Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Mask of Democracy Cannot Conceal the Dire Poverty of Indonesian Women

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Living in a democratic state is truly costly for women, and Indonesia is no exception - a country that has been claimed by various Western politicians as one of the leading models of a Muslim democratic state. The reality shows that Indonesian Women are still shackled by poverty. The Minister for Women and Child Protection in Indonesia, Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, stated this May that there are currently about 7 million women in Indonesia who have become the breadwinner of their household, and the majority of them live below the poverty line with incomes under U.S. $ 1 dollar a day. This figure represents more than 14% of the total number of households in Indonesia. However, the NGO Empowerment of Women Heads Of Households (PEKKA), estimates the number of female-headed households is much greater than the government's figure, the number being nearer to 10 million Indonesian women.

The poverty that shackles Indonesian women is also indicated by the huge numbers of low skilled-female migrant workers working outside of the country that has reached 7 million people. Poverty is the main factor which has forced them to work thousands of miles away from their country and families without even the assurance of protection from the Indonesian government. This situation is associated with another problem - the violence, torture and even homicide against women migrant workers in the countries to which they have migrated. According to Anis Hidayah, Executive Director of Indonesian Association for Migrant Workers Sovereignity, violence and murder of women migrant workers is increasing each year. In 2009, the number of female Indonesian migrant workers who became victims of violence reached 5,314.

These undeniable realities show the failure of a secular democratic state to fulfill the basic economic needs of women, forcing them to migrate for the sake of earning a living in order to sustain a basic standard of life. Democracy has had a costly and cruel consequence upon women's lives. Moreover, these problems are plaguing Indonesia, a country that is considered by the United States' government as a success story in democratization, amongst the countries of the Muslim world. A number of Western leaders have praised Indonesia as the world's largest Muslim democratic state and an example of how Islam and democracy can be combined in a successful manner. For example, in December 2010, President Obama delivered a speech to an audience of about 6,000 people at the University of Indonesia, Jakarta, where he described Indonesia's "extraordinary democratic transformation" and its religious tolerance standing as an example to other emerging economies. He also commented that the U.S. has a stake in Indonesia's continued growth as a market for American goods and as an ally in spreading democracy. The same tone was displayed by UK Prime minister David Cameron when he visited Jakarta in April 2012. He specifically stated that Indonesia's respect for democracy and minority religious groups should serve as an example for other Muslim nations. The US and other Western powers indeed have a mission to spread the democratic system around the world, claiming that it is the supreme system by which to govern societies effectively and secure people's needs and rights.

The lie of Western governments regarding democracy must be distinguished from the true reality. Their praise of the democratization of Indonesia is clearly just the ambitious propaganda of their Capitalistic-secular agenda. The democratic mask that covers Indonesia could not eradicate nor hide the shackle of poverty afflicting Indonesian women for the true face of democracy is of a failed system unable to look after the affairs of mankind effectively.

In addition, attempts by feminists in Indonesia to establish women's rights in the political, economic, educational, health and legal spheres of the society through gender equality-based legislation are almost always ineffective in improving the lives of ordinary women. Indonesia has implemented various gender equality-based laws, and its government is now discussing the Draft of a new Gender Equality and Justice Law, but such laws will assuredly have no influence on the nature of the secular democratic political system in the country that only favours the interests of political elites. Such laws will prove totally redundant in improving the welfare of Indonesia's women for they lie under the shadow of a capitalist economic system that concentrates the state's wealth in the hands of the few while impoverishing the majority of the people.

Systemically, democracy empowers the corporation state that is based upon the symbiotic relationship of securing the mutual interests of the political elites and the capitalists who would never side with the people, including women. This system makes money or capital as the commander-in-chief of governing. For example, large proportions of Indonesia's natural wealth and resources are owned and controlled by foreign companies, including more than 80% of the nation's oil. This is against a background of ever-rising poverty which has also increased levels of corruption, and social conflict between the people.

Indonesian women will face an entirely different story when the state implements the Islamic Khilafah system, for the Khilafah has a credible, time-tested approach to tackling poverty while simultaneously maintaining the dignity of women. It is a system that will implement comprehensively the sound economic laws of Islam defined by Allah(swt), the One Who has all-knowledge of how best to secure the needs of mankind and organise the affairs of a society. It is a system that has a historical legacy of creating economic prosperity and eradicating poverty in the lands over which it governed.

The Khilafah system is obliged to guarantee the provision of basic needs to women in addition to a good standard of education, healthcare, security and protection. Islam prescribes that women be financially maintained by their male relatives always. For those men who lack employment, the state must endeavour to strive to its utmost to create employment opportunities which may include providing interest free-grants to those who lack capital to start a business or giving land to others so that they can farm it and make a livelihood to maintain themselves and their families. For those men who are physically unable to earn a living or for those women who have no male relatives to maintain them, the state has the obligation to bear their livelihood. This is according to the sayings of the Prophet(saw), "The Imam is in charge (ra'i) and he is responsible for his citizens" and, "If somebody dies (among the Muslims) leaving some property, the property will go to his heirs; and if he leaves a debt or dependents, we will take care of them." The draft constitution of Hizb ut-Tahrir for the Khilafah states, "The State is to guarantee the adequate support for those who have no funds, no employment and no provider. The state is responsible for housing and maintaining the disabled and handicapped."

Consequently in the Khilafah, women will not have to migrate thousands of miles just to meet their basic needs. So, it is time for Indonesian women to leave democracy. Khilafah is the only system that provides credible practical solutions for a wide range of political, economic and social issues and crises that affect women throughout the Muslim lands and across the world, including women in Indonesia.

Fika Monika

Member of Women's Section, South East Asia
Central Media Office, Hizb ut-Tahrir
11 Sha'aban 1433


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