Spread of Islamic Law in Indonesia Takes Toll on Women

Perhaps the one constant in this world is change but this deep truth is largely ignored by fundamentalist religions of all types who attempt to stop and even turn back the clock. Their efforts always eventually fail but in the mean time, their consequences in terms of human suffering are immense. It is widely understood that the current overconsumption of the world’s resources is driven by humanity’s population growth and that this growth, in turn, is largely driven by the lack of education and reproductive choices among the world’s women. In Indonesia, yet another incarnation of fundamentalist religion is arising disempowering women with all the terrible consequences that will bring. And, lest we be too smug, these self-same forces, guised within different religions, are arising around the globe including here in the U.S.

TANGERANG, Indonesia, June 24 — To a passer-by, the dress and demeanor of Lilis Lindawati would have attracted little attention as she waited in the dark in this busy industrial city for a ride home.

She wore green pants, a denim jacket, beige sandals with modest heels, burgundy lipstick and penciled eyebrows. Her black hair flowed freely, unencumbered by a head scarf, the sign of a religious Muslim woman that is increasingly prevalent in Indonesia but not mandatory.

In a now widely recounted incident, Mrs. Lindawati, 36, was hustled into a government van that clammy February evening by brown-uniformed police, known as tranquillity and public order officers.

“They put about 20 of us in the police station and then went out again to target the hotels,” she said, telling the story as she sat on the floor of her family’s two-room, $12-a-month rental, her husband beside her.

She was charged with being a prostitute under a new local law forbidding lewd behavior, and in an unusual public hearing attended by local dignitaries and residents, she was sentenced with some of the other women to three days in jail.

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