threatens the right to privacy and the country's pluralism, and could trigger national disintegration.
Militant Muslim groups in Indonesia, particularly since the fall of the autocratic Suharto presidency in 1998, have sporadically taken vigilante action against red-light areas or liberal publications deemed offensive.
Indonesia restricted access to pornographic and violent sites on the Internet after parliament passed a new information bill early this year.
Indonesia Makes Internet Porn Illegal
BBC News, 3/25/08 - Indonesia's parliament has passed a bill criminalising those who access internet sites containing violent or pornographic material.
Anyone found guilty of the new offence could be jailed for up to three years, or have to pay a heavy fine.
The legislation allows the courts to accept electronic material as evidence in cases involving internet abuse.
One of those involved in drafting the bill said children, in particular, needed protection from online images.
It passed with wide majority support from all 10 factions in the chamber.
"I think we all agree there's no way we can save this nation by spreading pornography, violence and ethnic hostility", said the Information Minister, Mohammad Nuh.
Another MP said that current legislation failed properly to address pornography in the electronic media, and that access to it was far too easy.
The intention is to start implementing restrictions on sites containing banned material next month, using special software.
There was an outcry from hardline Muslim groups two years ago when Playboy magazine began publishing in Indonesia. The protest forced the magazine's editorial team to move their office to Bali.
A court later cleared the magazine's editor of distributing indecent pictures to the public and making money from them.
The BBC's Lucy Williamson in Jakarta says that stronger pornographic material continues to be widely available in Indonesia.
This has prompted a vigorous debate in recent years, exposing deep divisions in a country where 85% of the population follows Islam.
Indonesia Dilutes Anti-Porn Bill
Reuters, 3/1/07 - Indonesian lawmakers have watered down an anti-pornography bill following criticism that it could restrict freedom and threaten the country's tolerant tradition, the parliamentary speaker said on Wednesday.
Controversy over the bill has exposed deep divisions within the world's largest Muslim nation and various groups on both sides of the debate have held street protests over the issue.
"A law must not create divisions within the nation and must be accepted by all citizens," House of Representatives speaker Agung Laksono told foreign reporters.
Major parts of the draft aim to shield the young from pornographic material and lewd acts, but also contains provisions that could jail people kissing in public and criminalise many forms of art or traditional culture that hinge on sensuality.
Laksono said the draft had been revised to take into account cultural traditions and local sensitivities.
"In places like Bali and Papua, bare-breasted women are a daily sight. If such things are banned it will be against local customs," he said.
Laksono said he hoped the bill, which was first drafted 10 years ago, would be passed before the end of this year and its name has been changed from the Anti-Pornograhy and Pornographic Action Bill to just the Pornography Bill.
Supporters of the bill, particularly Islamic groups, say tough measures are necessary to protect the public from corrupting Western influence.
Although illegal, explicit material is available with relative ease in Indonesia, and television programs regularly feature bared flesh and sexual innuendo.
Critics say if passed, such a law could pave the way for vigilante groups to take the law into their own hands under the pretexts of upholding morality.
Militant Muslim groups in Indonesia, particularly since the fall of the autocratic Suharto presidency in 1998, have sporadically taken vigilante action against red-light areas or liberal publications deemed offensive.
Seizing on the decentralization that accompanied Suharto's fall, some regions have passed restrictive laws designed to ensure public morality, raising concern among some more liberal groups.
Islamic Fundamentalism Endangers Freedom
Bloomberg, 5/10/06 - Fauzia Damayanti stands to spend 10 years in prison unless she mends her wicked ways. Her possible crime? The Jakarta housewife wears miniskirts.
Under a draft anti-pornography bill being considered by Indonesian lawmakers, women who wear clothes deemed to be revealing may be jailed or fined as much as $111,000. Couples who kiss in public may face a five-year sentence or a $55,000 fine.
"It's ridiculous and extreme," said Damayanti, 27, a Muslim and mother of two, who wore a denim miniskirt and a white tank top as she sipped iced lemon tea in a restaurant. "People should be educated about what they wear, not jailed."
The issue has ignited unprecedented debate in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, over the role of Islam in public life. While 85 percent of the nation's 228 million people say they are Muslims, traditional dress codes among more than 400 ethnic groups range from bare breasts in West Papua to naked shoulders in Java. Indonesia's archipelago straddles the equator and mostly has a tropical climate.
"Indonesia has no tradition of covering all of the body; it's a tradition of the Middle East," said Harkristuti Harkrisnowo, a law professor at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta and chairwoman of the university's Human Rights Study Center. "We have hundreds and hundreds of customs, so why should we have a single type of clothing for every citizen?"
Conservatives are trying to introduce elements of Islamic law, or Shariah, through the bill, Harkrisnowo said. Several regencies, or local governments, have introduced similar bylaws.
"There are some Muslims who are concerned about nightclubs and Indonesia becoming more liberal," said Arief Budiman, an Indonesian and head of Indonesian Studies at the University of Melbourne. "They are looking for a role to play, and the only role they can play is the Islamic state."
First drafted in 1998 in the chaos that followed the ouster of 32-year dictator Suharto, the Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts Bill also bans depictions of nudity in the media and the arts, and sensual dancing. People who view so- called erotic displays may be jailed for a maximum of seven years.
The bill was revived last year after Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's first democratically elected president, said he was "disturbed" by the sight of women's navels and erotic dancing on television.
A committee of 50 lawmakers is hearing public submissions and considering possible changes to the draft before presenting it to Parliament.
The bill errs by combining genuine concerns about the spread of pornography in Indonesia with curbs on personal freedoms, said Afridel Jinu, a committee member and lawmaker for the main opposition Democratic Party of Struggle.
"The law should regulate pornographic material circulating in public, not discriminate against bodies as a criminal object," Afridel said.
Pornographic films and magazines sell for less than $1 in back alleys in Jakarta. Indonesian-language newspapers such as Bibir, whose name means lips, and Eksotika regularly feature women wearing bikinis.
Last month, stone-throwing protesters from the Islamic Defenders' Front forced the publishers of the first Indonesian- language Playboy magazine into hiding. The magazine, which contained no nudity, hasn't been published since the initial edition April 7.
"The bill actually protects a woman's dignity because women have been commercialized as objects," said Rosyad Sholeh, secretary general of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim group, which backs the bill.
Still, the draft needs to be revised because the definitions are unclear and open to misinterpretation, Rosyad said.
The governor of the mainly Hindu island of Bali, where beaches are populated by bikini-clad Western tourists, has threatened to secede if lawmakers pass the current draft, according to the Jakarta Post newspaper.
"The bill is a violation of our cultural traditions," said Putu Unik Indrawati, 29, a fashion designer in Bali. It also contradicts "unity in diversity," a 15th-century Javanese motto that adorns Indonesia's coat of arms, she said.
Unlike neighboring Malaysia, Indonesia doesn't incorporate Shariah into federal laws for Muslims. Only the province of Aceh, on the tip of Sumatra, uses Shariah courts under a 2002 agreement granting it special autonomy.
In Kuala Lumpur, a Chinese-Malaysian couple charged with indecent behavior for kissing in public will face a non-Shariah city court on June 1.
"Both Malaysia and Indonesia have governments which are hardly in any danger of imminent overthrow by Islamic fundamentalists," said Bruce Gale, an independent political consultant in Singapore who has covered Southeast Asia since 1988. "Perhaps the problem is that these governments, having no particular political vision themselves, are allowing the fundamentalists to set the agenda by default."
In February, Lilies Lindawati discovered what that may mean. The mother of two was found guilty of being a prostitute after she was arrested at about 8 p.m. in Tanggerang, a city near Jakarta. Under new bylaws in the regency, women found alone at night must prove they aren't prostitutes.
"I was grabbed by five people as I was standing on the side of the street," said Lindawati, 35. "I thought I was being abducted."
Lindawati, who pleaded not guilty, said she was returning home after an unsuccessful attempt to get her final pay from a restaurant where she had worked. She was held overnight, denied permission to call her husband, a teacher, and put on trial with 26 other women the next day in a makeshift tent. The judge ordered her to pay a $34 fine or spend three days in jail.
"I didn't pay the fine because I didn't have enough money," Lindawati said. "But if I had had the money, I wouldn't have paid, because that's the same thing as admitting I am a prostitute."
Still, Lindawati said she won't be going out unaccompanied again, not even in daylight. "I'm still afraid," she said.
Interview with an Indonesian Politician about the Porn Law
Jakarta Post, 4/6/06 - Despite increased public protests, the House of Representatives (DPR) is moving ahead with a controversial pornography bill. The Jakarta Post's A'an Suryana interviewed Yoyoh Yusroh, a Prosperous Justice Party member and deputy chairwoman of the House special committee deliberating the bill.
Question: How is the pornography bill progressing through the House?
We (the special committee) have consulted various regions to get feedback from people and we've also hosted many meetings in the DPR with groups both for and against the bill. Based on that input, we will formulate a new draft of the bill in early May.
Once it's completed, the new draft will be presented to the DPR's plenary meeting in mid-May for approval. If it's approved, it will be brought forward to the government for further discussion.
We expect the draft to be passed into law in June of this year.
What is the chance that the bill will pass?
Most factions at the DPR support the pornography bill; some others support it but want to review some articles. The only fraction that clearly expresses opposition is the PDI-P (Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle).
We have noticed that opposition has been mounting since we kicked off work on the bill last year, but given the political landscape in the DPR, we are optimistic that the bill can pass.
Although we're moving forward to pass the bill, we are listening seriously to people's protests and those criticisms will be accommodated in the final draft.
We understand that our society is heterogeneous, consisting of many religions, beliefs, ethnicities and cultures. We will certainly pay attention to the diversity of our society in deliberating the bill.
How do you accommodate the mounting protests against the bill?
The public has mainly expressed concern about some vague definitions in the articles, particularly those regarding obscene conduct. They also say the articles are subjective and open to multiple interpretations, and that if those parts are passed into law they would threaten freedom of expression. People, especially women, are afraid they would become victims of subjective judgments by the state apparatus, particularly the police.
But we assure people there's no need to worry. We will fix the definitions so that the articles are not subject to multiple interpretations. We will work hard to develop articles that will deal with obscenity, but at the same time protect people from being unfairly branded as criminals by the state.
Why are you promoting this bill while there are other pressing problems in our country that need to be addressed, such as corruption and drugs?
We and our colleagues at the DPR understand that corruption and drugs are also grave problems. But, for your information, we devote considerable attention to those two issues. Besides deliberating the pornography bill, we are now also deliberating bills dealing with corruption and drugs.
However, I don't understand why the media focuses all its coverage on the pornography bill.
Why do you support the bill?
Our society badly needs the pornography bill. Pornographic acts (on television) and publications, which have so far gone unchecked, have damaged our children's morality, and it has to be stopped. The unchecked availability of pornography has also ruined many marriages.
We also disagree that the bill would imperil the right of women to dress as they choose. Having deliberated the bill, we would protect women from becoming victims of globalization. We would protect them from becoming victims of multinational firms that make women "markets" for their (fashion) products.
Indonesian Porn Law Worries Moderates and Minorities
Time Magazine, 4/3/06 - The black bra under the thin yellow kebaya, a close-fitting blouse, leaves little to the imagination. Even more suggestive are the flittering eyes and gyrating hips of the dancer, who chases young men to pull them up on stage. One accepts the offer and makes a grab for her large posterior as she beckons with welcoming eyes. Another makes a gesture at her breasts and then stuffs cash into her hands.
This is not a lap dance in Las Vegas, but a revered Balinese custom known as the joged bumbung, or bamboo dance. Yet it is one of hundreds of traditions across the Indonesian archipelago that could be banned under legislation being deliberated by the national parliament. The bill, which is supported by several Muslim parties, would render illegal any behavior or images that might be considered sexually provocative. Women who bare their shoulders or legs, or artists who use nudity in their work, could be prosecuted for indecency and fined up to 2 billion rupiah (about $220,000) or even jailed for up to 12 years. Kissing in public would be outlawed, as would any other acts considered pornoaksi, an ill-defined term coined by conservative lawmakers to mean "pornographic acts." The bill also says that "all elements of society are obliged to report" such acts, sparking concern that the law could be abused. "The bill would kill 80% of the art in Bali," says Cok Sawitri, a Balinese poet and activist who is against the proposed law. "People will be afraid to do what has long been a normal part of their lives."
Since the fall of strongman Suharto in 1998, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, has become a more open society, with a freer press and more vigorous political discourse. But the new liberalism has also seen a proliferation of sex videos, magazines and tabloids widely available to anyone who can afford them (the average price of a VCD is 5,000 rupiah, or about 55¢). Racy programs are aired on late-night television, and one daytime soap even featured an episode in which schoolchildren watched porn videos in a group, then disappeared in pairs soon after. And the first issue of an Indonesian edition—albeit seminude—of Playboy magazine is scheduled to be published on April 7. All this has sparked a backlash from Indonesians worried about the country's moral direction. "The availability of pornography has reached alarming levels," says Juniwati Masjchun Sofwan, head of the Committee to Eradicate Pornography, an independent lobbying group. "It has become a social disease." But critics of the proposed law say that it is an imperfect antidote. Says Bambang Harymurti, chief editor of Tempo, a newsmagazine that has covered the issue in depth: "The problem is not that we don't have any laws but rather their enforcement. The bill allows anyone to enforce the law, not just the police."
Take the case of Isabel Yahya, who posed for a photomontage by Indonesian artist Davy Linggar in September. In the painting, the model, 30, is discreetly nude. An angry mob from the Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group known for attacking bars and discos, demanded that the work, on display at an indoor exhibition in Jakarta, be taken down and complained to the police. The authorities have charged Yahya with indecency under the criminal code; she faces a potential one year in prison, but the alleged offense would be punishable by up to seven years' jail under the new pornography law. "This is just another way for certain groups to extort money," says Yahya. "It's not about morality." Others accuse legislators of trying to push through an Islamization program veiled as a campaign against nudity and lewd behavior. "The bill is the beginning of a Shari'a agenda to keep women inside," warns Harymurti, who is Muslim. Adds an even more alarmed Leo Batubara, a member of the Indonesian Press Council: "We could be going the way of the Taliban."
That's not likely, in a country which, although of a Muslim majority, is overwhelmingly moderate, and whose founding fathers resisted attempts to include elements of Islamic law in the 1945 constitution. Current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a moderate Muslim who advocates religious tolerance, has given no clear indication of where he stands on the bill. Last week, however, he appeared to be trying to burnish his Islamic credentials when he mentioned an occasion on which a dancer bearing her midriff was invited to the presidential palace. "I was really disturbed," Yudhoyono told reporters. "I told the singer to go home even before she performed."
Resistance from non-Muslims and civil liberties groups has forced legislators to start revising the bill, a process they plan to complete by June. But pressure from influential Muslim organizations to impose harsh sanctions remains strong. "We have to stop this drift toward moral liberalization," says Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country's second largest Muslim organization. Leaders such as Syamsuddin deny any intention of imposing Shari'a or that non-Muslims are being targeted. They also reject the claim that rights will be curtailed, saying that the objective of the law is to protect women and children. "The removal of pornography is not an infringement on press freedom," asserts Santi Soekanto from the Anti-Pornography Alliance, a civic group. "Most countries have some form of laws regulating the industry." Opponents say there is sufficient legislation already on the books—it just needs to be enforced—and that the new laws leave the definition of pornography unclear and open to interpretation. "The bill does not differentiate between what is considered pornographic, erotic and indecent," says Franz Magnis-Suseno, a Jesuit priest. "It is more than a little ridiculous."
Such ambiguity has community leaders like I Gusti Ngurah Harta worried. A Balinese who is spearheading the predominantly Hindu island's opposition to the legislation, Ngurah Harta says the bill would effectively be the "third Bali bomb," destroying efforts to bring the struggling local economy back to life after two devastating terrorist attacks in the past four years. "It would not only ruin tourism by imposing harsh restrictions on what might be considered unacceptable dress or behavior," he says. "By threatening our culture, arts, dance and creativity, it threatens our way of life and right to exist."
As the joged bumbung dance comes to a close in the tiny Balinese village of Tegalcangkring, no one in the audience appears overly excited. The men begin to file out while several women and children applaud and compliment the dancer on her performance. One mother proffers a small donation, but then pulls her hand back in jest. "Oops, I better be careful," she says with a smile. "If the new anti-pornography law gets passed I could be arrested." The Balinese are still able to joke, but they worry that if the law goes through unamended, smiles will be few and far between.
Indonesia's Culture War
Jakarta Post, 3/26/06 - The dividing line in Indonesian society resembles more and more that running through the United States. Many people may not realize this, but a culture war is raging in our society that sets conservatives on the one side and, for want of a better term, liberals on the other.
At stake are the hearts and minds of the people in the middle, as the two camps fight it out to try to define what Indonesia stands for.
Such a division in our society has probably existed for some time, but it has never been as revealing as today, with our nation embroiled in a heated debate over the bill that seeks to curtail pornography and pornographic acts.
The current debate is not so much about whether the conservatives are against pornography and the liberals are defending it (liberals would argue that they are just as concerned about the unchecked spread of pornography). The debate is really about freedom of expression -- including artistic expression and the freedom to choose what to wear -- which opponents of the bill argue will be imperiled if the bill is passed as is.
Leading the conservative camp, which insists that the House of Representatives should pass the bill unchanged by the middle of the year, is the Indonesian Ulema Council. The movement, which began as a moral drive against the unchecked growth of pornographic materials in our nation, has now turned into a crusade to eradicate even erotica.
The bill defines pornography and pornographic acts to include eroticism. This could be construed as an attempt at regulating what clothes women are allowed to wear, and at banning what the architects of the bill consider offensive artworks, like painting and sculpture as well as writings.
On the opposing side are, predictably, women's organizations as well as artists groups and those in the entertainment business. They were somewhat late in reacting, only coming out in force in recent weeks once they realized the implications of some articles of the bill on their freedom of expression.
The culture war is a concept imported from the United States in trying to comprehend the dividing lines in its society. There, the line is clear, with society more or less divided into conservatives and liberals.
There is inevitably some overlapping among them but, generally, after the battle has been fought for many years, most Americans today are either liberal or conservative, defined in their political affinity of Democrat or Republican. Their battlegrounds, if we take this back to the 1960s, include gun control, the pro-life versus pro-choice of abortion, capital punishment, gays in the military and, lately, same-sex marriage.
In the current battle to define America, the conservatives are winning the war. The Christian right is seemingly gaining the upper hand, and also to a large extent controlling the White House and the Congress.
Back in Indonesia, few people perhaps recognize that what is happening today is really our own version of a culture war.
The debate spurred by the pornography bill has not divided us along religious lines (Muslim versus non-Muslims) or devout versus the non-devout Muslims. Of course, some in the conservative camp would want us to believe that this is exactly the case, but they are really exploiting religious symbols as part of their battle strategy.
This is not about ideology either.
It is our outlook of life which divides us along the conservative-liberal fault lines. One can be religious as well as devout but espouse liberal views and, conversely, one can also be an atheist and not devout, but uphold conservative conviction.
And this is definitely not about the generation or gender gaps. It is true that members of the younger generation, as they are apt to be in many other parts of the world, are more liberal than their elders.
From a casual observation of our society, one can safely conclude that the pendulum has always been tilted slightly to the right, meaning that generally speaking, most Indonesians espouse conservative views and values, irrespective of their religion, race and ethnicity.
But it is also true that in recent years the pendulum has tilted to the left, causing some people to believe Indonesia has become too liberal.
It is the conservative camp who first considered this a looming danger. They were the ones who set off the latest and perhaps fiercest culture war Indonesia has experienced. Not content with simply halting the pendulum from its leftward tilt, they now want to shift it way over to the right.
The conservatives seemed to be much more prepared going into this debate, armed with a strategy that seemed so daunting that the bill was being steamrolled through the House without any or little opposition. Even political parties and elected representatives did not so much as question the articles in the bill that the liberals claim contravenes our freedom of expression.
A few weeks ago, the liberal camp finally woke up from their slumber and began putting up resistance against the bill. It was belated, for sure, and their number is small compared to the groups who support the bill. And they probably went into this war lacking a common strategy.
The pendulum in this culture war would swing to the right if the bill is passed. But an encouraging sign from the current debate is that there are elements in society that could and would stop that rightward swing. Indonesians may be leaning more to the conservative side, but they still do not ascribe to the same staunch views that the conservative camp is trying to impose on the rest of the nation.
It remains to be seen where the debate will take us, but there is reason for optimism, because everybody is playing by the democratic rules of the game. If you lose this battle, whatever side you are on, there is sure to be another clash in the struggle to define what Indonesia stands for today.
Islamic Fundamentalists Want Censorship in IndonesiaSydney Morning Herald, 2/25/06 - Rocking in a pink swing fashioned from the cab of a pedal-driven rickshaw, Agus Suwage felt at peace. He had just installed his Pinkswing Park exhibit at Jakarta's international biennale and was surrounded by massive panels with multiple pictures of a near-naked man and woman frolicking in a utopian park - a world away from thoughts of religious furore, public condemnation and possible imprisonment.
The softly spoken, bespectacled 47-year-old seems an unlikely martyr, his only concession to the battle now enveloping his life is a peaked camouflage hat with a skull and crossbones button pinned to its front.
Within days of November's exhibition launch, Islamic fundamentalists had shoved Suwage to the forefront of their struggle to redefine Indonesia by descending on the biennale, forcing its closure and demanding prosecutions. At first police claimed his work blasphemed the story of Adam and Eve, then last week they told Suwage he faced five years in jail for producing pornography.
The same groups staging violent demonstrations against the West over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad are targeting pornography in their battle to transform Indonesia into a strict Islamic nation. And they are winning: parliament is set to introduce a sweeping anti-pornography law.
Expected to be passed by June, the law imposes a rigid social template; couples who kiss in public will face up to five years' jail, as would anyone flaunting a "sensual body part" - including their navel - and tight clothing will be outlawed.
Most women's groups are horrified, entertainment industries believe it could destroy them and Bali's embattled tourism authorities are alarmed at the prospect of sunbathing tourists being arrested.
Mainstream Islamic organisations are warning of moral decay and backing the bill, while politicians, wary of alienating Indonesia's Muslim majority, are condoning the growing anti-porn movement.
Plans to introduce Playboy's soft porn to the Indonesian market next month have become another focus of rowdy demonstrations, with protesters portraying the magazine as a symbol of the decadent West's attack on Islam. Playboy's publishers are proposing a bizarre compromise, no naked women will be featured - Indonesians, at least, will be able to say they only buy it for the articles.
In Jakarta, police have seized hundreds of thousands of "erotic" magazines - including FHM and Rolling Stone - and DVDs, after an edict from police chief Sutanto to "eradicate pornography".
The Islamic Defenders Front spearheads the anti-porn protests. It took two days to track down its leader, Habib Riziek, this week - he was at police headquarters, seeking information about "his men" arrested for allegedly attacking the US embassy in Jakarta last week. Porn, including artworks such as Suwage's, contributes to moral delinquency, Riziek claims. "We don't care about the technicality of the picture," he says. "What we care is that the picture is publicly exhibited and it is pornography and it would damage morals." Suwage believes his work captured attention because one of the models, Anjasmara, is a popular soapie star. The two models, photographer Davy Linggar and the curator of the biennale, Jim Supangkat, are also facing criminal charges.
Suwage is increasingly bitter about Supangkat's reaction to the protest. After hundreds of demonstrators arrived at the exhibition, a panicked Supangkat ordered the offending panels to be covered with white cloth. Other artists draped their own works in solidarity and Supangkat closed the biennale, permanently.
Suwage believes his prosecution is linked to pressure to pass the anti-porn law and the desire of fundamentalists to impose Islamic rule on Indonesia. Suwage, who is afraid of prison, says he is determined to fight.
Based at a small cafe gallery in Jakarta's backpacker precinct, Suwage and a motley collective or artists are mobilising against the new law. "From this case, we make a manifesto for art against the pornography bill. It's very dangerous for freedom of expression but it also threatens other aspects of society." Riziek remains emphatic the bill is essential to "guard the nation's morality" against pornography, which extends past explicit photographs to "anything that could arouse sexual desire".
Balkan Kaplale heads the parliamentary committee finalising the pornography bill and is confident it will become law this year.
It would halt the publication of magazines such as Playboy, he says. " Playboy would place a time bomb in Indonesia, what guarantee is there it would not arrive in the hands of our children? Playboy is American magazine. Please, don't play this game with Indonesians, we have dignity."
Indonesians also have sensuality, says leading feminist and university professor Gadis Arriva. "Women here have always dressed sexily and in tight clothes, this law is something very alien to us, we have barebreasted women in Bali and Papua, this is part of our culture."
In Bali, the head of the government's tourism authority, Gede Nurjaya, agrees. Traditional Balinese art and dance could become illegal, he believes. He is concerned prohibitions against kissing and revealing bodies could be imposed against foreigners, destroying Bali's faltering tourism industry.
Arriva says most women's groups oppose the bill. "Most of it restricts women, what they wear, how they act. It even creates a board that would go around monitoring women's behaviour."
The new law would also gag a flourishing emergence of young female writers, who write openly about sexuality. "It states it is illegal to express any sexual desire, even imagine sex - how do you prove that?" asks Arriva.
She sees the anti-porn movement as part of an agenda to reshape Indonesia, with pornography a symbol of Western culture to the many Muslims who believe globalisation aims to destroy their culture. Adrian Vickers, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Wollongong, agrees the debate is "part of whipping up a moral panic about Western decadence eroding Indonesian culture and morality", with the potential to push Indonesia towards an Islamic state. "Given anxieties about terrorism, a more Islamic Indonesia could see Australia very much as the enemy," he warns.
A closed society looms, says Suwage. "There would be no freedom, it will have a big impact for us, for artists, but it will go everywhere. I don't believe a picture can change a person's morality. Morality starts from the individual, from inside, not from dogma."
Pornstudent Comment ...
Religious Fundamentalists Want to Outlaw Porn
It's a big thing in Indonesia. Some people get offended at a woman's breast so they want
to throw her in jail. Of course that happens right here in the USA.
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