News / Asia

Filmmakers in Indonesia Share Women's Stories About Life Under Islamic Law

Islamic law has been raising questions in Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation where some provinces are adopting regulations based on Sharia, or Islamic, principles. Human rights groups, however, warn that the laws often are enforced unfairly, particularly for women. Filmmakers in Indonesia have recently released documentaries to show the effects Islamic law has on women.

The film opens with shots of a market, where mannequins in tight-fitting T-shirts contrast with girls in long skirts and headscarves. The sight is common in Aceh Province, which gained the right to implement Sharia law as a part of a peace accord with the Indonesian government.

To show the role Sharia plays in the life of Muslim women, organizers of a recent female film festival in Jakarta highlighted five documentaries on the subject.

Director Ucu Agustin says she worries people are not critical enough of laws that restrict their freedoms.

She says Sharia law should protect Muslims, but from what she has seen they are often the victims. She thinks one day there will be a resistance, but it may come after too many people have been victimized.

There are Muslims who disagree. Around the world, many Muslims welcome Sharia, particularly as a way to fight corruption and social problems such as prostitution. The films include interviews with people who endorse Sharia, such as two young Acehnese women who say modest dress is needed to cover the parts of the body said to entice men.

Another film reveals widespread support for the whipping punishment handed down to a Muslim woman in Malaysia, Kartika Sari Dewi Shukharno, who was caught drinking a beer in public. The sentence was later reduced to three weeks of community service.

The film's director, Norhayati Kaprawi, also a member of a Muslim women's rights group in Malaysia, says she was shocked when she saw a survey that indicated around 75 percent of Malaysian Muslims supported the caning sentence.

Men have also been sentenced to whipping for breaking Sharia laws in Malaysia, but Kaprawi says the Kartika case raised attention because it became a moral issue.

"I don't know whether because Kartika is a woman, or I believe that because she is a model that is also a factor, because they (Muslims) see her as a bad woman, a loose woman," Norhayati said.

Provinces on Indonesia's Sulawesi Island have passed Sharia-based laws that set curfews for women, regulate dress and punish violators with public whippings.

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, head of the national women's rights organization Komnas Perampuan, says these laws are unfair. Not only do they clash with Indonesia's secular national laws, but they also disproportionately affect women.

"Because this is talking about morality and morality always puts women as a symbol of a nation's purity … so that's why Sharia law always uses women as a marker of identity, like controlling the body of the women with the standard of the dress code," she said.

The documentaries on Aceh showed how the Sharia police often target women. Producer Ariani Djalal says many women feel uncomfortable using public spaces, such as coffee shops or beaches, many of which bar women from swimming.  

She says the beach is a gift from nature, so why is it that only women are not free to swim? She also says the education system is becoming more fundamentalist and girls must monitor they way they dress. It is already very limited in Aceh.

Officials at Indonesia's International Center for Islam and Pluralism say aside from Aceh and South Sulawesi, local interpretations of Sharia law are mainly about wearing proper clothes and doing good deeds, which is normal and not repressive.

But many critics of Sharia say that often it is used to restrict people, and to shut down discussion of its role in Islamic life. And the filmmakers say often women have little say when the laws are written.

Agustin says that is why film is important, because it can present new ideas and opinions to those who know little about Islam in the life of women. And maybe, when they see it with their own eyes, she says, they will start to understand.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs