Aceh After Tsunami: A Safe Place for Women? (1)

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One topic that seems to be very rarely discussed about Aceh is women. The province that imposes sharia law seems to close themselves from the conversation about the role of women in building Aceh, left us with nothing but an assumption.

Luckily, we, through the SEA Women Peace Builders Networks, held an online discussion last Friday under the theme “Aceh After Tsunami: Women, Peace, and Security Agenda” with two female speakers from Aceh whose works have gone worldwide.

They are Suraiya Kamaruzzaman from Balai Syura Aceh and Agustina Iskandar from Let’s Do It Indonesia. The discussion was intended to see how women play a role in efforts to develop Aceh, including surviving in facing various disasters, both political and natural disasters such as the Tsunami.

Explained by Suraiya, in conflict, women are not only prone to become victims, as is commonly understood by many people, because they are actually agents of change; for in some cases, women become decision-makers for important matters. In the context of the conflict in Aceh, women appeared as the most serious group fighting for peace.

It is often women who cared for injured citizens, some even dared to go to military posts to defuse the situation. Some Acehnese women even dared to come to Jakarta to give testimony to the government; convey the voices of Acehnese women who were so fed up with the never-ending conflict they are facing. They hoped that the government would prioritize a peaceful approach to resolve the ongoing conflict and jointly develop Aceh.

Refuse Qanun?

Aceh began to display its identity after the tsunami. The identity is, unfortunately, religion. Aceh dressed itself with the ‘makeup’ of Islam, this is indicated by the implementation of Sharia law in the province which is included in the special region in Indonesia. Thus. the law is more political than religious.

The law is certainly a bad impact for women, who have always been the object of the implementation of the qanun law which seems to be so forced. The immediate impact is that the space for expression for women is getting narrower.

Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that the qanun law that is now being applied is discriminatory against women. Women have always been the object of rules in Aceh. Starting from the obligation to wear a skirt and a ban on riding. Whereas the history of Aceh shows that Acehnese women’s traditional clothing are pants, not skirts. Because Acehnese women also worked in the fields, impossible to wear skirt at this.

Another form of discrimination is the article on rape, where women who cannot prove rape have the potential to be criminalized. She could be flogged for being accused of defamation.

Qanun is indeed a political product, and we don’t reject it, we only want the rules in the Qanun work not to discriminate against women, but be fair to everyone.

Most Acehnese women will all be happy if Islamic law is applied, but of course the Islam referred to here is an Islam that is peaceful and just, non-discriminatory and instead rewards everyone as they are. We do not want Islamic teachings to be only partly taken just to make a political profit. This should be more than this.