Feminism in 3rd world countries?

5 years ago

Ahh, feminism. The subject where women all over the US are tripping over themselves and each others to.. I dunno, wrap their heads around? Dissect and disembowl enough to validate themselves or or discredit the other side? Do we need men or not? Do we wear skirts or bras or trousers or bodices or not? Do we vote or not?

I have been living in a third world country, Indonesia; who fought for our independence and achieved it in 1945, after 350 years of colonization. Held our first election in 1955 for parliament that resulted in 17 women in a parliament of 526 people. Our first female minister, Madame S.K. Trimurti, was a Minister of Labor. We have our first woman president - albeit by proxy - in 2001. Our own Mrs. Sri Mulyani Indrawati is the current MD - Managing Director - of World Bank. If I were to list down women heroes in Indonesia, it would take its own entry.

Yet Indonesian women still live in suppression in the eyes of Law. Not that I would cry sexist on it, just yet. The Law we have still bears residue of the Colonial Law of the old - the poor would bear the brunt of 'law' whilst the rich would get a slap on the wrists. Take this example: A poor, destitute, hungry boy stole an apple and get two years worth of prison - because thievery merits up to two years in prison; yet a corrupt official who had stolen the equivalent of a billion US dollars would get six weeks. Hungry boy = slave. Corrupt officials = rich/powerful. 

Here's another example that would make your blood pressure rise by the double-digits: In cases of rape,  a woman MAY report the rape to the police and file her 'complaints' ONLY if there were two witnesses present during the act

No, I kid you not. That is the law. Article 285 of the Indonesian penal law also stated that a rapist would only be 'rewarded' with 12 years MAXIMUM of prison time. Reference here. Here is another proof of my regard of the Law as a tool of the 'people of power.' 

Now, I know all women in this site are aware of the main purpose of rape: control. It's never about sex. It's about control. Never, EVER about sex or love. It is about the rapist's control of YOU. Now, in the days of colonialism, who has power?

But anyway, this was supposed to be about feminism, not law. Although all aspects of them would brush - if not bump - with law at one point or the other.

Out of the 200+ sub-ethnics and 700+ cultural differences in Indonesia, mine is one of the most prominent. West Sumatran - like me - are almost like the Chinese to the world: we're everywhere. We also have one very distinctive cultural point: For us, women are the head of the house. We are matriarchal, not patriarchal. 

West Sumatran women (specifically ones in my village) owns their houses - be it built by their fathers or purchased by their respective husbands. We have THE say in who we wished to marry, and it is considered an honor for the guy to be asked for marriage by the women. We have absolute rights on heirlooms - if it's a piece of jewelry owned by my mother, you sisters-in-law don't get to land your paws on it. We have the rights of land, rice paddies, and decision on what man we would like to vote to represent us in the village council (still consists of men, we make them face the mysoginistic outside world on our behalf). Thanks to Madame Rohana Kudus, the ladies got educated before R.A. Kartini was even born. 

That, actually, was also the original view of Islam, which is the faith of the majority of Indonesian. After colonization, however, said religion was stripped off its defense for women to give more power to men. Another subject, I believe. Believe me, I'm trying SO hard not to digress here. 

What amused - or rather, appalled - me was that there are still millions of Indonesian women who are treated like slaves. You want to know what amused me more? Seventy percent of them are living overseas - in "Developed" countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and other middle-eastern countries, even the US. They are called 'domestics', 'immigrants', 'laborers', and just about every other name. They are uneducated, they are vulnerable, they are slaves. And 80% of them are women. Sure, they got more money than if they were to find work in Indonesia. But they also get abused, molested, raped, stripped off all human rights, then murdered. 

Feminism? The thought of the fact that women has rights? -- never occurred to them. 


Well, duh. Because they did not know about it. 

I befriended an Indonesian women who worked as a 'caretaker' in SoCal. She told me that sometimes her (male) boss would hug her and grope her and withheld her pay. I told her that all of those were illegal and she has every rights to sue - even with her status as illegal immigrant. She was shocked to high heavens when I told her that. I was shocked that she was shocked. It never occurred to me that she would not know of it - that it was NOT okay for an employer to molest their employees, that it was DEFINITELY not okay for said employer to withheld pay - employee's right - just for kicks.

I was shocked that someone who has been living in the US for more than a year to not know of all those. Then it occurred to me that they were being forced to live under a rock - not given access to information. Not given access to knowledge that would empower them.

That, for me, is the biggest sin of patriarchal society. Buuut.. again, if I were to delve on this subject, it would take about four pages (before I get tired of typing, that is).

So feminists? Here's your global task: Empower women by education. By supplying access to education and knowledge. Not by imparting your view, but simply by showing them that there are powers higher than the men standing before them. NOT by wanting to make us, third world women, LOOK like you - white, skinny, tall, etc. But by making us admire your brain AND acknowledge that you're just like us: a woman, with more knowledge you are willing to share. 

To do that, unfortunately for you, you have to know US first. Know what we want, know what we need. We don't need skin whitening - us brown people get melanomas, too. But we need to feed our children and educate them. Give us the fishing pole and the assurance that we would know what to use for bait to catch that fish. Don't give us the fish and walk away. The missionaries did that, and they failed spectacularly. 


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