Robin Bush is The Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Indonesia and writes for their blog, In Asia. She is the author of the essay “Regional Sharia Regulations in Indonesia: Anomaly or Symptom?”
Fighting for Indonesia’s Cultural Diversity
Indonesia’s rich cultural diversity is on display in full force once again this week as activists, intellectuals, dancing musicians, and women dressed in brightly colored lace dresses have taken to the streets to protest a shoddy piece of legislation that just won’t go away. The poorly-named “Anti-Pornography Bill” was first introduced by legislators in early 2006. After nearly a year of protest, heated debate, demonstrations, and conflict, the bill was sent to committee where it essentially got shelved until a couple of weeks ago when a legislator from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) decided to revive it as what he called a “Ramadan gift” for Indonesia.
But Indonesian women’s groups, cultural groups, and civil society have rejected the “gift” in no uncertain terms. Detractors of the bill reject it on the following grounds: (1) it is badly written legislation and its terms are poorly defined, (2) it duplicates existing protective legislation in the criminal code that outlaws pornography and, especially, protects children; (3) it criminalizes artistic and cultural expression that is part of Indonesia’s diverse ethnic heritage; (4) it wasn’t one of the 286 bills that the Parliament was scheduled to decide on in this session – out of which they have only produced 124 pieces of legislation.
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