Blood-stained blouses and pussy hats, Jakarta’s Women’s March

Inspired by the feminist movement and nationwide demonstrations that met the inauguration of American President Donald Trump, in Jakarta, hundreds took to the streets in Indonesia this week.


Senin, 13 Mar 2017 11:44 WIB


Nicole Curby

Andrea Andjaringtyas Adhi and Dwitri Amalia knitted their own pussy hats for Women's March Jakarta,

Andrea Andjaringtyas Adhi and Dwitri Amalia knitted their own pussy hats for Women's March Jakarta, 4 March 2017. (Photo: Vitri Angreni)

Inspired by the feminist movement and nationwide demonstrations that met the inauguration of American President Donald Trump, in Jakarta, hundreds took to the streets in Indonesia this week. 

Some might have donned the so-called pink ‘pussy’ hats of their counterparts in the United States, but as Nicole Curby hears, women in Indonesia have their own ideas about feminism, equality, and diversity.

Hundreds of people here at the Women’s March in Jakarta are chanting Permpuan Bersatu, or Women Unite! 

On the Saturday before International Women’s Day, Women’s March Jakarta aimed to connect with a global movement. 

Andrea and Dwitri, researchers at the University of Indonesia, were among those who knitted their own ‘pussy hats’ for the occasion. 

It’s a bright-pink woolen beanie with cat-shaped ears, a symbol of the women’s marches that took place across the globe after the inauguration of President Trump in January.

“We are quite sweaty here already. But we think it’s a symbol, the solidarity with women around the world,” said Andrea. “Although it’s a thick kind of fabric, I think it’s a nice thing to wear, as a sign that we are together in this.” 

While the hats weren’t adapted to the Indonesian climate, the demands of the marchers definitely were.

Several women here are wearing white kebayas, traditional Javanese blouses, stained with blood, a symbol of the number of women killed and abused each year, says organizer, Stephanie Tangkilisan. 

“We want to have a visible representation of the urgency of the situation. And just have that visceral effect of people seeing bloody Indonesian women,” Tangkilisan stated.

There were almost 260 thousand reported cases of violence against women last year, according to the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, including nearly 3,500 cases of sexual violence.

One of the more provocative placards from the Women’s March in Jakarta drew attention to rape culture, and the importance of consent.

In pink, it featured hand-drawn female genitalia, and the words in Indonesian, mau masuk? Izin dulu, or, ‘want to enter? Consent first!’

Sexual violence, adolescent marriage, high rates of maternal mortality, and genital cutting remain persistent issues in Indonesia. 

Demonstrators also called attention to the conditions of female migrant workers, the lack of provisions for those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as the struggle for LGBTQ rights.

Organisers Kerri and Stephanie say they wanted to ensure a diverse range of Indonesian women’s voices were heard. As I spoke to them they pointed to the range of ethnic identities present, including Batak, Chinese Indonesian, Bugis, and Arabic Indonesian. 

“So all different ethnicities,” Kerri explained. 

“To show that Indonesia is very diverse. And we are trying to create unity in diversity, which is said in our constitution, Pancisila, so we are going back to that. There isn’t supposed to be anything controversial in that at all.” 

Here, diversity was also viewed in terms of sexual orientation.

After a vicious backlash from state and religious leaders against LGBTQ Indonesians last year, trans woman Syakila Siti Firmonda emphasized that equality belongs to all women.

“It’s definitely important for us as trans women to be a part of the larger women’s empowerment movement. Because we as trans women experience of the highest (rates) of sexual violence and intolerance,” said Firmonda. 

However in the current climate, it’s not entirely surprising that the march’s open embrace of LGBTQ issues was divisive. Some even chose not to join the march because of it.

And even though Women’s March Jakarta had a crowd of several hundred, in the scheme of Jakartan rallies, it was a small gathering. 

Just a few months ago, rallies of religious hardliners attracted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, what some say is a sign of deepening religious conservatism across the country.

Filmmaker Amelia Hapsari brought her 2 ½ year old daughter Kartika along to the march, hoping to show her a different Indonesia.

“With the increase of voices that want Indonesia to be more and more like Islamic State, and more and more blaming women for what they wear, I feel worried that if we go in that direction, its not a country that I want my daughter to grow up with later on.”

Hapsari continued, “I hope with tolerant and democratic Indonesia she can realise her dreams, and she can have equal rights and equal position as any other people in Indonesia.”



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