Ezra Sihite & Michael Sianipar
Asked to define pornography, an American Supreme Court justice once famously said: “I know it when I see it.” The way Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali sees it, the answer to the same question might well be: “Short skirts.”
The government’s controversial anti-pornography task force, headed by Suryadharma, is now working on measures to tackle the issue — a discussion that includes coming up with a broad definition of pornography, which could potentially equate to dictating how women dress.
“We think that there should be general criteria [for women’s clothing]. For example, women’s skirts should go past their knees,” Suryadharma said in Jakarta on Wednesday.
The task force, he said, is in the process of gathering suggestions from the public about what activities should be classified as pornographic and how best to cope with them.
Suryadharma admitted that the definition of pornography could be subjective, but nevertheless said: “There must a universal measure for that.”
Masruchah, the deputy head of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), immediately slammed the proposed legislation, calling it a violation of women’s rights.
“There are already norms and ethics in each different community. People already know what they should wear, where and when,” Masruchah said.
“The government must respect the diversity of our cultures and religions.”
She added that sexual harassment and assault had nothing to do with the availability of pornography or women’s sartorial choices.
“Data on rapes show that they don’t correlate with how the women dressed,” she said. “Many women [who were] raped happened to wear very conservative clothing. They were raped anyway.”
She added: “It’s all to do with the mind-set of men.”
After a series of sexual assaults on public minivans last year, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo was criticized for telling women not to wear short skirts or pants when taking public transportation. He later apologized, but not before women donned miniskirts in a rally to protest his remarks.
In all of Indonesia, only Aceh, which implements Shariah law, regulates women’s clothing by making headscarves mandatory. West Aceh district went even further in 2010, banning women from wearing tight pants.
The creation of the anti-pornography task force, which is supposed to enforce the controversial 2008 law banning pornography, was greeted with a barrage of criticism and scorn, with many accusing the government of having lost sight of its priorities.
Politicians and activists alike said it was a distraction from many more pressing issues such as corruption prevention, the empowerment of people in villages and isolated areas, poverty eradication, health care and social conflicts.